Shute Shield Round 6: Two Blues upset Souths, Easts bounce back
In one of the tighter rounds of Shute Shield rugby we’ve seen, just 16 points separated all 10 sides in five matches over the weekend.
We spoke to each of the camps to get their take on the weekend’s action.
Sydney Uni 29-24 Northern Suburbs
A strong start and some “beautiful scrummaging” saw Sydney Uni claim a five point victory over Norths on Saturday and jump into second spot on the Shute Shield ladder.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Gordon last week, the Students got on top early and scored three unanswered tries, before Norths worked their way back into the match.
Uni coach Rob Taylor was thrilled with his side’s efforts at scrumtime and said it was one of the Students more complete performances this year.
“Our scrummaging was beautiful and helped us get on top, then we stuck to our game plan on the back of that,” Taylor told Rugby News.
“Tom Osborne made his debut at loosened prop and put in an excellent shift. He was playing colts last year.
“Nick Champion de Crespigny was also good, James Armstrong got through a lot of work in defence and James Kane kicked brilliantly, in play and for touch and that made a big difference.”
After starting the year with three straight wins, Norths have now lost their last two matches and are fourth on a congested Shute Shield ladder.
“We created enough chances to win that game but we just didn’t take them,” coach Nick Hensley said.
“Gifting them 14 points early didn’t help, but we got ourselves back into the game and simply couldn’t finish the opportunities we created.”
“Uni dominated the scrum battle, so that’s an area we need to go away and fix. Apart from that we were our own worst enemy and that’s unacceptable in this competition.”
West Harbour 23-23 Gordon
West Harbour and Gordon couldn’t be split in a 23-23 draw after a frantic finish to their clash at Concord Oval.
After trailing 17-0 early, West Harbour fullback Noah Cooper scored against a 13-man Gordon defensive line in the final moments of the game to reduce the deficit to two points.
But with Pirates superboot Tiaan Swanepoel off the field, West Harbour turned to Cooper to attempt the conversion from the sideline, which he nailed under plenty of pressure to level the scores.
Gordon coach Darren Coleman said both teams probably felt like they deserved to win the match.
“We felt pretty comfortable after taking that early lead and that was ultimately our downfall,” Coleman said.
“To Wests credit, they never gave up and stayed in the contest the whole time.”
Coleman was full of praise for Pirates flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel, who kicked three penalty goals including one from 58 metres.
“We knew how much of a threat we was with the boot but then gave him too many opportunities. At the end of the day, we entered their A Zone 11 times and only came away with points on three occasions.
“That’s been the story of all our losses so far this year, we need to compose and execute in the clutch to win games.”
Gordon and West Harbour are now level on 13 competition points but sit just three points outside of the top six.
“I think we’re both sides that are building and improving from week to week,” West Harbour coach Mark Gudmunson told Rugby News.
“I think we’ll find out the difference between us and Gordon when we play Uni next week but I think both sides could easily play finals this year.”
Eastern Suburbs 29-27 Eastwood
An understrength Easts side held on to claim a crucial two point victory over Eastwood at TG Millner on Saturday.
After trailing 8-0 early, the Beasties scored 19 unanswered points including a double to winger Dan Donato to take control of the contest.
Eastwood fought back but assistant coach Andrew Clyne said a lapse in concentration in the first half cost the home side.
“We lost our way for about 15-20 minutes and that’s what cost us in the end,” Clyne told Rugby News.
“Then Easts defended really well and won most of the big moments in the game.”
After breaking a three match losing streak last week, Easts have now recorded back to back wins for the first time this season.
The Beasties head into next weekend’s bye with a 3-3 record and are back in the top six for the first time since early this season.
“Our role clarity has really improved over the last two weeks. With a few new players in our starting XV, we struggled in that area but it’s starting to come together now,” coach Pauli Taumoepeau said.
“It’s nice to go into the bye with a win but we’re not going to relax because of the result. The comp is too tight to start thinking that we’ve clicked after one performance.
“We need to keep fronting up and force the combinations to keep working.”
Western Sydney 25-24 Southern Districts
A 14-man Western Sydney side somehow found a way to win on Saturday despite trailing 24-15 with just four minutes remaining.
It appeared as though Southern Districts would get out of jail despite a poor performance when they scored back to back tries late in the second half after Two Blues hooker JP Sauni received a red card.
The Rebels weren’t able to put the match away though and the Two Blues capitalised.
John Folau scored in the final minutes to reduce the deficit to just two points. The Two Blues then moved play down the field from the restart and eventually earned a penalty in front of the posts.
Flyhalf Dom Graham then calmly slotted the match winner to seal the Two Blues first win of the season.
“Western Sydney took their opportunities, fought back and came away with a great win. We need to give credit where it’s due,” a disappointed Southern Districts captain Marcus Carbone told Rugby News.
“It was one of those days where nothing went right for us. We could put it down to a bad day in the office, but maybe a touch of complacency slipped into our game.”
While Souths will feel as though the match was one that got away from them, the Two Blues produced arguably their most courageous performance in recent memory and coach Joel Rivers said he was hopeful that the win would spark some momentum for his side.
Western Sydney host Norths next week, while Souths travel to Rat Park to start a tough run of away matches against Warringah, Uni and Norths.
Warringah 35-27 Randwick
An understrength Warringah side claimed a hard fought 35-27 victory over Randwick to move within a win of a spot in the top six.
In a seesawing battle, Randwick winger Jackson Mohi scored in the second half to give the visitors a 27-21 lead.
But Warringah finished the better of the two sides and scored the final two tries to take maximum points from the clash.
“Saturday’s game was always going to be tough for us, given how many injuries we have and players unavailable,” Rats coach Mark Gerrard said.
“The key focus was to stay in the fight because we felt if we could control the tempo of the game, then we’d be in with a good shot.
“We managed to do that and then won the match with our defence. That’s been a big focus for us this year, so it was nice to get the result that way.”
Gerrard singled out Spanish international Matt Foulds and youngsters Jack Hayson and Ben Marr as his side’s best.