Shute Shield Round 7: Rats, Wicks, Stags & Pirates looking to pounce on top 6 rivals
Just 16 points separated 10 sides in five matches last weekend, a sign that the 2019 Shute Shield season is as close a competition as we’ve seen.
Round seven looks just as difficult to predict, so we checked in with the camps to get the inside word ahead of Saturday’s matches.
Photo: Karen Watson
Gordon v Eastwood
After producing their best performance of the season in a win over Sydney Uni in round five, Gordon missed a number of chances to put the game away against West Harbour last weekend and ended up sharing the points with the Pirates.
“Our results at the moment are completely dependent on our execution in the A zone,” Gordon coach Darren Coleman said.
“Every week the boys turn up to scrap and they defend with passion. They’re a great group like that.
“We get plenty of A zone (attacking 22 metres) entries in a game, so if we execute there we win, it’s pretty simple.”
Gordon are outside of the top six on a congested Shute Shield ladder but can jump a number of spots if they can find a way to beat Eastwood this weekend.
“People talk about how dangerous the Eastwood backs are and they do have a great backline on paper. But I think their forwards and their No.12 are just as big a threat. They provide front foot ball, which allows Tayler (Adams) to flatten up and then they’re very hard to handle.
“If we can stop the initial go forward, then we’re in with a chance.”
Eastwood were made to pay for a lapse in concentration against Easts last week, that saw the Beasties score three back to back tries in 20 minutes.
“We were probably the better team for 60 minutes last week but we switched off and they ran through us,” Eastwood coach Ben Batger said.
Pat Sio returns from injury and will start at No.8 for the Woodies against the Stags. Rhys Allen moves to lock and will play alongside Josh Anderson who is set to make his starting debut.
“We need to be up for the contest for 80 minutes. Gordon compete in every facet of play so we need to win all the little battles if we want to leave with the points,” Batger added.
Western Sydney v Northern Suburbs
A 14-man Western Sydney side shocked everyone when they fought back from 24-15 down with four minutes remaining to beat Southern Districts by a point last weekend.
It was about as courageous a win as you’ll see and has turned morale around in Western Sydney after a tough start to the season.
“There were some very tired players out there but they dug deep and kept pushing themselves and each other to get a result,” a very happy Joel Rivers told Rugby News.
“A number of players stood out in my mind, Lafi Pongi, our tighthead, stood up and led from the front. He hasn’t played many 80 minutes games over the last two seasons and his involvement especially in the last 5-10 minutes was vital.
“Paul Simona (12), Micheal Zakhia (15) and Liki Nadredre (11) all had really positive games as well. Their go forward and energy throughout the game was fantastic.”
While Rivers said the win has revitalised the group mentally, he said the group know it will mean little unless they can back it up against Norths this weekend.
“It’s been a positive week but it’s only one win and we need to keep that in perspective. The positive is, the guys know what it feels like to win a hard fought game now and they want to do it again.”
Norths fell short against Sydney Uni in a 29-24 loss at home last weekend and have now lost their last two matches after starting the year with three straight wins.
“We need to eliminate a few parts of our game that have been hurting us over the past few weeks,” Norths coach Nick Hensley said.
“Our decisions and efficiency in both 22m zones need to improve and we need more consistency at set piece.”
“Western Sydney will be on a high after last week so we’ll have to win the emotional energy battle, then in defence, we need to contain their damaging runners.”
Hensley has made a number of changes to his side with Andrew Tuala, Nick Palmer, Lawrance Hunting, Hugh Sinclair and Nick Duffy all set to return.
Nuno Sousa Guedes will also make his starting debut on the wing. The speedster turned up at Norths over summer and failed to mention his past, where he played with both the Portuguese XVs and 7s sides.
It was a nice surprise for Hensley and the other coaches, when he starred in Norths’ Sevens campaign earlier this year.
Randwick v Manly
After upsetting Easts and Norths in consecutive weeks, Randwick took their foot off the pedal in a disappointing loss to Warringah last weekend.
The Galloping Greens led 27-21 midway through the second half but couldn’t match the Rats in the closing quarter.
Manly are a dangerous side with plenty of talent. We will need to be switched on in defence for the full 80 minutes, or they will make us pay,” Wicks coach Hadley Jackson said.
62-year old former Wallaby Adam Freier returns to the Randwick starting side to play the Marlins, while Tom Preece will start his first match of the season in the back row.
Manly had the week off in round six and sit in fifth spot with a 3-2 record heading into the clash against Randwick.
“We had 5 days of active rest so hopefully a few days free of rugby will be a good thing. I guess we’ll find out in 24 hours,” Marlins coach Billy Melrose told Rugby News.
“Naturally we would liked to have got up in a couple of those close losses but we’ve been continually building different areas of our game and we’ve built various combinations. Hopefully that will be a benefit across the full competition.”
Kotoni Ale and Kevin Fuavao will both miss Saturday’s clash making way for Stefano Hunt and Luke Crocker to earn their first starts of the season.
“There is very little between all teams this year. Randwick are a proud club. They like to play with lots of energy and always move the ball,” Melrose added.
“It’ll be a fast match.”
Sydney Uni v West Harbour
Sydney Uni jumped into second spot with an impressive 29-24 win over Norths last weekend.
The Students took their chances early and jumped away to a 14-3 lead, then relied on a dominant set piece to claim the points against the Shoreman.
“It was a good win but I think the most positive thing to take away from it was that the players weren’t satisfied with the performance, despite the fact we beat one of the better sides,” Uni coach Rob Taylor told Rugby News.
The coach said he expected plenty of attacking rugby from both sides, which should work in Sydney Uni’s favour.
Earlier this week, an analysis of stats showed that Uni winger Harry Potter was the most dangerous attacking player in the competition and led almost every key category.
“Harry played his school rugby in Victoria and wasn’t in any rep programmes. He’s worked extremely hard while at Sydney Uni and now he’s starting to really express himself,” Taylor said.
West Harbour also know how to score points, but they’re struggling to do so for the full 80 minutes.
“That’s something we haven’t had all year. We’ve had good starts, good middles and good finishes to games, but never an 80 minute performance,” coach Mark Gudmunson said after last weeks 23-23 draw with Gordon.
“Last week we learnt that we have the ability to grind and to fight. Down 17 nil, it could have quickly got away from us. The patience we showed to get back in the game and almost pull it out of the bag at the death was a real positive.”
Gudmunson has made three changes to his side to play Uni with Josh Redfern to start at lock, Micheal Rigney to shift to loose head prop and Cooper Henwood to play on the wing.
“Cooper has been the best on the field week after week in second grade so far this year so he really deserves a crack.”
Warringah v Southern Districts
Warringah scored two late tries and came from behind to claim an important 35-27 win over Randwick at Rat Park last weekend.
While the Rats are just a win outside of the top six, their attack hasn’t looked as dangerous so far in 2019 as it has in previous years.
Once the entertainers of the competition, an injury riddled Warringah side are averaging just 2.6 tries a match so far this season.
Despite that, last weeks bonus point win was a step in the right direction for the Rats, who are expected to welcome back Aussie 7s gun Boyd Killingworth for Saturday’s clash.
Southern Districts couldn’t find a way to put a 14-man Two Blues outfit to bed last weekend and paid the price for an uncharacteristically poor performance.
“Our discipline really let us down last week and it cost us. We can’t afford to let that become a part of our game,” Rebels coach Donny Mackinnon said.
“The guys were disappointed, but we put last weeks loss behind us after reviewing the game and the boys trained well all week.
The Rebels have reshuffled their backline ahead of their trip north. Bayley Kuenzle and Denny Godinet return at flyhalf and outside centre, Will Thomas moves to fullback and Faleula Finau shifts to the wing.
“Warringah are dangerous right across the park. First things first, we need to limit our mistakes and improve our discipline to even be competitive on the weekend.”