Eastwood Preview Round 9
By Paul Treanor
Quote of the Day
“Mum has to work tomorrow, which is great. It means I can go fishing!!”
From a member of the Del Moro Fan Club.
Let’s hope mum didn’t arrive home after working on Mothers Day to find fish to clean and cook for dinner.
The rain cleared, the sky was blue and the football was champagne at Millner where a big crowd turned up to watch Eastwood take on University. With three of the games going down to the wire it was the best day of rugby so far this season. In the end it was four from four for the Woods achieving something not many clubs can lay claim to against the Sydney University Club.
It was a different story for our Colts who were gallant against three University sides that were too classy running out convincing winners is all three games. Barring upsets the three Colts competitions have virtually determined the top four in each grade, with four clubs dominating – Randwick, Gordon, Northern Suburbs and Sydney University. All that seems to be left is the final arrangement of the deck chairs. The interest now turns to who will fill the final two places in the finals and all three Eastwood sides are in the pack trying to secure one of these two places. They play two of these clubs, Manly and Southern Districts, twice is the next five weeks and results will be critical to Eastwood’s chances of making the play offs. Also influencing the outcome will be the lop sided nature of the draw and who we play twice and who we don’t. In this respect we only face Randwick twice avoiding playing the other three leading clubs. The draw will be beneficial if we can win the games we should win. This is no more important than this weekend’s clash with Manly at home.
Meanwhile Grade have all four sides sitting in First place on their respective ladders and travel to Manly to take on the Marlins who also have four strong sides to test our players. In First Grade we have the only undefeated sides facing off and it is a surprise it is not the TV match as it should be one of the games of the year. Second Grade face last year’s premiers who have only lost one game this season in what should be another great game of Rugby. It is usually a great day out at Manly Oval and a strong contingent of Eastwood Supporters will add to the occasion.
Eastwood’s four from four in grade sees them retain top spot in the Club Championship race ahead of Randwick by just 33 points. Ben Batger retains top point scorer and Nick O’Connor added one more to his tally to be the leading try scorer in grade.
4th Grade – 1st Place
The day at Millner started with a cracker as you would expect when two undefeated sides clash. The last time they met was in last year’s grand final. Despite dominating the first three quarters of the match Eastwood found itself going from a 19 – 7 lead to be down 19 – 22 when the final bell nervously clanged out from the grandstand. A penalty was awarded to Eastwood and Jack Tourish stepped up to take an all or nothing attempt into a tricky wind. He kept it low and it was straight rescuing the win. The announcer’s “Justice done” summed up the sentiment of the Eastwood crowd.
Several changes to the run on side this week. Mak Jelec Dozo moves back to the bench and his place in taken by Heath Toon in the Front Row. Harry Morton comes from the bench to replace Luke Ferris at Hooker. Conor O’Gorman gets a start at 4, Sam Bennetts takes over from Lachie Parker and Rhys Allen is in the side for the first time this year replacing David Rose. With Max Page returning from injury in Thirds Gerard McTaggart is the new Half Back, Xavier Chigwidden comes from the bench into 10 with Wes Sefuiva moving to Full Back pushing Sione Kupu to 13. Finally Jack Philp replaces Daniel Bystrom on the wing.
Manly have had three wins and a draw this season and sit in 7th place. They were soundly beaten by Randwick last Saturday 0 – 35 and previously lost 10 – 49 to University. Eastwood will be working on those aspects of their game that let University back into the game last weekend and should be too strong for the Manly side.
3rd Grade – 1st Place
Thirds had the most dominating win of the day running out winners 30 – 6 in a commanding display of running rugby and solid defence. Del didn’t let his adoring fan club down making sure he scored twice in front of them. His wing partner Nick O’Connor continued to show he knows where the try line is and also crossed taking his tally for the year to 14.
The only other undefeated side Eastern Suburbs had a close call against West Harbour coming away with a 21 all draw increasing Eastwood’s lead at the top of the ladder.
Max Page returns after suffering a knee injury against Penrith taking over at Half Back this week. Hooker Myles Hunkin is unavailable giving Luke Ferris his chance to move up from Fourths and Adrian Wyper comes in for Nick Johnson who in up in Seconds this weekend.
Manly have just the three wins this year and sit in 8th place. Last week they lost to Randwick 15 – 41 and 5 – 38 when they played University. Their wins have been against bottom placed sides and on current form will be hard pressed to get past Eastwood in their present form.
2nd Grade – 1st Place
It would be a brave coach who would take the field with 13 players but the way Seconds played last weekend with two in the sin bin you could almost consider it. With two players having a 10 minute rest Eastwood run in points that gave them one of the most impressive wins of the season finishing ahead of last year’s Grand Finalist 27 – 21.
In another interesting Round in Second Grade the benefits of bonus points were highlighted as Eastwood have moved to top spot on the ladder with two losses. Manly (with a game in hand) lost their first game on Saturday putting them four points behind Eastwood and sitting in fourth on the ladder.
Brad Curtis who ruled himself out last weekend drops back from Firsts to take over the Full Back position moving Nick Batger to his more familiar role on the Wing. Sione Fangia is out injured and Tim Williams moves from Wing to replace him in the Centres. Joey Afualo has concussion and is again out this week. George Kent will move to 8 to cover for Joey’s absence and Nick Johnson comes into the Pack. Matt Gonzalez has been impressing at Half and retains his place in the side despite Max Page returning from injury.
Last year’s Premiers, Manly who were previously unbeaten came undone against third placed Randwick 0 – 16 last Saturday. They will be a tough opposition not wanting to make it two losses in a row. Eastwood beat Randwick back in Round 1 20 – 17 and will be looking to continue with the form they showed against University. This should be a great contest with both sides capable of taking it out. It is hard to pick a winner but if Eastwood continue on with what we witnessed last Saturday Manly will need to pull out all stops if they are to get back onto the winners list.
1st Grade – 1st Place
The First Grade encounter had it all and was a fitting finale to a great day’s rugby. It is unknown what the brothers-in-law talked about over drinks on Friday night but University showed their intention from the kick off and in no time had shot out to a 14 – 0 lead. Eastwood showed why they are Premiers and undefeated this year sticking to their game plan and coming away with a 34 – 29 victory. You got the sense University played to their best while Eastwood are yet to reach theirs giving the coach several areas still to work on. However you couldn’t question their mental toughness, determination and commitment. Things they will need to bring with them this Saturday as there will be only one undefeated team in Firsts come Saturday night, unless its a draw.
Hugh Roach is again available and comes back in as Hooker. Todd Pearce, who filled in for Hugh last week after returning from playing in Scotland will miss this weekend as he attends a wedding. James Neale who has been performing well week in week out is on the bench to give Tom Alexander and Jared Barry much needed game time. John Grant who made a surprise return from injury last week is again on the Wing taking over from Brad Curtis. University also had a late change to its line up last week with Tom Carter, not able to miss another opportunity to play the Woodies and on TV to boot, taking his place in the Centres much to the delight of the Eastwood crowd.
Last year’s Minor Premiers are again been touted as Grand Finalist and are sitting just six points behind Eastwood with a game in hand. They have taken all before them so far this year and will be desperate to add Eastwood’s scalp to their belt. They are always hard to beat at home as we saw last year. But Eastwood are also showing their tenacity and proving why they are top of the ladder.
Manly have made one change to the side that beat Randwick. Ryan Melrose returns to the side with Daniel Alley moving to Eight.
It should be a great clash right across the park. Two strong forward packs going head to head. Snowden and Ayoub up against Lucas and Lane in the halves while the Kiwi Centre Dennis Pili-Gaitau who has been impressing will be tested by the strong Centre pairing of Hill and McDougall. Both sides are well balanced and coached setting up one of the best games of the year.
Colts 3 – 5th Place
University proved too strong for Colts 3 running out winners 39 – 8 in what was a tough outing and our first loss in five matches. We have an important clash this Round with a Manly side that is sitting in 8th place and had a big loss against Randwick 5 – 50 in their last match. They are 6 points behind Eastwood and with Southern Districts and West Harbour in between they will want to get a win against Eastwood to keep in touch with the top half of the competition. Just as importantly Eastwood will want to keep hold of fifth spot and stay in touch with the top four. Both sides need to win this match which adds to the intensity that should result in a close match. On past results Eastwood should get their fifth win of the season.
Colts 2 – 8th Place
Colts 2 were no match for the impressive University side and were beaten 45 – 5 dropping back one spot in the process. This weekend it is Manly who have won just one game and a draw putting them in 10th place on the ladder. They were also well beaten on the weekend going down 8 – 55 to Randwick having previously been beaten by University13 – 55 and 12 – 18 to Eastern Suburbs. They drew was with Penrith and beat Parramatta way back in Round 1. Eastwood need to get up against Manly if they are not to fall further down the ladder. Penrith, who would be favoured to beat Parramatta this week, are just two points behind us and could jump ahead if results go their way. Ahead of Eastwood by two points are Eastern Suburbs and West Harbour. A victory over Manly and losses to either Easts (play Warringah) or Wests (play University) would see us advance on the ladder. It is a critical match for Colts 2 and one they should win if they repeat their effort against Eastern Suburbs.
Colts 1 – 6th Place
University showed why they are one of the leading teams in Colts 1 with a 45 – 14 win over Eastwood last Saturday. The loss keeps us in sixth spot but this week’s opponents are only two points behind us with a game in hand (against Norths who are undefeated). This week also sees the team (Souths) above us by just two points play Randwick and on form they would not be expected to win. A win over Manly could see us jump into fifth and give us extra breathing space over Manly.
Manly have three wins this season. Last week they lost 14 – 59 to Randwick and in previous Rounds have lost 23 – 33 to University and 15 – 21 to Eastern Suburbs. They did have a surprise win over Gordon 26 – 21 and show they are not to be taken lightly. Both sides seem evenly matched and both will be wanting to get over last week’s loss and get another win under their belt.