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.

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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.

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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.

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The Rogues Rant

RoguesRantWallaby Coach Michael Cheika has chosen a very interesting side for the opening Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday night. Cheika has put a lot of faith in the young back row of new skipper Michael Hooper, Ned Hanigan and Japan bound Sean McMahon to really get amongst the All Blacks and upset the rhythm of the World Champs. Kurtley Beale is back in the centers with Samu Kerevi, but Beale has not played a lot of football of late after returning from a long stint on the sidelines through injury. Curtis Rona gets a start and should provide plenty of coverage at the back with Israel Folau and Henry Speight. There is plenty of experience on the bench to call on late in the game but if the starting pack don’t make an early impact and get the Kiwis off their game it could be a long night for all. Given the record of the Kiwis over the Aussie sides in Super Rugby this year and last year’s shut out how could anyone confidently predict a Wallaby win? All Blacks to win.

The junior matches between Sydney and Country out at Bathurst a couple of weeks ago went pretty well for the boys from the bush. The younger age groups saw big wins for Sydney in the Under 14’s and 15’s with Sydney winning big 36 – 10 in the 14’s and 40 – 7 in the 15’s. Things went a bit better in the older age groups. The 16’s was a narrow win to the city boys with a one point margin at 13 – 12. The Under 17’s was all country with the girls winning the first contest between the two with a strong 27 – 15 performance and then the boys upset their more fancied rivals in a cliff hanger 36 – 31. It was a good shot in the arm for Country Junior Rugby and from all reports the whole day was superbly presented by the Bathurst Bulldogs Club. Well done to all concerned.

Well done to the new boys on the block this year in Illawarra Rugby. Wollondilly in their return to the comp finished sixth on the ladder with six wins and two draws in third grade. The Southern Crushers from Albion Park have shown plenty of promise racking up three wins and two draws but finished with the wooden spoon in their first season of third grade. After showing that they can be competitive with the bigger clubs I reckon things will only get bigger and better down south in the years to come.

Congratulations to Avondale on completing an almost perfect score on the points table with eighteen straight wins for the year to finish on 88 points. Only Vikings spoiled the party by holding the Wombats to narrow margins in their two encounters depriving them of the perfect score of 90 competition points. This Saturday’s Major Semi-Final at Ocean Park will be a very interesting match. The two matches between the sides during the year went down to the wire with Avondale getting home by five points on both occasions. There really is not a lot between the two sides and I am expecting another close match this week which could go either way. Avondale had bonus point wins in every match except their two matches against Vikings. Vikings season stats are not that far behind Avondale as far as wins and bonus points are concerned. The Blueys had 15 wins, fourteen with bonus points, and a draw from which they also earned a bonus point, losing only the two games to Avondale. Avondale got out of gaol with a last minute try in their Round 11 match at Gerry Cappetta Oval after Vikings appeared to have done enough to win the match. So I reckon there will only be a matter of points in it again this week with the winner getting the march straight through to the decider at WIN Stadium on September 2nd. I’ll go for an Avondale win but as I said the match could go either way. Avondale to win.

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Wombats Complete Almost Perfect Season

MatchReportWith eighteen rounds of the IDRU Builders Club Premiership completed all attention now moves to next week’s Semi-Finals at Ocean Park and Camden. Avondale who finished the rounds with a 45 -12 win over Tech Waratahs, have completed an amazing season on top of the table with 88 out of a possible 90 points. With eighteen straight wins the Wombats sit nine clear of second placed Vikings, the only side to deny them bonus points in their two encounters this year. Vikings only two losses for the year came at the hands of the Minor Premiers. Vikings had to work hard to overcome Shoalhaven 27 – 12 and will now meet the Wombats in the Major Semi-Final on Saturday at Ocean Park Woonona.

Fourteen points behind Vikings in third spot on 65 points, Bowral finished with a big 43 – 0 win over Campbelltown having already secured third spot, carrying on from last year’s breakout season to qualify for their second successive final series. They will play reigning Premiers University in Sunday’s sudden death Minor Semi-Final at Camden Rugby Park. The Bulls had to fight back from a half-time deficit against Kiama before winning 45 – 25 at Kiama Showground to take winning form into the elimination Semi.

The final points table for 2017 has strong similarity to last season with the same clubs finishing in the top five. Last year’s Minor Premiers Shamrocks finished fifth with a 36 – 29 victory over Camden after a season dominated by injury which prevented the club from building any consistency in their 2017 campaign. Shoalhaven showed improvement to finish sixth in 2017 after finishing second last in 2016. Tech Waratahs have enjoyed a much more fruitful season this year registering three wins but still have to accept the wooden spoon after finishing on equal points in last place with Camden. The Rams secured 2 bonus points in their match with the Rocks to move to twenty points and with a better for and against than Tech managed to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

So now it’s down to the final four with Avondale starting as deserved favourites in what will be an interesting three weeks to come. There was nothing between Avondale and Vikings in their two previous encounters this year with the Blueys very unlucky not to get the points only going down by five points on both occasions. Avondale and Vikings have qualified in all three grades for the finals.

This Weeks Results

Avondale 45 Def Tech Waratahs 12

Bowral 43 Def Campbelltown 0

University 45 Def Kiama 25

Vikings 27 Def Shoalhaven 12

Shamrocks 36 Def Camden 29

Final Points Table: Avondale 88, Vikings 79, Bowral 65, University 58, Shamrocks 50, Shoalhaven 40, Kiama 27, Campbelltown 26, Camden 20, Tech Waratahs 20.

The Rogues Rant

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

An abridged version of the Rant this week. The Rogue is on holiday resting up for the upcoming Final Series.

Congratulations to the Crusaders, winning their eighth Super Rugby title with a commanding 25 – 17 win at Ellis Park. The Lions did it hard losing flanker Kwagga Smith one minute out from half-time, sent off for a dangerous tackle. Leading 15 – 3 at the break, the New Zealanders took a grip on the match scoring early after the break to be out by 25 – 3. To the Lions credit they fought back well but could only manage two tries against stout Kiwi defense. The Crusaders are the only side to have won the title outside their own country which they have now done twice after winning in Canberra in 2000. They are the first team also to have traveled to South Africa for a final and come home with the Trophy.

The Dexter Porter Cup Blood drive continues with Shamrocks still out in front with three weeks remaining. Shamrocks are 72 with Vikings hanging in with 59 still thirteen behind. Kiama sit on 6, Tech Waratahs have made 5, University 4, Bowral 2, and Camden 1. Time is running out so get busy.

Last Round in the IDRU Builders Club Premiership this week with the Final Four decided for this year. The University win over Shoalhaven last week means that fourth spot is cut and dried with the Bulls now eight points clear of fifth placed Shamrocks. This week sees the top five sides playing the bottom five and the results should be pretty straight forward but there is still plenty of pride to play for. Avondale showed last week against Camden that they are prepared to show no mercy and should be too good again this week against the season’s big improvers Tech Tahs. At home at Gerry Cappetta Oval, the Wombats should win well. Avondale to win. Campbelltown conclude a very disappointing season at home to Bowral. With Bowral building toward a big semi -final showdown with Uni it’s hard to see a win here for Campbelltown. Bowral to win. Kiama are at home to University and could cause an upset here if they are at full strength. Unfortunately though the Cows have had an unhappy year and I think that will continue here. University to win. Shamrocks host Camden at Ocean Park and after showing some signs of last year’s form of late will have no trouble getting the points here from the out of touch Rams. Shamrocks to win. Match of the Round is at Shoalhaven Rugby Park with Vikings visiting the Shoalies. Shoalhaven upset Vikings in this match last year which cost Vikings a place in the finals. The Blueys will want to take winning form into the Major Semi-Final against Avondale and will win here but will have to work hard to get over an up and coming Shoalhaven side. Vikings to win.

All opinions offered in this column are the opinion of the author. They should not be considered to represent the views of the IDRU.

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