Bill's Match Report
Southern Lions v Wanneroo at Success Sports Complex 25th May 2019
Wanneroo: 1 Andre Roux
2 Scott Cornell
3 Thomasi (TJ) Vunivalu
4 Elliott Ferriman (c)
5 Seta Fano
6 Olly Callan
7 John-Martin Stewart
8 Mark Cornell
9 Tane Koteka
10 Ethan Riley
11 Graham Hunter
12 Andrew King (c)
13 Grayson Makara
14 Broden McCurry
15 Steve Nolson
After last week’s stroll in the park against Curtin, this game was a real test for the Roo Dogs.
Wanneroo’s start was a little ordinary, when the kick off ball from Southern Lions was dropped. But the Roo Dog forwards immediately launched into their mobile power game and the backs into their dynamic running style. After a brief exchange of greetings Wanneroo regained possession and Tane Koteka fed quick ball that went through the hands to full back Steve (Nolly) Nolson. Nolly linked with Graham Hunter to make good ground before punting the ball high and long. The home side took possession, but they were immediately put under immense pressure. They tried hard to maintain their composure, but were harried into mistakes by the Dogs aggressive tackling. Several phases later the ref awarded a penalty to Wanneroo and Ethan Riley kicked the ball into touch ten metres from the try line for a line out. Wanneroo sent the ball swiftly and sweetly to the ever willing Graham Hunter, who scored out wide. Ethan Riley just missed the conversion. Southern Lions 0 – Wanneroo 5
The Southern Lions pack contained some huge men and they took a physical approach. Their size and weight enabled them to create space for one of their centres. He took the ball on the run and evaded the Dogs first line of defence, before being brought down by a cover defender. But Wanneroo’s faster, and more organised, support play enabled them to secure the loose ball and slip it quickly to Broden McCurry. Broden scampered seventy metres up the paddock to finish off a well worked team try and Ethan added the bonus points. Southern Lions 0 – Wanneroo 12
The Lions resumed their ‘hit it up’ tactics, but Wanneroo matched them hit for hit. The home team ran the ball from a midfield scrum and set up their right winger. He linked up beautifully with a support runner and they had a crack on the outside, but their attack foundered on the Dog’s punishing defence. Wanneroo was in control and dictating the terms of the game in all phases. Mark Cornell made a barging run that sucked in defenders and created a running opportunity for his captain, Andrew King. Kingy took full advantage and cut through the Lions defence before switching the play to his right. The home side struggled to contain the Dogs rampant attack and had to concede a penalty on their 22 to stop them. Ethan kicked the three points. Southern Lions 0 – Wanneroo 15
Tane caught the restart ball in his 22 and kicked it out of the danger zone. The Lions pack ran it back, but the Dog’s well organised defence stopped them at first phase. John- Martin Stewart epitomised Wanneroo’s total commitment, when he chopped down a Lions ball carrier with a ferocious tackle. To his credit, the ball carrier managed to get the ball away to a team mate, but he too was flattened with another equally bruising tackle by Olly Callan. The two classy Wanneroo flankers were having their usual high level game.
Southern Lions kept beavering away, but just couldn’t get over Wanneroo. Kingy and Ethan combined in a run that tore the Lions apart and almost got them to the line. Only a last gasp tackle stopped the score. The Lions were awarded a scrum, but got shunted all over the place. Their No 8 managed to get the ball out and slip it to his backs, who combined for a sweeping move that had Wanneroo in all sorts of strife. With only one defender to beat and a two man overlap on his left,the ball carrier only had to draw and pass, but he went on his own. Bad, Bad, Bad choice. He got demolished and the try went begging.
Wanneroo was in the box seat, but the Lions forwards still managed to grunt & groan their way to within five metres of the Dogs try line. I didn’t see what happened next, but there was a bit of a kerfuffle that ended with Andre (Beets) Roux and a Lions forward trading handbags at five paces. Beets got 10 minutes R&R. At the next scrum JM came off so that Tim Larkin could fill the empty front row slot.
The Lions played to their numerical advantage, gave the scrum ball out quickly and took aim at the Dog’s midfield. Kingy & Graham were waiting and they snuffed out the attack comfortably. A Wanneroo player was subsequently penalised for a high tackle and the Lions kicked for a line out in the Dogs 22. They had another go at breaking the line, but failed again and conceded a penalty in doing so. Ethan sent the ball into the home side’s 22 for a line out and the Dogs instigated a backline attack from it.
With all respect, I don’t think it’s out of order to say that Tim Larkin is built for comfort rather than speed. But somehow he received the ball in the open, linked perfectly with Steve Nolson and slipped him the ball like a seasoned backline player. Nolly made a scintillating fifty metre run that was so sharp he outstripped his support, got caught and had to release the ball. The Lions counter attacked and ran it back, only for the ball carrier to be mangled in a bone crunching tackle by Seta Fano. The ref awarded a scrum to the Lions, and this time they used the ball judiciously. Instead of pursuing their unsuccessful wham, bam, thank you maam tactic, they sent the ball quickly to their left wing. He took off, accelerated around the Dog's wing and the try looked to be a mere formality. Until Olly came out of nowhere and chopped him down - threat removed.
HALF TIME: Southern Lions 0 – Wanneroo 15
At the half time chat, coach Steve (Festa) Cavanagh told his team that they had just played their best forty minutes of the season, but the job wasn’t finished.
He reminded them they had been up at half time against Kalamunda and lost their way in the second half.
His instruction was not to take their foot off the pedal or off the Lions throats.
Captain, Andrew King, told his team they had done a great team job but they must maintain it.
Southern Lions restarted with the obvious intent of using their big men to outmuscle the Dogs. Far from being intimidated, the Wanneroo players looked like they were really enjoying the contest. Both sides initiated several attacks that petered out into nothing, until Wanneroo won a scrum feed and the ball was passed directly to Ethan. He took it to the gain line, made a perfect draw and pass and the ball travelled smoothly to Nolly who went over for a try out wide. The conversion just faded away at the last second.
Southern Lions 0 – Wanneroo 20
Broden caught the restart ball and sent it into touch. The Lions line out ball was pinched by Tim Larkan, who looked almost as surprised as his opponents. Tim got the ball away to his backs - who promptly dropped it (maybe they were surprised too). After a period of inconsequential play by both sides, Beets returned from polishing his handbag and Tane was replaced by Rees Anapu. The Dogs showed their class with a fine run and passing move that involved Kingy, Olly, Nolly and Graham (sounds like a firm of lawyers doesn’t it?), but they were unable to finish it off with a try.
The Lions were also starting to put some solid phases together, their scrum was becoming more competitive and their forwards were contesting the breakdown and maul with increased vigour. The dynamics of the game were slowly beginning to change.
Wanneroo had dominated the whole of the first half and totally nullified the Lions play. The Lions game plan hadn’t been successful because they had worked as individuals. Now, they were beginning to increase their control by combining to use their size to greater effect. Wanneroo weren’t deterred by their tactics. They looked like they were relishing the contact and their defensive structure and communication was outstanding.
The Lions used a scrum pick and go to build five consecutive phases. Their punishing drives took them into the Dogs 22, where some bone crunching tackles forced the turn over. Where Wanneroo’s scrum had been dominant, it was now becoming inconsistent. The Lions were quick exploit their advantage, but they did so illegally and the ref pinged them. The Dogs opted for another scrum, broke out of their red zone and made it to the centre of the pitch, but transgressed at the breakdown. The ref blew for the infringement and from then on his whistle seemed to go constantly and most of the decisions went against Wanneroo. The ref eventually called captain Andrew King and issued a general warning to the team.
The Lions were now taking most of the ball, which enabled them to play their ‘A’ game. The Dogs spent most of the last twenty minutes defending, but what an outstanding defensive display they put on. Their technique was coaching manual perfection and their application and structure was impeccable. Not one player shirked a tackle and the longer the game went on, the deeper the Dogs dug in. The home team’s power game was working to the extent that they had the lions share (pun intended) of possession, but their game plan was one dimensional & they didn’t appear to have a plan B.
The final minutes of the game were played out with the Lions hitting up crash ball after crash ball into an impenetrable wall of green tacklers, who were camped on their own try line. Wanneroo got a brief respite when the Lions knocked on. The scrum ball was swung quickly to Kingy, who used his strength and skill to make a terrific break before passing to Nolly who was right up his clacker. Steve ran a lovely line before pulling a switch with Graham Hunter. As Graham got closed down he chipped the ball over the Lions cover, but the Lions had too many men in defence and regained possession. They attacked the Dog’s try line repeatedly, but there was no finesse in their method, only brute strength. Wanneroo’s defensive organisation was superb and I counted eight times that defender’s hurled themselves into the tackle to deny the Lions a score. Even so, it looked as though a Lions try was inevitable. The only people who didn’t think so were the Wanneroo players and when the ref eventually blew for no time the Dogs had kept a clean sheet against a big, committed, bruising and resilient outfit. An awesome effort.
Steve (Festa) Cavanagh was pleased that the team played a rock solid 80 minutes.
The forwards and backs combined and played their patterns and structures well, especially when they were under duress in the second half.
CAPTAIN’S CALL: Andrew King said his team set the standard in the first half.
In the second half we had very little ball and Southern Lions threw everything they had at us
I’m proud that we kept them scoreless.
Man of the Match – Shared between Olly Callan and John-Martin Stewart
OTHER RESULTS: Second Grade S Lions 67 - Wanneroo 12
Thirsty Thirds S Lions 7 - Wanneroo 52
Flatulent Fourths Geraldton 62 - Wanneroo 24
Ladies Wanneroo - Cottesloe (result not available)