Shute Shield Colts: Gordon beat Easts in first match of “mini-finals series”
By Matt Findlay
Gordon’s 12-point win over Eastern Suburbs last Friday night was their fourth victory on the trot and their seventh from eight starts this season but, most importantly, it was another confidence boost leading into a potentially season-defining fortnight.
The McMahon Memorial Shield’s top four has broken away from the chasing pack, with 12 points now separating fourth and fifth, and while the Highlanders are firmly entrenched in that group the next two weeks could make or break their minor premiership claim.
The Highlanders are in a share for third with Manly, four points adrift of the top two in undefeated Randwick and Sydney University outfits, who face-off in a top-of-the-table epic this weekend.
While they don’t draw Uni, the only side they’ve lost to, again in the regular season the Highlanders face the Marlins and Randwick in a challenging fortnight before a relatively easy run to the finals, a seven-week stint where a rematch with Easts shapes as the biggest challenge.
“This three-week period with Easts, Manly and Randwick, we’re treating it as a bit of mini-finals series in a way, that’s how we’re approaching it,” Gordon’s colts head coach Dave Telfer said.
“We’ve got the bye after the Randwick game too so we’ll be putting everything into the next two weeks to really make a push, in terms of colts firsts and the colts club championship.
“It’ll be a very interesting weekend. Obviously Uni and Randwick occupy first and second while Manly and Gordon are third and fourth so I think we might see a bit of a shift in that top four, depending on the how the games go.”
Last week’s bonus-point win snapped Easts’ recent winning run and the Highlanders were forced to defy a two-try effort from Beasties centre Brooklyn Hardaker to claim it.
Simon Rahme, Frank Cutler, James Du Preez, Kendrick Thomas and Faiva Faiva all crossed the stripe for the Highlanders while Mike Pavlakis had a good day with the boot, knocking over four of his five conversion attempts along with a penalty goal.
Telfer explained the victory was inspired by his side’s work at the breakdown, which has been a big feature of the entire season so far, and added it was a little bit more satisfying considering the Beasties’ dominance in the clubs’ pre-season trials.
“It was really pleasing to get that win on Friday night, because they’d beaten us in trials in all grades pretty comprehensively,” he said.
“The biggest thing for us was winning the breakdown. We’d identified they had some pretty big threats over the ball so we put a big emphasis on ball retention and being able to build phases.“Whilst Easts’ defence was still good we were quite successful in that, we managed to hold the ball for extended periods of time.”
In last weekend’s other round nine games Southern Districts narrowly defeated Norths 25-19, Manly took down West Harbour 45-28, Warringah edged out Eastwood 29-27 and Randwick handed Western Sydney a heavy, 68-22 defeat.
Outside the top-of-the-table clash and Gordon’s clash with Manly, this weekend pits Easts against Norths and West Harbour against Warringah, while Eastwood host Southern Districts and Western Sydney have the bye.