Pacific Rugby Cup: Lucas Shines As NSW Gen Blue Open With A Win
NSWRU Media Release –
NSW’s emerging side Gen Blue has recorded a 23-17 victory against an ACT A side in the team’s inaugural match of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup at Allianz Stadium today.
In the curtain raiser to the NSW Waratahs v Force game, the NSW development squad overcame some early jitters to notch up a promising win.
Numerous players stood up for the home side but chief amongst them was inspirational captain Pat McCutcheon, who played out of his skin, while Gen Blue scrumhalf Matt Lucas scored 12 points and was at his annoying best in both attack and defence.
Despite some rusty execution, Gen Blue coach Tim Rapp was impressed with what he saw in the early season hit out. “The first half was quite an unstructured, one-out attacking effort but at least we got rid of the cobwebs. We started to get some combinations together in the second half and began playing for each other and that led to the win.”
The NSW Gen Blue players signalled their attacking intent from the opening whistle, when skipper Pat McCutcheon turned down an easy three-pointer in favour of piling pressure on the visitors’ line. His enterprise was soon rewarded, when a well-executed maul opened up enough space for a flying Tipoloma Kaveinga to charge over under the posts untouched.
The ACT A side hit back soon after, when a scrum penalty allowed flyhalf Rodney Iona to slot an easy three points and narrow the deficit to four after 16 minutes.
A dangerous midfield break from Robbie Coleman soon after was shut down by a last-ditch intercept by fullback Ben Volavola. Despite his brilliance in defence, the fullback was isolated in the ensuing ruck, delivering the ACT A side a second Iona penalty goal.
Five minutes later the visitors were on the attack again, with winger Ben Johnson breaking through down the left hand side. A brilliant cover tackle from Matt Lucas saved a certain five-pointer; however the scrumhalf was deemed to hold onto Johnson too long in the tackle and was yellow carded on the half hour mark.
The ACT A side quickly capitalised on their numerical advantage, kicking to the corner and crashing in through prop Allan Ala’alatoa. Iona missed a tricky sideline conversion, leaving the score at 7-11.
The home side looked to make amends immediately, with flyhalf David Horwitz chipping into the red zone from a turnover, heaping pressure on ACT A and gifting Volavola a penalty attempt from in front. The fullback slotted an easy three-pointer and Gen Blue trailed by a single point going into the half time interval.
Lucas and Iona traded penalties soon after the break, before dangerous NSW centre Usaia O’Sullivan was held up under the posts in the 55th minute. From the next scrum, Volavola managed to free his hands in the tackle, offloading to winger Cam Crawford, whose quick hands sent a sweeping Matt Lucas into the corner. The scrumhalf converted his own try from the sideline.
With the impressive Lucas subbed in the 67th minute, Volavola took over the kicking duties, slotting an easy penalty from in front with 10 minutes to play. The Gen Blue goal was counteracted by a fourth Iona penalty three minutes later, narrowing the deficit to six points and setting up a tense finish.
A scrum penalty to ACT A with three minutes left in the match offered the perfect chance for the visitors to steal a late win but desperate defence from the home side saw the charging reserve hooker Carl Elliot pulled down just metres short of the line, leaving the final scoreline 23-17.
NSW Gen Blue next face Samoa on Friday at TG Milner Field in Eastwood at 4:00pm. Looking ahead to the fixture, coach Tim Rapp saw plenty of reasons for optimism. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but we showed plenty of intent out there today and we’ll only get better as this competition goes on,” Rapp said.
NSW Gen Blue 23 (Tipoloma Kaveinga, Matt Lucas tries; Matt Lucas 2 cons, pen; Ben Volavola 2 pens) def ACT A 17 (Allan Ala’alatoa try; Rodney Iona 4 pens) at Allianz Stadium