Huntington Steers Bowral to Grand Final

MatchReportBowral Fly Half Lachlan Huntington has steered the Blacks through to their first Grand Final since 2002. In a hard fought defense oriented Final at Shoalhaven Rugby Park, Bowral has ended University’s campaign with a narrow 25 – 18 win.

Huntington’s form in both attack and defense was a standout as he directed the side around the park, but it was a wonderful display of long range goal kicking from the No.10 that gives the Blacks another shot at Avondale at WIN Stadium next week.

With twenty three penalties punctuating an intense game, Huntington kicked six long range penalty goals and a conversion to rack up twenty points for the win despite the Bulls registering two tries to one, including a penalty try.

Despite there only being three tries in the match it was an entertaining match with both sides throwing the ball around in search of points but outstanding defense across the park dominated the day.

Bowral had the first chance to score shortly after the start when Christian Vainerere, playing on the left wing, set sail down the line. Veteran Uni fullback Donovan Nepia had his measure though forcing him into touch with a powerful covering tackle setting the trend for the day. The Blacks settled for a Penalty goal to Huntington to take a 3 – 0 lead after three minutes.

The following ten minutes belonged to Uni who on the back of four penalties peppered the Bowral line but were unable to breach the Blacks committed goal line defense. Eventually the Bulls settled for the points with Charlie Curry kicking a penalty goal to tie the score after thirteen minutes.  

From the restart Uni quickly took play back into the Blacks half with Nepia producing a run down the left out of nothing. He took on several defenders before putting winger Tyler Aitkin in space who scooted away to score wide on the left. Curry couldn’t convert from the touch line but the Bulls now led 8 – 3.

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The Rogues Rant

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

Vikings are the first side out of this year’s Finals after their last second loss to University last Sunday. The heartbreaking 22 – 21 one point loss was hard to take for the Vikings diehards in the healthy crowd but what goes around comes around. In the 2017 Final, also played at Vikings Oval, it was Vikings captain Joel Diggins who scored a last minute try to eliminate the Students from last year’s title race. This year it was Country Cockatoos Rep Takunda Chimwaza as the hero, scoring a last second try for the Bulls and with a conversion from Charlie Curry it was Uni who stayed in the running this time around. Uni now go on to play Bowral for a spot in the big one against a red hot Avondale at WIN Stadium on September 15. I have it on pretty good authority that Sundays game was probably the last with Coach Sean Barrett calling the shots for the Blueys. After four years in the job Sean is looking at his future but I reckon it’s a pretty sure bet that there will be a change in the Coaching Staff at the Wollongong club in 2019.          

Well Michael Cheika has shaken things up a bit for Saturday’s vital test against South Africa in Brisbane. Bernard Foley has been left on the bench after being pretty much a permanent fixture in the Wallaby side over the last three years since Cheika took over in 2015. In what is a very interesting move Kurtley Beale has the number 10 with Matt Toomua wearing the number 12. Rory Arnold will start at Lock while on the bench Ned Hannigan returns and Joe Powell will be the spare Halfback with Nick Phipps out injured. Israel Folau returns from injury at Fullback, while Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu and Pete Samu all lose their spots in the squad. Cheika is looking for a different attitude from his squad and it is very much needed. The Springboks have had a win and a loss to the Pumas over the last couple of weeks but are clearly not up to All Black standards but they will certainly be a big assignment for the under pressure Australians. A win is essential if the Wallabies are going to be able to quieten down their detractors after the disappointing performances against the All Blacks.

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Uni Snatch Final Spot From Vikings

MatchReportA last second Takunda Chimwaza try has propelled University into next week’s Preliminary Final against Bowral. With Vikings holding a six point advantage and time up, Chimwaza powered over to score and with a Charles Curry conversion from in front  University snatched a 22 – 21 victory. In what was a tight, typical finals match in which the lead changed seven times, each side scored three tries but it was the students who made more of their limited opportunities in an evenly contested match.

Both sides were affected by injury and unavailability as Uni continues to struggle to manage a huge injury toll at the club and Vikings were missing key backline players and also with Captain Joel Diggins unavailable overseas. In the first twenty minutes of the match both sides set about testing each others defense with neither side able to strike a telling blow.

In a bazar twist first points came to The Bulls through a Charles Curry penalty goal after Vikings were awarded a penalty in midfield. Referee Andrew Strode reversed the penalty after some verbal comments were made by Vikings players. Curry stepped up kicked a long range goal with the assistance of the strong south easterly wind. Uni took the lead 3 – 0 after fifteen minutes in what proved to be a significant factor in the student’s eventual win.

Play moved from end to end with the defense of both sides proving more than capable. Each side withstood long periods of sustained attack on their line before a try came to each side in the final fifteen minutes of the half. The first came to Vikings Flanker Thomas Claridge who took full advantage of one of Halfback Tom Sawdens darting runs close to the Uni line. Claridge scored inside the Posts after the Sawden run fell a meter short. Sawden converted and Vilings were in front for the first time at 7 – 3.

Paul Tuala crossed for Uni after the students had peppered the Blueys line for a long period. Tuala strolled over the line in an innocuous fashion from close range with two defenders giving little resistance. Curry converted and the students were back in front at 10 – 8.

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Avondale Wombats Power Through To Grand Final

MatchReportAvondale Wombats have secured the first spot in the 2018 Grand Final with a powerful effort against Bowral at Eridge Park. In the most dominant Finals performance we have seen in Illawarra Rugby since the Vikings win over Shamrocks in the 2010 Grand Final, Avondale ran in seven tries in a 43 – 11 rout of the home side.

With a gusting westerly wind impacting on the match, the Wombats put on a high energy power game that a skillful but shell shocked Bowral side couldn’t match. A clever, pin point kicking game from Avondale Fly half Antonio Ale was a feature of the game. Across the park the Wombat defensive effort was impressive with hardly a missed tackle registered against them throughout the match.

The first half of the match was played at pace with both sides keen to throw the ball around and attack despite the windy conditions. Avondale secured the ball from their own kickoff and quickly went on the attack with their big forwards showing their hand immediately taking play deep into the Bowral quarter. Attacking weapon Andre Itula, working off the back of his forwards hard work put fullback Silipa Tuigamala over for the first try after just two minutes. Tuigamala converted from right on the western touchline for a 7 – 0 lead to the visitors.

In similar fashion Bowral regained possession from the kick off and took play inside the Wombats thirty and held field position for much of the next five minutes. Eventually Bowral flyer Henry Yuill found some space outside the strong Avondale defensive line and scooted over in the corner for Bowral’s only try of the match.

Over the next six minutes Bowral threw plenty of attack at the Avondale defense but couldn’t break the strong first up defensive effort coming from the entire Avondale squad. The Blacks settled for a penalty goal to Fly-Half Lachlan Huntington to take the lead for the only time in the match at 8 – 7.

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The Rogues Rant

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

There was another Milestone match last week when Tech Waratahs Legend Harry Hawksworth took the field for the club for the 300th time. After a couple of years in retirement Harry could no longer resist the urge to play especially when the opportunity came to play alongside his 19 year old son Chris. That opportunity came earlier this season when the pair played beside one another in the lower grades. Chris is now carrying on the Hawksworth tradition in the front row of the clubs First Grade side. Harry was a mainstay for the club during their golden era in the 2000’s, winning top grade titles in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2009. Now well into his forties Harry is adamant that there will be no more comebacks. Well done Harry.

On milestone matches, Viking’s Andrew Stanton had a memorable day in more ways than one for his 400th a couple of weeks back. With the match in the balance, ironically against Tech Waratahs, Andrew scored the match defining try in the dying stages of the match. He then stepped up and showing all the skills of goal kicking from a bygone age converted the try with a straight on approach and kicking with his Toe for a 21 – 12 victory for Vikings.

The knives are out for Michael Cheika, not warranted in my view. The Wallabies sliding world rankings is a symptom of the much mentioned failure of Rugby Australia’s Coaching and Development programs of the last twenty odd years. Cheika’s coaching record since returning to Australia has been admirable. A Super Rugby title with the Waratahs and a World Cup Final berth with the Wallabies showing along the way that he has the ability to get the very best out of the players he has at his disposal. He’s not doing himself any favors though giving the Journo’s a mouth full like he did last week.

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Bowral Hang On For Major Semi-Final Berth

MatchReportBowral have secured the all-important second spot on the IDRU Builders Club Premiership ladder with a nail biting 30 – 29 victory over University at Eridge Park. The Blacks got away to strong start running in three tries to take a 17 – 0 lead after thirty minutes before Uni crossed for a try one minute before the break and another one minute into the second half to get back into the match.

With the Bowral effort faltering the students put on four second half tries to Bowrals one almost pinching the match and the spot in the Major Semi. A relieved Blacks outfit now goes onto to play Avondale in next Saturday’s Major Semi-Final while the Bulls will be up against Vikings in next Sundays Minor Semi-Final.

Bowral produced their very best form for the first thirty minutes of the match built on their forwards work at the breakdown. The Bulls had no answers for the hard working Bowral forwards as they took the game right up to them creating many attacking opportunities as the home side ran in three tries. Bowral Fly-Half Lachlan Huntington took full advantage of his forwards dominance having a hand in all three tries as the Blacks took control of the match.

Read more: Bowral Hang On For Major Semi-Final Berth

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