Southern Districts 31-27 Gordon: Near enough not good enough for much improved Stags

2018 cellar dwellers Gordon fell one try short of a dream start to their 2019 Shute Shield campaign, the first under premiership winning coach Darren Coleman. 

In front of a vocal home crowd at Chatswood Oval, the Stags fought back from 24-13 down early in the second half and trailed by just four points in the final minutes against a 14-man Southern Districts outfit. 

Gordon attacked deep in the Rebels half for eight minutes after the final siren but were unable to find a way through, before Souths’ rookie hooker Blake Schoupp caused a turnover to seal victory for the visitors in his Shute Shield starting debut. 

“We’re disappointed. You spend five months training for that first game of the season and if you win round one, if kind of validates all the work you do through preseason,” Coleman told Rugby News. 

“From that aspect, it was disappointing not to get the result and I think most of the guys will still be feeling it today.”

Gordon finished last and claimed just one victory in first grade last year, but clearly looked like a different team and club after a busy and productive off season on the North Shore. 

“Overall it was a great day for the club. We won six on the seven matches against Souths and you could argue that we could have won that last one as well,” Coleman continued. 

“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. 

“If you play 10 games that are decided by a try or less, you need to win eight of those to be minor premiers, six to be in the playoffs and if you only win three or four, you won’t be playing finals.

“We need to find a way to win those tight games.”

A new look Stags outfit looked brilliant early and raced away to a 13-0 lead before Southern Districts worked their way into the match. 

Curtis Rona, on debut for the Rebels, and Dewet Roos scored to reduce the deficit to three points, before winger Will Thomas chased down a Roos kick to score on the stroke of half time, just moments after Gordon looked like scoring at the other end. 

The Rebels’ forwards scored twice from close range in the second half to extend the lead but it was Gordon who finished the better of the two teams.

Tries to captain Jordy Goddard and new Irish flyhalf Sean Kearns set up a grand stand finish and when Souths’ lost a player to a yellow card late in the match, Gordon threatened deep in the Rebels half. 

“I think we had the ball for eight minutes after the bell. We had something like 25 phases in three seperate attacks but we couldn’t find a way to break them open against 14 men and that’s disappointing,” Coleman said. 

“We need to be more clinical in the clutch, that’s the biggest takeaway.

“They’re a good team. That Souths backline is as good a backline as you’ll see in the Shute Shield and although they’ve got a few young guys in the forwards, guys like Carbone and Vui are top notch players.

“Against sides like that, you know you’re probably not going to be in control for the entire 80 minutes. They probably controlled the game for 45 minutes and we controlled it for 35 and unfortunately that was the difference.”

Gordon star recruit Robbie Coleman had an afternoon to forget in his first official outing at Chatswood Oval. 

“He must of stood on a black cat at some point over summer that guy. He dislocated his thumb in the warm up and we managed to get that back in, then he strained his hamstring 12 minutes in,” Coleman said.  

“It’s not a bad strain, hopefully only two or three weeks.”

Gordon take on Western Sydney Two Blues at home on Easter Saturday ahead of a round four road trip to Pittwater to take on Coleman’s former side Warringah.

Southern Districts are second after starting the year with two bonus point wins and host Randwick at Forshaw in round three.