Shute Shield: Warringah Face Tough Test Away to Woodies
Eastwood couldn’t maintain the intensity that saw them steamroll Sydney Uni two weeks ago and went down 42-22 to Manly last Saturday. But far from forcing the side into a week of soul searching and second-guessing –as happened after their pummelling by Easts – coach John Manenti says his troops were simply beaten by a better side on the day.
“We lost to a team that’s beaten everyone else and certainly have their tails up, but if we get the opportunity to come across them again we’ll need to be a damn sight better than what we were on Saturday,” he said.
“We were obviously disappointed with the outcome and I thought Manly were far too good, but we created a lot of their opportunities with poor tackles and not finding touch a couple of times. We put ourselves under a bit more pressure than we needed to and just didn’t have that same intensity as against Uni a week earlier.”
At home in front of the ABC cameras again, the Woods are out to close the seven point gap that separates them from the Rats who sit above them in second place on the table.
“Warringah have only lost one game and are another team travelling well and full of confidence,” said Manenti.
“It’s a different sort of side to Manly, they’re a huge threat in the backs with a lot of skill, speed and strike-power from Josh Holmes out and a very hard-working forward pack that are getting the job done. They’ve beaten some very good teams on the way and if we want to have our sights set on climbing higher on the ladder, it’s crucial we win this game.”
Eastwood will be boosted by the inclusion of Waratahs rake Hugh Roach in the number two jersey while halfback Shanin Proctor returns after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. Hugh Perrett moves to openside with Michael Kovacic at blindside and the impressive Pat Sio at No. 8.
Jai Ayoub has formed a good partnership with Tom Hill and retains his place at flyhalf while Manenti has picked the regular back three of John Grant and the Batger brothers Ben and Nick.
All regular Waratahs players who weren’t selected in the Wallabies have an enforced rest this week, but Manenti hopes to see prop Benn Robinson back in a Woodies jersey over the next couple of rounds.
Although Manenti pointed out Warringah’s confidence from flying high on the ladder, Rats coach Haig Sare still isn’t satisfied with how the side is playing. He says they’re in a funk following the Northern Beaches derby loss to Manly – their only defeat of the season – but remains happy at the team’s ability to keep tallying up the competition points.
“It’s good we’re winning, but we’re not playing to our potential,” he said.
“We need to start putting it all together because we seem to rectify one thing, but then get let down in another area. The thing we’re working on this week is general skill and execution which really slipped on the weekend.”
Those are ominous words from a coach who has won nine out of 10 games this year, and the Rats will only get stronger with the return from injury of several key performers making their backline one of the most dangerous in the competition.
“We’ve got five changes with guys returning from injury which is really good,” said Sare.
“Martin Collins has a question mark after training on Tuesday, but it looks like he’ll be back. Tui Tuisavaii and Mickey Adams are back, Josh Holmes is back from the Rebels and Harry Jones is starting on the wing.”
Going into the second half of the season, Sare is starting to think ahead to the finals and how best to navigate the Rats there.
“I wouldn’t necessarily want to be playing our best footy now, I want it to really click in finals time, but while we are going through this lull, it’s important that we keep winning,” he said.
“Hopefully these changes spark the boys and if we get one or two more wins we’ll secure a finals spot and then we’ll start looking to go better, but we need to start finding those combinations that will take us into the finals series.”
Eastwood vs Warringah at T.G. Millner Field, Saturday June 7 Kick-off 3:10pm (ABC Game)
Eastwood – 1. Jed Gillespie 2. Hugh Roach 3. Guy Millar 4. James Neale 5. Andrew Clyne 6. Michael Kovacic 7. Hugh Perrett 8. Pat Sio 9. Shanin Proctor 10. Jai Ayoub 11. Nick Batger 12. Tom Hill 13. Michael McDougall 14. John Grant 15. Ben Batger
Warringah – 1. Richard Southan 2. Luke Holmes (c) 3. Wayne Borsak 4. Ben Adams 5. Junior Palau 6. Martin Collins 7. Boyd Killingworth 8. Sam Crompton 9. Josh Holmes 10. Hamish Angus 11. Harry Jones 12. Tui Tuisavaii 13. Michael Adams 14. Sireli Tagicakibau 15. Dave Feltscheer