Little separating Rats and Woodies according to preliminary final coaches
There’s not a whole lot between Eastwood and Warringah.
Between them, they’ve played in six of the last eight Shute Shield grand finals.
They finished within one competition point of each other at the end of the regular season and their only meeting this year was decided by a Hamish Angus conversion after the full time siren.
A Rats’ try in injury time and some Angus brilliance proved the difference at TG Millner that day and you get the feeling Saturday’s preliminary final will most likely be just as close.
Both Eastwood and Warringah were impressive on the opening weekend of the playoffs.
The Woodies held off a fast finishing and in form Easts outfit, while Warringah were far too good for Norths.
“I was really happy with last week’s performance,” Eastwood coach Ben Batger said.
“That was a bloody good Easts team with six or seven Super Rugby players who beat us by 30 a week earlier, so it was pretty satisfying to turn it around in seven days.”
Warringah coach Mark Gerrard was equally pleased with his sides effort but like Batger, still thinks his team has plenty of improvement in them.
“There were plenty of positives to take from the Norths’ win. We did a lot of simple things well and our discipline was far better than previous weeks,” Gerrard told Rugby News.
“In saying that, we’ve got a lot more in us and we missed quite a few opportunities. You don’t get many chances in finals footy, so you have to take them when they come.”
Batger headed to the beaches to watch Warringah play live last week and said he was impressed with what he saw.
“If you don’t match their energy and enthusiasm, then you’re no chance.
“You’ve got to control their key guys. Holmes at the ruck, Killingworth at the breakdown and Ward with his carries. If we can nullify those guys and match their energy, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Both sides have made one change a piece from last week, with three time Catchpole Medal winner Hamish Angus returning for the Rats at flyhalf and James Sarks replacing Kiti Ratu on the Woodies wing.
Gerrard admitted the Rats backline was dangerous but said the key to victory was dominance up front.
“They’ve got a big forward pack who like to take you on up front and at set piece time. Tayler Adams and Mick Snowden then like to control the tempo off the back of that,” the former Wallaby said.
“We’ve just got to be accurate in what we do and play in the right parts of the field. Then just enjoy the moment, it’s going to be a pretty special day.”
Batger was equally optimistic but said he expected the bar to be raised higher this weekend.
“We need to back ourselves and do what we’ve done for 18 rounds but just that little bit better and with a little more energy and spark.
“Its finals football and at this time of year you need to find another 5% in every aspect of the game.”
Photo: Karen Watson