Eastwood Preview Round 11
By Paul Treanor
It was a return to the winners circle for all Grades at Millner against Southern Districts. From start of the day on the top oval to the last play drop-goal by Jai Ayoub clinching victory from the jaws of defeat it was a enthralling day of rugby. Though Southern Districts supporters, who had braved the trip across Tom Uglys Bridge, would have left feeling dejected as that Jai kick took away the most unlikely victory from their First Grade side. Jai might not be part of the Australian Sudoku team or Matt Dunning but his drop-gaol will go down into club folklore and, as with a good wine, will only get better with age.
While Grade excelled, Colts had three close encounters of the tough kind with just the one win going their way. The other two teams challenged to the final whistle and to their credit came away with all important bonus points.
The pressure of winning took its toll on Randwick with just one Grade game win and a loss in Colts against Northern Suburbs. These results knocked them off the top of the Club Championship with Eastwood edging ahead by just 8 points. University is lurking in third a further 156 points behind Randwick after a clean sweep over Warringah. With 160 points on offer a strong showing against Gordon over the long weekend could see University jump into second. Eastwood have the potential of adding 45 points to their tally with their two postponed games. An interesting two weeks ahead for the Club Championship.
Ben Bagter remains the highest Grade point scorer increasing his tally to 156 points. Nick O’Connor continues to score tries getting himself a double in Thirds and moving his season tally to 17, keeping him in first place on the leader board, two ahead of his nearest rival.
This week we take on the Northern Suburbs club with Grade visiting them at North Sydney Oval and Colts taking them on at Millner. With Norths performing strong in three grades the action should be entertaining at the magnificent Cricket Oval at North Sydney, while the Colts will have their hands full against three of the top Colts sides this season. Either venue will ensure you a great day’s rugby and the Woodies would appreciate your support.
The next weekend is the June Long Weekend and all except Thirds and Fourths have a free weekend. Come Sunday afternoon if you are wondering what you can do with yourself come down to Blackman Park Lane Cove where Fourths and Thirds take on Eastern Suburbs in the delayed Round 7 match. Kick off for both matches is 6 pm.
4th Grade – 1st Place
Fourths came home with a wet sail as they returned to the winners list with a 41 – 15 over Southern Districts. Eastwood retain top spot two points ahead of University with both sides having lost just one game. They have a two game break on their closest rivals and appear to be the teams to beat in this competition.
This week’s side sees Cormac Burke coming into the starting line up at Lock in place of Ed Neely. Rhys Allen takes over at Flanker from Soane Onesi, Taylor Mathieson is the new Half Back and Dave Sutton has returned from his trip to Europe and makes his first appearance since Round One at Fly Half. Finally, Phillip Pale makes way for Jack Tourish in the Centres.
Northern Suburbs are sitting in fifth spot with 27 points from five wins. They beat third placed Randwick last Saturday 30 – 10 for their second win in a row. Apart from Randwick their wins have been against West Harbour, Parramatta, Penrith and Gordon, all teams sitting at the bottom of the ladder. On current performance Eastwood should prove too strong for the Shoreman and get the first win at North Sydney this Saturday.
Next Sunday at Blackman Park Fourths play their postponed game against Eastern Suburbs. Easts have three losses to date and playing Penrith this Saturday should add another win to their total. They have lost to University, Souths and Randwick. They had a good win over Manly 22 – 0 back in Round 3. They sit in fourth place equal on points with Northern Suburbs and Eastwood will be looking forward to another competitive game. Eastwood will have some interesting selections decisions with players away and players needed for Thirds bench. It will be a great game that Eastwood should win and will be worth the trip on Sunday afternoon to watch.
3rd Grade – 1st Place
The scoreboard of 60 – 0 with 10 tries and 5 goals pleased our Mathematician Announcer especially when the final conversation failed to go through. All numbers were divisible by five! Thirds continue to set the pace and are now nine points ahead of second placed Eastern Suburbs. Their outstanding form is reflected in their incredible points differential. Having scored 408 points and only conceding 80 making a differential of 328. In fact it is the best in all Grades.
The forward pack is unchanged for this week’s clash and only two changes in the backs brought about by changes in First Grade. Gerard McTaggart comes in at Half Back and Ben Coady is on the Wing replacing Jack Tourish.
Northern Suburbs are sitting in third place having accumulated 33 points from seven wins with only losses against University and Eastern Suburbs. They beat Southern Districts 56 – 14 when they recently met and were too good from Randwick last week taking the points 36 – 22. Eastwood is playing great football evidenced by their 60 – 0 win over Souths and will have some Second Graders looking over their shoulders. This should be the game of the day as both sides have showen their winning ability and both will be keen to get the win. A game Eastwood will start as favourites and should see them continue on their winning way.
As with Fourths Thirds also have a game against Eastern Suburbs next Sunday. Assuming both win this Saturday it will be first plays second in what looks like the two best teams in this competition. At the original time of playing this game both sides were undefeated. Since then Easts have had a draw with West Harbour and a loss to Warringah. They got their act together and season back on track last Saturday with a 65 – 0 win over Parramatta.
Both sides still look even on results however Eastwood has scored 176 more points and conceded 38 less. On their current form it is hard to see any team beating Eastwood but stranger things have been known to happen. Again we are looking at two well matched sides with everything to play for on Sunday. Easts wanting to stay in touch, while Eastwood will be out to maintain their unbeaten record and put some distance between first and second place. It will be a hard choice as to which of the two games to watch.
2nd Grade – 3rd Place
Seconds put in a better performance with more respect for the ball resulting in a determined win over Southern Districts. A side whose defensive effort belies their place on the ladder. With University beating Warringah we have a new competition leader in Randwick who are three points ahead of Manly and Eastwood. The loss pushes Warringah back to fourth and they have Manly this weekend in what is the match of the round for Seconds. Eastwood are well placed at this stage in the competition and will be a force over the remaining eight rounds.
Team changes are minimal this week. Nick Batger is still on the disabled list and Jackson Bird retains the Full Back position giving him another chance to impress. Brad Curtis moves back from Firsts onto the Wing in place of Ben Coady and Max Page returns to the side, in his second game back from injury, at Half Back for Matt Gonzalez.
Eastwood’s opponent this weekend have just three wins and sit in 9th. They lost 17 – 48 to Randwick last week and have wins against Penrith, Souths and Gordon. Eastwood have shown they are capable of beating any team in this competition. Now is the time to start showing what they can do with their strong forward pack and pacey back-line. A dominant display is called for to send a signal to the rest of the competition.
1st Grade – 1st Place
With the benefit of bonus points Eastwood amazing win over Southern Districts gives them an extra point lead over Manly who had a close low scoring win over West Harbour. It was a round of close encounters by the competition leaders. Eastwood and Northern Suburbs by one point, Manly by four and University by five. Eastwood and Manly have broken away from the rest of the pack. There are five teams with four losses following them. West Harbour and Gordon are a further loss back creating a very congested ladder with seven teams in the mix behind the two leaders and making bonus points critical. This week we again have three games amongst the top sides and Gordon have a must win game against Randwick.
The distress on Mick Snowden’s face when he came from the field showed it was a serious injury and tests have confirmed it has prematurely ended his season. His place will be taken by up and coming Matt Gonzalez. This will be Matt’s second call up into the run on side since making his First Grade debut last year against Manly. His combination with Jai Ayoub will be interesting as both have the ability to take the defence apart. Ben Shorter returns from injury on the Wing in place of Brad Curtis. Tom Alexander joins Jared Barry in the tight five with James Neale rotating to the bench.
Northern Suburbs had a vital one point win over Randwick last Saturday and have made three changes to their back-line. Ben Murray and Peter Schuster come in as the new Centre pairing with Michael Walton moving to Full Back. They have had a number of close games against the leading sides and with a bit of luck could be sitting higher on the ladder. They have five wins and sit in 6th place. Their moment of truth is upon them as they face the two top sides of the competition over the next two weeks. They have shown they can match it with the other sides in the competition but will be tested against Eastwood and Manly.
Eastwood are about half way through the tough part of their draw and so far have only dropped one game. Rematches with Southern Districts and Manly to follow the long weekend they will not want to drop this game against Norths. The game will be another top shelf encounter and Eastwood will not want to let Norths into the game like they did against Southern Districts. Eastwood have the fire power to make a statement at North Sydney Oval and need to show they can close out these games against the better sides.
Colts 3 – 5th Place
Colts 3 hold onto 5th place despite their narrow 10 – 14 loss to Southern Districts earning a critical bonus point. Teams are building up behind with five teams six or less points behind and a loss against fourth placed Norths could see them drop down the ladder depending on who wins this weekend. Norths have lost three of their last four games all against the three teams above them on the ladder. They beat Southern Districts 21 – 12 and are yet to play Manly. Eastwood after winning four in a row have now lost their last three and will have to lift their performance if they are take the points from Northern Suburbs. With Manly and Eastern Suburbs expected to win and West Harbour taking on Southern Districts the race for fifth and sixth it hotting up and makes it more important for Eastwood to earn points from their game against Norths.
Colts 2 – 6th Place
Colts 2 made it two from two with a 15 – 5 win over Southern Districts moving them up one place on the ladder just one point ahead of West Harbour and Southern Districts who play each other this Saturday. A further three points behind is Penrith who had their first loss in three weeks when they came up against the strong Gordon side.
For this important clash Aiden Hopping moves from the Wing to Full Back replacing the promoted James Day. His place on the Wing is taken by Tom Graham from Colts 3.
Northern Suburbs are having a successful season with just the one loss (to University) which sees them in third place and will be hard to beat. Eastwood will know they have a tough assignment but will give it their best effort and see what they can do to upset Northern Suburbs game structure and limit their scoring opportunities.
Colts 1 – 6th Place
Eastwood showed some ticker as they fought back after falling behind Southern Districts last week but came up just short, going down 29 – 34. The loss saw them drop back to 6th place on equal points with Souths and with Eastern Suburbs one point and Manly four points further back. With Eastern Suburbs getting five points from the bye and Manly expected to beat Warringah the pressure is on to take points from the Northern Suburbs game this weekend. Northern Suburbs are going to be a tough nut to crack sitting in third place with the loss to Randwick last Saturday the only blot on their result sheet.
Matthew Bartholomew is out for this vital clash and Joshua Nohra moves from Full Back to Centre with James Day coming up from Colts 2 to play Full Back. Eastwood have shown they have the ability to match it with the better sides but need to start from the kick off and play for the full 80 minutes. They can’t give Norths the chance to get into their rhythm or let them get on top early.
A tough weekend for all three Colts sides this weekend at Millner but Eastwood will be up for it and Northern Suburbs will know they have been in a game of rugby.