Eastwood Preview Round 10
The day was not the best for Eastwood at Manly Oval with Grade getting just the one win although it should be said we could have easily made it three from four. The final tweet from the GM summed it up “Manly too good.” But competitions are not won at the half way mark in May and Eastwood will take a lot from their day by the sea and continue to proceed on their march to August.
Things were better at TG with two wins from three for our Colts sides in what was reported as improved performances all round. This week it is a trip to the Southern outskirts of Sydney to test their form against three Southern Districts sides who have been savagely hit by injuries and are down on player strength, according to an informed source. A wounded Rebel is always a danger and so our boys will need to be aware on an ambush they may be setting. They promised much at the start of the season but are yet to deliver. Eastwood are very capable of winning all three games in round two of the battle for the middle of the ladder.
This week Grade return to Millner to take on Southern Districts. In First Grade it will be the first time the two clubs have met since last year’s Grand Final with both having a number of new players taking part. The game will be the TV match on Seven Two and so we will again be looking for a big crowd to show Eastwood are the best followed team in the competition. Particularly after the crowd at last weekend’s TV match.
At the half way mark of the season Eastwood is in a strong position overall with three sides still sitting on top of their respective competitions and the other sides well placed to be playing finals football.
Randwick had an incredible day last Saturday winning all seven games taking them to the top of the Club Championship with Eastwood dropping back one place to second but there is still a long way to go. Ben Batger retains top point scorer with 137 points for the first half of the season and Nick O’Connor added another try taking it to 15 and remains the leading try scorer.
4th Grade – 1st Place
After a close call last week Fourths couldn’t repeat their Houdini act failing to get the win against Manly but did salvage a bonus point in the 7 – 13 loss. They squandered several opportunities to take command of the game and in the dying minutes had a great opportunity to get the win but a penalty kick that needed to be executed with accuracy ended up in the in-goal giving the ball and the game to Manly. A loss is not easy to take especially when it was the first and when it should have been a win. The good thing is the coaches know they can beat Manly and the result may be the wake up call some of the players needed. Eastwood are still on top one point ahead of Randwick and University with a game to play.
Again there are a number of changes to the official run on side to play Southern Districts. Mak Jelec Dozo comes into the Front Row with Heath Toon moving from Prop to Hooker. Ed Neely comes off the bench into the starting side, Adrian Wyper drops back from Thirds, David Rose, Soane Onesi and Conor O’Gorman return to the side giving us almost a complete new pack. Xavier Chigwidden who was listed at 10 but didn’t play is included there for this week’s game. Wes Sefuiva who did play 10 has moved up to Thirds. Wes’ replacement at Full Back, Nicholas Tregoning, is out replaced by Sione Kupu who moves from 13. We have a new Centre pairing with Dave Konstantopoulos returning at 13 and Phillip Pale making his first run-on side at 12. To finish things off Tim McDonald also makes his first appearance on the team list replacing Jack Philp on the wing.
Southern Districts are sitting in 8th place with four wins and a draw. They were beaten by Randwick 12 – 31 last week and lost 9 – 34 a few weeks back to University. Their drew 31 all with Manly. Eastwood should have beaten Manly last Saturday but unforced errors and wrong options brought about their downfall. A similar result could be on the cards this weekend if they don’t get back to the form they displayed in previous weeks. We know the type of game Souths play and will need not to get frustrated with their tactics and leave it to the referee to keep they in check. A return to form by the Eastwood Fourths should see them get proceedings away to a positive start at Millner with a comfortable win.
3rd Grade – 1st Place
Thirds remain the only undefeated Eastwood side at the half way mark after an impressive win over Manly 36 – 13. It was a pleasant change to see Max Page slot over 4 conversations and a penalty after last week’s kickers failure to kick a single goal.
Eastern Suburbs had their first loss in a low scoring game against Warringah going down 7 – 8. Eastwood is now six points ahead of Randwick with the game against third placed Eastern Suburbs still to be played.
Injuries and loss of players in higher grades have brought about a number of changes this week. Nick Johnson drops back from Seconds replacing Matt Prestipino, Matt Matson comes up from Fourths for Adrian Wyper who drops back to Fourths, Wes Sefuiva replaces Jackson Bird at 10 and Jack Tourish replaces Alex Del Moro on the wing. The big question from a certain section of the crowd is will Mak, the Swedish import, be on the bench shirtless ready to put on that jumper at a moments notice?
Southern Districts have just two wins against Penrith and Parramatta this year and sit in 10th place. They lost 13 – 26 to Randwick last outing. On current form Eastwood should continue on their winning way but can’t take it for granted.
2nd Grade – 4th Place
Seconds continued on their roller coaster form. After their best game of the year they fell back into their old ways against the Premiers. In saying that they were in the game until the end and could have snatched victory with a converted try after the siren. Unfortunately they took a page from the Fourths execution manual and kicked a last minute penalty into the in-goal. They won the ensuing scrum against the feed giving them one last throw of the dice. Unfortunately the handling that had been below par all game let them down giving victory to Manly 24 – 18. At least they walked away with a bonus point that may be useful when it comes to final placing. The positive to come out of the game was Eastwood’s ability to be in the game until the final whistle despite putting in a below par performance and know on their day they can beat the team who won the competition last year.
West Harbour victory over University added to the congestion of the ladder making it one very interesting competition. The loss sees Eastwood drop down the ladder three places on equal points with Manly who have an extra game in hand that they would be expected to win.
Although Joel Whitlock was listed to be in the number one jumper the game started with Marty Plotskys at Prop. Marty missed last season due to work commitments and had his first run with the club this year. This week Joel returns to the run-on side after sitting on the bench on Tuesday night for the Australian Barbarians as Marty has been fast tracked to Firsts. Nick Johnson comes out of the pack to make way for Joey Afualo returning from concussion leave. Joey back into 8 sees George Kent return to 5. We have two new players at the back with Nick Batger out injured and Brad Curtis moving up to Firsts for the injured Ben Shorter. Crowd favourite Alex Del Moro comes in on one wing while Jackson Bird replaces Brad at Full Back.
This week Seconds come up against the 10th placed Rebels who have just the one win when they beat Penrith along with a 13 all draw against Parramatta. With Seconds almost beating the defending Premiers last week they should be too strong for Souths this weekend.
There are a couple of important games this weekend with West Harbour taking on Manly and University up against competition leaders Warringah. Results could see further changes to the ladder.
1st Grade – 1st Place
Well how many times have we travelled to Manly during the qualifying rounds to come away defeated to bounce back when it really counts? This year we again came to face the challenge against a fired up Manly to be denied. The loss still has us ahead by one point with Manly still to play Northern Suburbs. Manly are now the only undefeated team and pressure will now be on them to maintain a perfect record over the next nine rounds. The talk has increased that they will take it out this year but competitions are not won in May and a lot can happen before that magical day at Concord.
Hugh Roach is again getting splinters and will be for the next three weeks as he takes his place on the bench for the Waratahs. Todd Pearce retains the hooker duties and Marty Plotskys gets the call up to Prop after his start in Seconds last week. Marty last played Firsts in the 2013 Grand Final and was part of the 2011 premiership winning side. He will be wanting to make up for lost time after seeing the team take out the Premiership last year. James Neale might just be the weapon needed against the strong Souths pack and returns into the starting line up with Tom Alexander moving to the bench along side Rob Lagudi. The only other change is Brad Curtis coming into the side on the wing for the injured Ben Shorter.
The coaches were deep in conversation as the crowd filed past heading for the Manly Oval exit. That conversation was the start of the response to what had happened and what needs to be done over the second half of the season. The challenge starts this Saturday against a team who have been more than successful against us at home in recent years including beating us twice last year.
Souths appear to have an unchanged starting side to last week’s that went down in the dying stages to Randwick 2 3- 25 and will be without Jed Holloway who is in the Waratah’s match day squad sitting along side Hugh Roach. They will be looking to continue their winning record at Millner and to make up for their loss against us in last year’s Grand Final. They have not been in outstanding form getting out of jail against Northern Suburbs two weeks back with a converted try some four minutes after full time was called to give them a one point win. Last week they squandered a winning lead to go down to a fast improving Randwick outfit with a final score line of 25 – 23. They also lost to University and Manly and have had two point wins over Warringah and Gordon. Sitting in third place, eight points behind Eastwood, they will want to get the win to close the gap. Should Souths loose Warringah and Randwick, who sit just a point behind them, could leap frog them should they win. Warringah take on University and should be considered chances although University will not want to make it three losses in a row. Randwick clash with Northern Suburbs should also be an close contest. Three of Norths four losses have been by two points or less and they will be wanting to take it to Randwick. Randwick have continued to impress since playing us in the first round having only lost to Manly and University since then. The other clash that will be watched with interest is the game at Concord Oval with the Pirates who have now won their last four host Manly. A very interesting round of rugby that has major ramifications for the ladder.
Both sides come to the clash with an skills and weaponry needed to achieve victory. Souths have a pack of forwards that will challenge us, have pace to burn out wide and a goal kicker that can kick them from the sideline when there are no second chances.
Eastwood know what is needed to match the fire power of Souths and take the match to them. Eastwood will be wanting to get back on the bike after their loss to Manly and there is no better time than this weekend. The game should be a tight affair with strong defence and brilliant attack from both sides who have the ability to score from anywhere on the park. The points will go to the side that makes the most of their chances and minimises their mistakes particularly in defence.
Colts 3 – 5th Place
The first game of the day at Millner lived up to expectations with both sides desperate for the win. In the end Manly proved too good running out winners 28 – 21 but Eastwood was able to get one bonus point that might just be the difference at season’s end. While the loss sees Manly close the gap to just 2 points with their Northern Suburbs game still to be played we still hold fifth place. As expected Randwick continued on their winning way against Southern Districts 43 – 7. Souths are in 7th place five points behind Eastwood with wins against Warringah, Penrith and Eastern Suburbs. Like the game against Manly the two sides in this week’s clash seem evenly matched with wins against similar teams. Souths will not want to fall further behind fifth and sixth and will be primed for this match. Eastwood will be determined to hold onto 5th place and put some extra distance between themselves and Souths. Eastwood have Cameron Fish back for his first game since week one. Daniel Ryan drops back from Colts 2 and Justin Maloney comes into the side after coming off the bench last week. It should be a great game to start the day.
Colts 2 – 7th Place
Colts 2 36 – 12 bonus point win over Manly lifted them one place on the ladder and with Penrith’s win over Parramatta keeping them two points behind us it remains tight in the middle of the ladder. Tim Anstee and James Day come back into the side after late call ups into Colts 1 last weekend. This was an important win for the side and sets them up well for this week’s clash with Souths who have the same number of wins and sit just one point ahead of us on the ladder after their 51 – 7 loss to Randwick. Souths had a 32 – 27 win over Manly a few weeks back and again we should see two even teams with a lot hanging on the result.
Colts 1 – 5th Place
The challenge was expected and accepted. Eastwood came out on top with an impressive bonus point performance taking Manly 39 – 21 and moving up one place on the ladder. Adam Desantis returns to the pack after missing the Manly game and Joshua Nohra returns at Full Back after also missing last weekend. Southern Districts were beaten by Randwick 31 – 18 and are one place behind Eastwood on the ladder with four wins to their credit. Again one of their wins was against Manly which they won 17 – 15. After a slow start Eastwood have won four of their last six games and seem to be building in confidence and self belief. A win here is important to their season and if they stay focused they should get the points with a possible bonus point for good measure.