Shute Shield: Round 3 Match Previews
Sydney Uni and Warringah meet in a grand final rematch, Norths travel to TG Millner, Gordon and Wesern Sydney battle for their first win, Easts take on Manly and Souths host Randwick.
Theres plenty to look forward to over the Easter long weekend and we caught up with the coaches to find out where their heads are at ahead of round three.
Sydney University v Warringah
Sydney Uni were far too good for Warringah and produced a near perfect performance when the two sides’s last met in the 2019 grand final at North Sydney Oval.
Although both teams have made changes over summer, the nucleus of both sides remains which sets up an interesting round three clash on Good Friday.
After a poor start to the season against Easts, Uni returned to their damaging best last weekend and scored seven tries in a comfortable 49-3 victory against Western Sydney at Cumberland.
“We were satisfied with our performance against the Two Blues. They’ve got a lot of power and flair so it was pleasing to hold them out all match,” Uni coach Rob Taylor said.
Tom Horton returns to the defending premiers starting side at hooker for a clash against a Warringah side that reminded the rest of the competition how dangerous they can be last week.
“I think there will be lots of kicking and it’ll be a really physical battle up front with two good sets of forwards.
“We need our set piece to be dominate and made sure we don’t give the ball away easily.”
Warringah couldn’t have produced two more different performances to start 2019. The Rats were woeful at home against Norths in week one, then brilliant against a disappointing Easts side a week later.
If the Rats can replicate that performance on Friday, we’ll have a match on our hands. Regardless, it should give a good indication of how both sides are travelling early on this season.
Eastwood v Northern Suburbs
Eastwood continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 31-27 victory over Manly at TG Millner in a match that was far closer than Woodies coach Ben Batger would have like.
“We found out pretty quick that we can’t afford to switch off in games. We got a few tries ahead and had a chance to finish the game but instead we did some silly things and invited Manly back into it game through unforced errors,” Batger said.
“Fortunately it didn’t cost us.”
Eastwood will play without new No.7 Ikapote Tupai, who looks set for a long stint on the sideline after suffering a bad hamstring tear. He’s replaced by Tevita Piukala in the Woodies backrow, while former Australian 7s star Pama Fou will start his first match of 2019 at outside centre.
From all reports, Fou has been training the house down of late and will be one to watch in Saturday’s clash against a Norths side, who are fresh from a bye in round two.
“Norths look to be the most professional and well drilled team in the competition,” Batger said.
“They’ve had a good core group of players for the last few years. We need to be wary of them and make sure we don’t let them play “Norths” rugby.”
New Norths coach Nick Hensley said it’s difficult to know if his side’s bye came at a good or bad time for the Shoreman after a big win in round one.
“It’s probably nullified a bit of momentum, but it’s given us another week to manage some injuries and have some players return for our second match of the season.
“We trained as per usual during the bye week. We kept things a little shorter but tried to maintain our intensity.”
Flyhalf Angus Sinclair will start his first match of 2019 against the Woodies, while Aussie 7s flyer John Porch has been named on the wing.
“He’s back with us for a few weeks while the Aussie 7s are on a break. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Porchy goes, he’s in great shape and has fitted into the team seamlessly.”
“To best Eastwood we’ll need to negate their big bodies in the collisions, disrupt their maul, and find a way to take the crowd out of the game at Milner.
“We’ve got a few ideas on how to do that, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Gordon v Western Sydney
Despite falling one try short against Southern Districts in their first match of the season, Gordon were given a standing ovation by their faithful supporters as they walked off Chatswood Oval.
The Stags fans could see how far their side has come over summer and if Gordon continue to play as they did against Souths, they’ll win more matches then they lose this year.
Despite that, coach Darren Coleman said it was still disappointing to not come away with the points.
“Our line out really struggled and that cost us. We’d build some good momentum and be in a position to attack and then we’d lose our own ball and Souths would capitalise,” Coleman said.
“There’s no doubt that we’ve taken some steps forward from last year but ultimately, we want to be a playoff team and to be a playoff team you have to win more of those tight games than you lose.”
The Stags have a perfect opportunity to open their account this weekend when they host Western Sydney at home.
Star recruit Robbie Coleman will miss the clash after straining his hamstring early against Souths. Fortunately for Gordon, the utility back’s injury isn’t as bad as first thought and Coleman should be back in two to three weeks.
“The Two Blues will be pumped up. They’ve got a lot of big boys that carry well and go forward if you let them. John Folau looks to be a real handful in the midfield,” Coleman added.
Western Sydney were disappointing against Sydney Uni last week but would have targeted Saturday’s clash against the Highlanders as one they think they should win.
Club stalwart Nick Blacklock will play his 100th first grade game on Saturday, while Paul Simona will make his first grade debut at inside centre.
“Our effort off the ball in attack and defence has been our focus this week.
“We were poor in those ares last week and we paid for it. Also, our decision making under fatigue has been an area for improvement. Our players all have great skills, we just need to refine how we utilise these effectively during tough periods in the game.”
Manly v Eastern Suburbs
Manly coach Billy Melrose was about a positive as a coach could be after a loss to Eastwood at TG Millner in round two.
“We stepped up a bit and were in the fight,” he said.
“If we boxed a bit more clever we could have snatched it but we lost the physical battle one on one at times and the lack of consistent ball was telling.
“I liked the effort though and we had some promising moments.”
The Marlins have lost Max Douglas and Nick Holton for the Easter Saturday clash against Easts and despite playing at home, Melrose seemed happy to claim the underdog card.
“Easts were touted as near comp favourites two weeks ago so I can’t imagine too much changes in that time (despite last week’s loss to Warringah).”
“We need to keep working to get our own game humming and rebound after last week.”
Easts came crashing back down to earth in round two and were more than disappointing in a big loss to Warringah.
Coach Pauli Taumoepeau put it down to “a bad day” and said the group haven’t spent a lot of time dwelling on the loss.
“We reviewed the game on Monday and moved on to Manly pretty quick. Playing Manly at Manly is tough enough as it is so we needed to move on and give that game maximum attention,” he said.
Tom Staniforth and Lalakai Foketi have been named in the Waratahs squad to play the Rebels and will be replaced by Nathan Brennan and Ned Yeomans, while Henry Patterson suffered a broken finger against the Rats and has been replaced by James Field.
“Energy has been a big focus for us this week, we can’t afford to be flat again against a top three team,” Taumoepeau continued.
“After this weekend we will have played the top three teams from the 2018 ladder in a row. We’ve realised pretty quickly that if you switch off, it’ll cost you so we can’t afford another off day this weekend.”
Southern Districts v Randwick
Southern Districts were lucky to come away from Chatswood Oval with a 31-27 win in round two, after giving up a 13-point start and then falling asleep in the final 10 minutes of their clash against a much improved Gordon outfit.
Despite that, the Rebels were good enough in the middle part of the game to come away with the points and showed good resolve to hold Gordon out at the end despite defending with 14 men.
“We made it pretty hard four ourselves but somehow got away with it which was pleasing,” new coach Don Mackinnon told Rugby News.
“We’ve spent a lot of time this week working on our patience because we left too many points out there against Gordon. I’d like to see us play more eyes up footy this week as well.”
Souths will be without Australian under 20s backrower Nathan Lawson for Saturday’s game against Randwick, a side who Mackinnon says they won’t be taking lightly.
“They’re a young team and can be very dangerous in both the backs and forwards when they are on. We’ll need to be on our game in defence and take the points when opportunities arise.”
Randwick gave up 32 unanswered points in the second half of their loss to West Harbour last week before scoring a late consolation try in a disappointing 39-24 loss.
“We had a three tries to one lead before half time last week but to their credit, Wests fought back. Led by their No.10 (Tiaarn Swanepoel) they kept the scoreboard ticking over and deserved the win.”
The Galloping Greens have lost flyhalf Ben Donaldson and fullback Will Harrison to Australian U20s duties and will be replaced by Tom Halse and Freddy Dourough respectively, while Adam Freier and Sean Connor also come into the starting XV.
“Souths are an experienced side and at home they always present a tough challenge.
“I think if we improve our patience and support play in attack, we should be able to convert our possession into points.
“Their flyhalf (Bayley) Kuenzle is the key man to Souths attack.”