Brandon Brothers Blitz Bulls

MatchReportAn energetic Shoalhaven side has given notice of its strong presence in this year’s IDRU Builders Club Premiership with a heart stopping last minute victory over the University Bulls at Shoalhaven Rugby Park. With the students leading by three Shoalies hooker Clark Chancellor was sent to the Bin with 7 minutes remaining but it was replacement front rower Tristan Healy who crossed for a try to snatch a 27 – 25 win for his side in the final seconds of the match.

In an entertaining fast flowing match there were nine tries scored as the lead changed on six occasions. The Brandon brothers were outstanding in attack for the Shoalies with one or more of the brothers involved in all of their sides scoring movements. The Bulls attempted to employ the same tactics that worked so well for them in their first round victory over Avondale but the enthusiasm of their opponents dominated much of the play in the first half.

Uni Fly-Half Donovan Nepia opened the scoring with an early penalty goal before wingman Justin Stanbrook finished off a sweeping backline raid to score wide on the right for an 8 – 0 lead after seven minutes. The Bulls appeared to be settling into their work, but it was the enthusiastic Shoalhaven forwards led by Locks Aaron Louden and Kain Curtain who set the standard for the remainder of the first stanza.

Dominating field position the Shoalie forwards created the forward momentum for skipper Fly-Half Steve Brandon to work his magic. Brandon produced a long cut out pass which found his brother Mark on the left wing with the winger finishing the play off with a try in the corner. With the Shoalie forwards continuing to get the better of the rucks and mauls it was Steve Brandon again who broke through only to be pulled down just short of the line and from the ensuing phase of play center James Mather crossed wide out after five players handled.

Shoalhaven lost representative Lock Aaron Loudon with a serious knee injury as half-time approached but with a series of penalties going their way they continued to dominate field position. As half time closed in, Steve Brandon put on a brilliant kick and chase try for himself from twenty meters out. Winger Mark Brandon was unable to convert any of the tries in the blustery conditions, but his side went to the break holding a well-deserved 15 – 8 lead.

The Bulls came out after the break with a noticeable lift in intensity and took control of the next twenty minutes. With the penalty count swinging their way and champion No.8 Paul Tuala leading from the front the Bulls piled on the pressure until the Shoalies defense cracked. With Referee Ethan McIntosh giving Shoalies a general warning for continuing penalties the Bulls kept pounding away at the Shoalhaven line. Captain Will Wood finally breached the Shoalhaven line for the first of his two tries after fourteen minutes of the half and with Nepia converting the scores were equal at 15 all.

Three minutes later Flanker Ben Cheetham put on a sensational forty meter run to score and Uni took the lead back at 20 – 15.

The final twenty minutes was action packed as the lead changed three more times. Steve Brandon once again opened up the Uni defense close to the line laying on a short pass for center James Mather to cross for his second try. Mark Brandon converted for Shoalies to rest back the lead 22 – 20.

But then the Shoalies ran into some real discipline troubles, conceding a succession of penalties, which resulted in another general warning from Referee McIntosh. Tuala forced his way over the line but couldn’t ground the ball. Two phases after the ensuing scrum Wood forced his way over for his second try and Uni took back the lead 25 - 22.

The penalties kept going Uni’s way as the students appeared to be heading for victory. Things got worse for Shoalies when they also lost Hooker Chancelor for a lifting tackle with seven minutes remaining in the match. It was Shoalies who finished the stronger though, when not to be outdone by his brothers, winger Kieran Brandon scorched down the western touchline in a forty meter run before finding big front rower Tristan Healy in support who crossed for the winning try right on full-time.

Shoalhavens forwards showed that they should be able to match it with the best packs in the comp as they willingly worked hard to create the space for their very speedy backline. They matched it today with a very experienced Uni side that have had one of the benchmark packs over the last couple of seasons. Player of the Match Steven Brandon was electrifying in attack for Shoalies and was well supported by half back Sam Watts, and centers James Mather and Angus Maddinson. Fullback Ava Raboitoga also was a strong performer. For Uni, Donavon Nepia had another strong game guiding his team around the park with forwards Wayne Ngatai, Will Wood and centers George Rixon and Sam Latu prominent.

Shoalhaven 27 (James Mather 2 tries, Steven Brandon 1 try, Tristan Healy 1 try, Mark Brandon 1 try, 1 goal)

Def University 25 (Will Wood 2 tries, Justin Stanbrook 1 try, Ben Cheetham 1 try, Donovan Nepia 1 goal, 1 penalty goal)  

Other Match Results

Avondale 45 Def Campbelltown 22

Bowral 27 Def Shamrocks 5

Tech Waratahs 35 Def Kiama 6

Vikings 38 Def Camden 10

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