Sevens: Shoremen Down Rats To Win First Ever Sydney Premier 7s
by Paul Cook –
Northern Suburbs have maintained their impressive recent run of sevens form with victory in the inaugural Sydney Premier 7s competition at Forshaw Park last night. The Shoremen were well drilled and along with fellow finalists Warringah, were the slickest outfits on display amongst the six remaining sides to qualify from the mens regional sections. They beat Sydney University and Penrith to top their pool before recovering from a half-time deficit to down the Rats 22-17 in the grand final.
In the women’s section, Parramatta proved too quick and too strong for the Northern Suburbs Redbacks and Rockdale, winning both games with some brutal defence and impressive handling skills to lift the inaugural women’s trophy.
Having triumphed at the Byron Rugby Sevens the previous weekend, the Shoremen are fast building a reputation as experts in the short form of the game. Skipper Jack Grant was pleased with his side’s ability to back up their success after only a few day’s rest. “Props to Warringah, they flogged us last week and we had the same team but we played up in Byron on the weekend and even though it’s a short turnaround to play on a Thursday after a big tournament, the boys came together and really gelled well tonight.
“The calibre of sevens has really stepped up since we brought the program in last year and this was a tournament we really wanted to win,” he continued. “It’s good to set a dominance amongst the Sydney teams and now we’re the team to beat.”
He sees the competition as another positive way to tap into a sport that is burgeoning in Australia. “It’s great for fitness, seven players on seven players certainly leaves your lung’s burning and it’s a sport that’s definitely starting to take off in this country, especially with the Aussie boys getting to the final up at the Gold Coast. It was great for all the boys and for all the teams participating today and for Sydney Rugby Union to put this on for us with sevens coming around in Rio.”
Playing in Pool A, the Shoremen got off to a flyer with a comprehensive 55-7 win over Penrith, who had earlier worried Sydney University by taking a 14pt lead only for the Students to fight back and win 29-14. In the deciding pool match, the Shoremen and Uni went toe-to-toe with the lead changing hands several times but the pace of Sam Myers and Alex Samoa proved too much and the Norths’ outfit booked their place in the final with a 21-17 victory.
Pool B saw the Northern qualifying section winners Warringah prove far too hot to handle for both the hosts Southern Districts and Parramatta as the Rats triumphed 40-5 and 36-12 respectively to book their rematch with the Shoremen, having beaten them in the qualifiers the week before.
Josh Holmes was once again the Rats’ inspiration, scoring tries at will and looking dangerous every time he had ball in hand. Currently overlooked at Super Rugby level, he seems incredibly suited to the sevens format and at only 26-years-old, really should be on the radar of Aussie Sevens coach Michael O’Connor as he builds towards the sport’s Olympic debut in Rio in 2106.
Parramatta’s 28-7 win over Souths in the remaining Pool B game was enough to put them into the third place decider, leaving the Rebels to fight out the wooden spoon with Penrith. And it was the Emus who went home the happier, their handling skills and ability to break the line coming to the fore as they came home 33-24 winners.
A clearly talented side, it was the Emus’ decision making and restarts that cost them further progress as too often, they ran back into contact instead of letting the ball sing. However, as coach Teki Tuipulotu explained, for a club that finished bottom of the Shute Shield ladder, sevens proved to be a huge leveler against sides that they simply cannot currently contain in the fifteen’s arena and offered them plenty of positives as a result.
“It was a good opportunity for Penrith players to showcase some of their natural talent in a version of the game that suits their skill sets. The competition is a great idea and something that we’ve enjoyed. I hope it is built on for the future.”
A try fest in the 3rd place decider was edged by an impressive Parramatta side who came through 31-26 to defeat Sydney University and no matter the occasion, the format or the playing roster involved, any victory over the Students is one for the Two Blues to truly savour.
Although not in charge on the night, Uni head coach Chris Malone joined fellow Shute Shield head coaches Cam Blades (Southern Districts) and Scott Fava (Northern Suburbs) as interested observers at Forshaw Park, running the rule over some of the unknown talents at their club. He saw the competition as “a good chance to blood some young talent and gain some experience against Shute Shield opposition for some of Uni’s up and comers”.
Off the back of their 32-5 win over the Shoremen the previous week, Warringah started as favourites in the title decider but soon found themselves chasing the scoreboard as the red and blacks swarmed over them to build a 10-0 lead, Sam Myers – who impressed all evening – crossing again for the second.
Barely out of their half to that point, the Rats showed just what a threat they were when given an opportunity, Scott Bradley scooting down the sideline and Hamish Angus converting the extras superbly from out wide to reduce the arrears. Two minutes later and they were in again on the opposite flank and despite Angus’ missed drop-goal, they went into the break with a 12-10 lead against the run of play.
However, their quick-fire retort was soon dispelled after half-time when the Shoremen crossed twice in rapid succession themselves, the first a line break straight up the middle and the second – and his second in the match – coming from the almost unstoppable Myers to make it 22-12.
The Rats’ chances were not helped by an injury to Josh Holmes, who played on despite heavy strapping around his left thigh but was clearly unable to affect matters in the way his previous form had indicated and it was left to fellow speedster Dave Feltscheer to give them a lifeline. The Shute Shield fullback blistered through to make it a 5pt ball game with only 2 minutes to play but it proved to be the last damaging punch the Rats could muster.
The Shoremen saw out the remaining time with a disciplined approach to ensure their place in the history books as the inaugural winners of the tournament, a thoroughly well deserved accolade given their night’s work.
Joining them on the winner’s dais from the women’s competition were Parramatta, who put in two sterling performances of both attack and defence to see off the challenge of Rockdale and Northern Suburbs Redbacks respectively.
The Redbacks had got off to a winning start, downing Rockdale 24-12 in a spirited match before coming up short against the Two Blues’ outfit, 17-12 in game two. That just left Parramatta requiring victory from their match with Rockdale and despite a valiant effort from their opponents, there was no denying the girls from Granville as they romped home 31-7 to claim the title.
The women’s game is gaining momentum all the time in Australia and on this evidence it is clear to see why. The application, enthusiasm and spirit with which all three sides performed was admirable and the willingness to go into contact, the fitness levels and speed of the majority of participants and the quality of their handling skills and game understanding were hugely impressive. Kudos to all involved.
All in all, the competition appears to have been well received by the clubs that took part, despite the obvious concerns over it’s sudden timing and relative lack of exposure. The NSWRU and SRU did a sterling job with very little time to prepare and I think it is hoped by all quarters that the competition returns in 2014 on a grander platform and one that enables players and supporters alike to buy into it in a very positive way.
As Jack Grant told me, “It would be great if we could get a big Saturday/Sunday tournament. When fifteen’s finishes, there’s not much for all the boys to do and I’m sure if there were sevens programs in all the clubs it could really take off and again, with Rio coming, why not?”
Imagine a tournament at say, Coogee Oval, two weeks after the club rugby Grand Finals on a Saturday/Sunday and with all 12 Shute Shield clubs on display. Sounds like a potential winner. Who knows, this could well be the start of something special…
Sydney University 29 – 14 Penrith
Northern Suburbs 55 – 7 Penrith
Northern Suburbs 21 – 17 Sydney University
Warringah 40 – 5 Southern Districts
Parramatta 28 – 7 Southern Districts
Parramatta 12 – 36 Warringah
Penrith 33 – 24 Southern Districts
Sydney University 26 – 31 Parramatta
Northern Suburbs 22 – 17 Warringah
1 – Northern Suburbs
2 – Warringah
3 – Parramatta
4 – Sydney University
5 – Penrith
6 – Southern Districts
Redbacks 24 – 17 Rockdale
Parramatta 17 – 12 Redbacks
Parramatta 31 – 7 Rockdale
1 – Parramatta
2 – Redbacks
3 – Rockdale