Sudden Death Semi Finals
By Paul Treanor
Sunday T.G. Millner Field
GRADE KICK OFF
Northern Suburbs Seconds
With three teams in the hunt for a Grade Finals spot what better way to spend a Sunday than getting down to the home of Eastwood Rugby and give them the support they deserve.
3rd Grade Vs Northern Suburbs
Eastwood were a little slow out of the blocks last week against an in-your-face performance from Warringah who knew a loss would put an end to their season and it did. Eastwood over came the early onslaught finishing the stronger and with a couple of late tries recorded a 32 – 15 victory.
Their opponents this week, Northern Suburbs, finished Fourth in the regular season and were sounding beaten by Eastern Suburbs 41 – 7 last Sunday. A game that featured a hat trick to Andrew Ferris who played with us last year. Eastwood have only played Norths once back in May when we beat the Shoremen 46 – 12 in Round 11.
This week it is sudden death and the Eastwood’s coaches know the team will need establish their dominance for the kick-off and not let Northern Suburbs into the contest. Northern Suburbs will be keen to cause an upset as this is their only team left in the Finals and will want to get over the top of Eastwood from the kick off. There are no certainties in Finals Football, but Eastwood’s record this year shows what they are capable of in attack and defence. An Eastwood side in it current mood will be a tough assignment for Norths and will be favourites to win. This match will kick off after the two Fourth Grade giant killers from last week, Eastern Suburbs and Southern Districts get proceedings under way at Millner on Sunday.
The Eastwood team is unchanged from the side that beat Warringah last Saturday, while Norths have made the one change to last week’s side. Ciaran MacWhite comes into the Back Row for Connor Vest. Although the backline is much the same as the team we played back in Round 11 there are a number of new faces in the Forwards including two new Props with Second Grade experience.
2nd Grade Vs Randwick
Second Grade had a tough encounter with Warringah last week, made all the more difficult by giving Warringah two converted intercept tries, something we will not want to repeat this Sunday. In the end Eastwood overpowered them 32 – 24. As we get deeper into the finals goal kicking will become increasingly important and we will be looking to improve our recent success rate.
The confirmed loss of Dave Piukala for the Finals is a cruel blow for the young Forward who has been one of the big improver’s for the Club this year. His replacement Rhys Allen, playing his first Eastwood Second Grade game in seven years, had a strong game both in attack and defence. Rhys found the extra five minutes in each half a challenge but he was delighted to be back in Seconds.
Despite a cameo appearance from Waratah Paddy Ryan, University had no answer for Randwick who put on 32 points before the Students bothered the scorers last Sunday. Four tries, a conversion and six penalty goals made up Randwick’s 40 points, while conceding just 12. Randwick were leading the competition when we beat them at Coogee Oval a few weeks back and finished the regular season just two points behind us despite having one more win than Eastwood. Eastwood have a game on their hands this Sunday and will need to watch their discipline and not give away penalties in kickable range.
As has been said often this is a very close competition with the four sides left all capable of winning against the other three. The result will come down to a mix of preparation, mental toughness and a bit of good fortune. The team that takes their chances and maintains their discipline will make it through to next weekend. Graeme Harrison will also be hoping his Props turn up fit, well and able to take the field.
Both teams are unchanged from last week’s run on sides.
1st Grade Vs Southern Districts
Last year’s Grand Finalists clash one week earlier this year with only one to make a consecutive appearance. In Eastwood’s case it would be for the third year in a row, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves as we have 80 minutes, or as has been the case lately with the Rebels 80+ minutes, of Rugby ahead of us first.
Our form has been a little patchy since our run-away win over Penrith and it was great to see Eastwood put in a more polished finals style performance against Warringah last Saturday. The Forwards lifted from last week’s effort allowing our halves to play with more freedom than they have had in recent weeks. Before the game started we lost two of our key Front Rowers with Hugh Roach and Sam Needs ruled out with injury. During the game we lost Joey Afualo and Ben Batger. Joey showed his disappointment by mouthing “Frustrated” as he was assisted from the Field. His departure saw Hugh Perrett move to 8 and Miles McCaffery come into the pack, while Arthur Carrie came on to replace Ben with Brad Curtis moving to Full Back. Despite these interruptions to the side we secured a 23 – 10 win against a very talented Warringah side. It was just the type of game we needed going in against Southern Districts this Sunday.
Southern Districts again did their Houdini trick with a pressure kick after the bell to beat University last Sunday. This time it was Ben Volavola’s young replacement, Jordon McGregor who plotted it over from 40 metres out. Meanwhile University channelled an ex-student for a Bronwyn “salary cap/points work around” tactic to get Paddy Ryan on the field for the second half for zero points, but it wasn’t enough to secure them a win.
Our two clashes against the Rebels from the South this year have been high scoring thrillers with a one point win to each. It should again be a frantic 80+ minutes this Sunday with both sides having strong defence and scintillating strike power across the park. Again we will need to dominate in the Forwards to give our Halves latitude to weave their magic and allow our outside backs to do what they do best. This will require a sterling effort against the Rebels strong Forward pack and a highlight of the game will be watching these two sets of forwards trying to get the ascendancy over each other. Meanwhile we will need to keep a close watch on Dewet Roos with his quick penalty re-starts and their speedy backline, that can make something out of nothing in a blink of an eye.
The only change to the run on side for Eastwood this week is the return of Hugh Roach at Hooker, while Souths are unchanged. There have been a number of changes to their squad since we last played them. Cameron Betham has returned to Tighthead, Jed Holloway and Kieran Black have returned from injury. On the other side of the ledger, Ben Volavola is off playing for a spot in Fiji’s World Cup squad while Marcus Carbone and Alan Latunipulu have had season ending injuries.
It should be, if not the game of the year than one of the games of the year. A game that will be best seen live at Millner on a Rugby Sunday.
Let’s hope whoever annoyed Elsa has apologised and we get a sunny warm day.