The 50-point loss to Uni that kick started Warringah’s Shute Shield title run
How many teams have won a competition after being belted by 50 points?
It’s a question a number of Shute Shield pundits have been asking over the last few weeks, as Warringah played their way towards a grand final berth that looked almost impossible just a few months ago.
On Good Friday at University Oval, the Rats had their pants pulled down by Sydney Uni in a rematch of last year’s grand final.
The Students were brilliant and ran in nine tries to claim a 50-0 victory over a shellshocked Warringah side.
Ironically though, it was that loss that turned the Rats’ season around.
“To be honest, it was all a bit of a blur,” Warringah No.8 Sam Ward told Rugby News.
“I remember they were really physical and they just blew us off the park early and scored two quick tries. That set the tone for the game and I remember standing there at the end thinking, what the hell just happened?”
“It wasn’t a nice feeling and it forced a few of the leaders of the team to come together and have a think about things.”
Ward said the leadership group took responsibility for the embarrassing 50-point defeat and started to make changes around Rat Park immediately.
“Guys like Hamo (Hamish Angus) and Joshy (Holmes), Sam Thomson has also really stood up this year as a leader, we really started to lift the standards after that and started to keep the younger guys more accountable and fortunately they responded really well.”
Since that loss, Warringah have won 14 of their last 16 matches, including a 22-21 win over Uni in round 13.
“It wasn’t looking that great at the start of the year but I think that had a bit to do with a new coach coming in and players trying to find their feet in the group,” Ward said.
“When you look back at the start of the season, it’s probably a bit of a surprise to be in the final but we’ve progressed nicely throughout the season and continued to improve each week.”
Following the retirement of a number of experienced stars after last year’s grand final loss, 29-year old Ward is one of the few older heads left at Pittwater.
“I think it’s good to have that mix of experience and youth because it keeps us all feeling a little younger. The young guys bring fresh energy to the group and that’s made it a really enjoyable season.
“If you played with the same guys year after year, it’d probably become a bit monotonous. So it’s exciting and they add some pretty interesting banter as well.”
Considering a handful of the older Rats were in high school by the time young winger Ben Marr was born, it’s not surprising to hear that some teammates aren’t always on the same page.
“We don’t hear too much Frank Sinatra in the sheds,” Ward joked.
“There’s a pretty good mix of music actually, there’s no real specific genre but I prefer to pop my headphones on and listen to my own stuff.”
Sydney Uni will start as favourites at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday after winning seven straight matches to book their spot in the final but Ward said he’s confident he’s side will be in the mix.
“We’ve got to front up physically. Our forwards need to step up and do the things we’ve done well so far this year to set a nice platform for our backs,” he said.
“Our set piece needs to be solid. They got the better of us with their scrum at the back end of last year and in the grand final so we’ve been working really hard on that and we’re confident with where we’re at.
“If we get the set piece right and front up physically, anything can happen.”