Tuigamala Takes IDRU Player Of The Year Award

illawarrarugbylogoInfluential Avondale Fly-Half Silipa Tuigamala has taken out the IDRU Player of the Year Award, presented at the IDRU Grand Final Dinner & Presentations at the Master Builders Club on Wednesday night. The Dinner attended by representatives from all clubs and affiliates was a fitting celebration of another successful season of Rugby in the Illawarra.

Tuigamala took out the main prize, which was judged by IDRU Referees throughout the season on a three-two-one points basis per match, just ahead of runner up Jackson Watts from Shoalhaven who went home with three awards. As well as the runner up trophy Watts also won the Tops Points Scorer and Top Try Scorer awards.

In somewhat of a surprise Bowral Coach Gene Fairbanks was awarded the Coach of the Year as judged by his coaching peers for the second year in a row. In a vote by all the First Grade Coaches, John Maughan, who is to Referee Saturdays Second Grade Grand Final, between Vikings and Bowral, won Referee of the Year. Ethan McIntosh was announced as Referee of the First Grade match between Avondale and Vikings with David Gunning to control the Third Grade match between Shoalhaven and Vikings.

The Bowral club also featured in the Senior Volunteer of the Year Award when the very popular Mark Fruend took home the spoils. Junior Volunteer of the Year went to Emma Maddison from Shoalhaven.

The Representative Players of the Year went to Paul Tuala in the Senior Illawarriors, Corey Aylette for the Under 20’s and Melissa Fatu for the Women’s. Country Representative Players were recognised with awards to Senior Cockatoo Players Paul Tuala, Henry Yuill, Jesse Roche, Andy Rae, Andy Papworth, Leighton Cowley and Wayne Ngatai. Awards were also presented to Under 20 Players Corey Aylett and Keeran McCourt along with Country Women’s Corella Players Brenda Auelua, Jemima Henry, Melissa Fatu, and Sally Fuesaina.

The IDRU Team Trophies went to:

Minor Premiers – First Grade                Avondale

                            Second Grade           Camden

                            Third Grade               Shoalhaven

Club Champions -                                  Avondale

Halfway Cup -                                        Avondale

John Hayne Interclub Shield -             Avondale      

A Special Grand Final To Complete 2017

illawarrarugbylogoThe 2017 Grand Final will go down as one of the most special in the history of the IDRU no matter who lifts the Buarraneer Cup after Saturday’s game. The Grand Final combatants Avondale and Vikings have proved to be the two most outstanding sides of 2017 and deserve to be in the big game.

Avondale have taken all before them going into Saturday's match having won all nineteen matches they have contested so far this year. Their opponents Vikings have earnt their spot having not lost a match to any other side during the season other than the unbeaten Wombats. The Blueys were the only side to deny Avondale bonus points in their two premiership round matches, both of which went down to the wire with Avondale prevailing by five points on both occasions.

A Grand Final victory for Avondale will complete arguably the most successful season for any team in the history of the IDRU. After eighteen wins during the season proper and a dominant 36 – 20 victory over Vikings in the Major Semi-Final a fortnight ago, the Wombats will start firm favourites to complete the perfect season of twenty straight wins and take the 2017 Builders Club Premiership.

Vikings Rugby Club is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the club in 2017 and have qualified for all three Grand Finals. They are shooting for their fourteenth First Grade Premiership, the most of any club in the Illawarra. Having completed fifteen wins and a draw for 2017, with three losses to Avondale, the Blueys go into the Grand Final after a remarkable 32 - 29 win over Uni in last week’s Final.

Another special feature of this year’s GF is the fact that the match will be Refereed by the youngest Referee ever to control an IDRU First Grade Grand Final. Ethan McIntosh at the ripe old age of 25, will enter the record books as the youngest ever Grand Final whistle blower when he takes the field on Saturday.

Whichever way Saturday’s game goes it will be followed by a celebration of a special achievement for either of the clubs involved. Good luck to all clubs, players and officials involved in what is sure to be an enjoyable finale to another Rugby season.

Vikings Take Uni In Epic Final

MatchReportVikings have come from behind to snatch a remarkable victory and a place in next week’s Grand Final with a 32 – 29 win over a shell shocked University side at Vikings Oval. Vikings looked to be going out of contention for this year’s crown when they trailed 20 – 29 with fifteen minutes of play remaining with the Bulls well in control and playing perfectly controlled finals football.

Vikings led 13 – 10 at the break and scored a converted try within minutes of the resumption to lead 20 – 10 before the Bulls mounted a huge comeback and looked set to qualify for the Grand Final. The Bulls scored three tries, and were held up over the Blueys line on two more occasions, as they set up a nine point lead in a dominant twenty four minute period of the second term. With Vikings looking down and out replacement forwards Simon Watts and Mathew Jones sparked a triumphant resurgence from the Blueys which enabled them to take the match and join both their lower grade sides on the big stage at WIN Stadium next week.

In a reversal of last week’s Minor Semi-Final between the Bulls and Bowral which ironically finished with the same score-line in Uni’s favour, the Bulls scored five tries to Vikings four but last week’s hero Tom Baker, who contributed seventeen points against Bowral, had an off day with the boot only able to kick two goals from five attempts. His Viking counterpart Tommy Sawden piloted over five from six and added a try as well in his seventeen point haul to help sink the Bulls chances.

The match was a typically hard fought Final as expected with both sides getting into stride from the early moments of the match in front of a very healthy crowd. University wingman Rueben Thompson had an eventful afternoon, crossing for the first try of the match after eight minutes. A prodigious clearing kick from Baker took play to within twenty metres of the Vikings line. From the lineout the Bulls won possession and with the ball being quickly moved across the Bulls backline Thompson opened the scoring in the north east corner.

A succession of penalties allowed Vikings to set up camp in the Uni half for an extended period but in a repeat of the strong defensive effort of last week the Bulls were able to repel all that the Blueys could throw at them. Vikings settled for a penalty goal after sixteen minutes to reduce the lead to two. From the restart Thompson was in the action again when he tackled a Vikings player in the air from the kick and was penalised. The penalty allowed the Blueys to take play deep into Uni territory where once again the defence held solid. Sawden added his second penalty goal for Vikings to take the lead for the first time at 6 – 5.

Read more: Vikings Take Uni In Epic Final

The Rogues Rant

RoguesRantWelcome to The Rogues Rant, an occasional look at all things Rugby.

The Wallabies performance in last week’s opening Bledisloe Cup match was nothing short of appalling. The defense from Cheika’s men in the first fifty minutes of the match was simply not up to the required standard. If the Kiwis had not emptied their bench for the final stage of the match the All Blacks may well have run up eighty points on the night. Why should we be surprised with what we saw on Saturday night given the performance from the Aussie sides against Kiwi sides throughout the Super Rugby not only this year but over the last few. It is clearly a fact that Australian Rugby is way behind what is coming out of New Zealand and I think we can expect a lot more of what we saw last week in the years ahead. Let’s hope it doesn’t last too many years for the long term sake of the game in Australia. We have got a lot of work to do to turn this mess around!

The Western Force won the right to appeal the ARU decision to cut them from Super Rugby in the Supreme Court this week. The Judge reserved his decision and it will be a week or two before the decision is known. The Force have pledged that they will be continuing to operate and are looking at alternatives should the decision not go their way, with a possible future in Asia being investigated. The ARU have also reportedly knocked back a very generous offer from businessman Andrew Forrest to provide grass roots rugby with $M50 in funding in return for securing the future of the Western Force in Super Rugby. The ARU have said that their hands are tied in regard to the future structure of Super Rugby with the decision already made by SANZAAR that an ARU team is to be removed. Given the Force’s performance in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, and the performance of other WA teams in other national competitions it must be very hard for Rugby WA to accept what is happening.

There was plenty of concern shown for Avondale winger Mani Tuigamala at Ocean Park last Saturday after he was left unconscious on the ground following a three way collision. The young man spent the most part of Saturday night in Wollongong Hospital being checked out and thankfully was given the all clear. There must now be some question as to whether he will be OK to take his place on Grand Final day, but Wombat coach Murray McDonald is hopeful that the very talented speedster will get the go ahead from the Doctor to play. The Emergency Department at the hospital looked more like an Ocean Park change-room, with Tuigamala joined by Vikings pair Beau Midgley and Michael Ashby. Midgley suffered a badly broken nose but should be available for the Blueys in this week’s Final against University. On the other hand Ashby has a broken Cheek bone and will miss the remaining matches of Vikings season.

Read more: The Rogues Rant

University Survive Bowral Challenge

MatchReportIn an enthralling Minor Semi-Final at Camden Rugby Park, University have ended Bowral’s premiership dreams with a narrow 32 – 29 victory. Despite scoring five tries to four the Blacks paid dearly for a slow start which saw the students race out to a twenty point half-time lead. Bowral poured on four second half tries to bridge the gap but a converted try by Player of the Match, Tom Baker proved enough for the Bulls to move through to next week’s Final match up with Vikings.

Baker proved to be the difference between the two sides contributing seventeen points for the match including two vital first half penalty goals. In contrast Bowral kicker Donovan Du Randt could only manage two goals from five attempts as the Blacks bowed out of the finals at the hands of the defending Premiers for the second year in succession.

The Bulls started at pace dominating at the breakdown throughout the first half and employing a very efficient fast moving defensive line to nullify most of what Bowral were able to muster. Baker was very busy early putting over two penalty goals for Uni to take their lead out to 6 – 0 after a frantic first thirteen minutes. Shortly after his second goal Baker found himself in the Sin Bin after being Yellow Carded by Referee Ethan McIntosh for a lifting tackle.

Immediately following Bakers binning Bowral crossed for the first try of the match. After finding touch in the Bulls quarter from the penalty for Bakers tackle, the Blacks created a rolling maul resulting in hooker Todd Pearce touching down wide out for the five pointer. Du Randt couldn’t goal from touch as the margin was reduced to one point. The remainder of the half belonged to Uni as their defensive effort thwarted everything the Blacks could muster in attack. With Baker back into the action Uni put on three tries in the space of fourteen minutes to take a match defining 25 – 5 lead at the break.

Fullback Simon Douch scored the first of his two tries on the back of some strong pick and drive play from the Uni pack. Within minutes the fullback was in again when Baker put on a beautiful cut out pass for the fast moving Douch to race away down the touchline and score his second. On the stroke of halftime Uni once again produced a strong pick and drive sequence to take play to within fifteen of the Bowral line before prop forward Casey Rameka running wide of the ruck careered away to score under the posts. Baker converted two of the tries for a 25 – 5 halftime lead.

With young Number 8 Tim Lewis making his return from injury after the halftime break inspiring a greater effort from the Blacks, the second half took on a different look. Bowral produced four tries in the stanza but couldn’t rest the lead from the Bulls as they bowed out for 2017.

Centre Justin Madden produced the first try when he pushed off the usually reliable Paul Tuala to cross after six minutes. The Bowral scrum was dominating the usually powerful Bulls pack as the Blacks were starting to make headway at the breakdown. The second try was scored by winger Charlie Lawson when he found himself in space following a sweeping backline play before Henry Yuill showed his customary speed when joining the backline to score from thirty out. Du Randt only managed to convert one of the tries as the Blacks now found themselves still three behind the students at 22 – 25 with just on ten remaining on the clock.

Read more: University Survive Bowral Challenge

Wombats Power Into Grand Final

MatchReportUnbeaten IDRU Minor Premiers Avondale have advanced to the Grand Final in two weeks with a powerful 36 – 20 Major Semi-Final win over a gallant Vikings side at Ocean Park. Scoring five tries to three the Wombats put on a relentless display of power rugby to outplay the Blueys who showed plenty of spirit to go the distance with the Premiership favourites.

The match was marred by several nasty injuries, the worst causing a thirty eight minute delay in the second half when young Wombat winger Mani Tuigamala was knocked unconscious and heavily concussed. Players left the field as Tuigamala was attended to on the ground until he was removed in an ambulance and taken to Wollongong Hospital for evaluation. Vikings are destined to be without their outstanding centre Michael Ashby for the remainder of their finals campaign after he suffered a broken Cheekbone midway through the second half as well.

The match was less than a minute old when Avondale’s Mani Tuigamala opened the scoring. Fielding a misdirected clearing kick from Vikings, Tuigamala raced down the eastern touchline to score his side’s first try. With the try converted by his Fly-Half brother Silipa Tuigamala from wide out Avondale were out 7 – 0.

With the Wombats clicking straight into their best attacking form Vikings managed to restrain them for a period before Skipper Andre Itula made things look too easy bumping off several defenders in a short run to the line to stretch the lead to a point a minute. With Tuigamala converting again the Wombats were at 14 – 0 with thirteen minutes gone.

Vikings managed to regain some composure after the early Wombat onslaught to apply considerable pressure to the Wombat defence. After a long period in the Avondale half of the field, the opening Vikings try came when centre Ashby produced a pin point cut out pass for winger Cheyne Pike to cross in the beachside corner.

The Wombats quickly took back the initiative taking play deep back into Vikings territory on the back of some powerful play from their forwards led by lock Gus Faleauto and workaholic flankers Kyle Moody and Kieran Jack. Jack pounced on a loose Vikings pass, toeing the ball through and after kicking a second time retrieved the ball to score in the clubhouse corner, extending the lead to 19 – 5 after twenty five minutes.

A succession of penalties took Vikings deep into the Avondale quarter and from one such penalty Vikings found touch. From the resulting lineout the Blueys created a well-constructed rolling maul. When it was brought to a standstill by the Wombats, the ever busy Viking Prop Joel Diggins peeled off the maul and found halfback Tommy Sawden in support and the little no. 9 scooted away to score in the corner. With Sawden unable to convert either of the Vikings tries the sides went to the break with Avondale holding a 19 – 10 lead.

The first half belonged to Avondale with strong play from their pack and a sound kicking game from Jacob Kara at the back and Tuigamala at No.10. Vikings however showed plenty of commitment throughout the half to stay in the match with Michael Ashby absolutely outstanding. Vikings Halfback Sawden opened the scoring in the second term with a penalty goal to narrow the margin to six.

Read more: Wombats Power Into Grand Final

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