University v Wanneroo 13th April 2019 at McGillivray Oval
After opening their season with two consecutive home wins, Wanneroo approached this game with confidence. University also had two wins and were sitting in third place on the ladder, one spot ahead of Wanneroo - but only by percentage, so this game was a biggy for the Roo Dogs.
But from the kick off it was obvious that it was going to be a close contest, with both sides showing commitment to the tackle and a willingness to run the ball. It was also a game of unexpected mistakes and nerves that seemed to affect both teams at spasmodic periods.
The early scrums were well contested, but they seemed to be a more potent weapon for the Roo Dogs than University. Wanneroo displayed power and cohesion in the tight and appeared to have the better of Uni, only for the referee to determine that the Dogs were transgressing. He penalised them repeatedly, and on at least three occasions it seemed they had been hard done by.
Both teams were willing to chance their arm and ran hard with ball in hand, but neither side was able to subdue the other. Wanneroo coped comfortably with University’s attacking forays and stopped their progress with powerful tackles. The Roo Dog’s midfield, in particular, displayed good defensive technique and teamwork. Both sides tried to outmuscle and outrun each other and kick for territorial gains, but it became an arm wrestle that was still in the balance when the ref blew for half time.
At one stage it looked like Wanneroo would open the scoring when Ethan Riley made a beautiful break that bamboozled the Uni defence. He stepped and weaved his way into their 22, but because he lacked close support he was held up by several defenders and the ball ended up being lost in the tackle.
Kris Palmer kicked two penalties for Wanneroo and Uni responded with two penalties of their own.
HALF TIME: 6 – 6
Shortly after the restart University kicked a long, hopeful high ball down their left wing. It should have been taken comfortably, but miscommunication between two defenders saw it bounce between them and create a few moments of panic for the dogs.
Wanneroo composed themselves and began to build momentum through their forwards. Grayson made a rampaging run up the right wing that had Uni in all sorts of trouble. Unfortunately the attack fell apart when he drew the tacklers before offloading the ball to his support. He had two close receivers and each thought the other was going take the pass, but because of their indecision the ball went to ground and Uni breathed easily again.
Shortly afterwards Wanneroo lost their own line out and the Uni pack used the unexpected bonus ball to drive for the try line. The Dogs did well to fall back and slow them with some robust tackling, but Uni retained possession and momentum. From a ruck inside the 22, they made a break down the blind side on the right which was undefended. Wanneroo scrambled back and managed to put a couple of tackles in, but they couldn’t prevent Uni scoring in the corner. The conversion attempt bounced off the uprights.
University 11 – Wanneroo 6
Uni caught the restart drop out ball and returned it down their right wing. Kane Koteka caught it, but he got collected by a chaser at the same time and the ref pinged him for not releasing. Uni kicked for touch, took the line out ball and moved it swiftly to their left where Wanneroo were caught in a bit of disarray and a missed tackle gave the students a five pointer. The conversion was unsuccessful.
University 16 – Wanneroo 6
Wanneroo chased their own drop out ball deep inside Uni’s 22, and were rewarded for their hard work when the ball catcher was taken to ground by a strong tackle. He hung onto the ball to prevent the Roo Dogs making ground and, like Wanneroo minutes earlier, he was penalised for doing so. Wanneroo kicked for territory and the line out. A successful throw in enabled the forwards to form a driving maul and head towards the try line. Uni tried hard to hold them, but the Dogs pack was a relentless juggernaut and they crashed and bashed their way through six or seven phases of play. Andre (Beets) Roux did a pick & drive from a midfield ruck, but he ran upright and made himself a perfect target for the smaller uni half back, who drove him backwards and dumped him. The half back was having a ripper of a game and that hit probably made his day. Wanneroo regrouped, reset the ball and took it on again, putting Uni under enormous pressure. Beets made amends for his ignominious faux pas by crashing over for a well worked try just to the right of the goal posts. Onya Beets!! Kris Palmer added the bonus points with a successful conversion.
University 16 – Wanneroo 13
University were ahead on the scoreboard, but the Dogs were dominating all phases of play and in total control of the game.
Joe Bajjada made an incisive break up the left wing and his team mates were so close they were breathing down his neck. He offloaded the ball perfectly to his support runners and they emulated his quality work with four perfectly weighted passes that took them into the 22. Uni’s cover defence raced across and closed the space in front of the last ball receiver, who grubbered the ball to avoid being tackled and forced into touch. The ball bobbled over Uni’s try line and the Wanneroo players followed up quickly. It looked for all money like it would be a certain try. But somehow, a University player managed to get just in front of the chasers and scrape the ball away a split second before it could be touched down. It was a magnificent, cohesive multi-phased play by Wanneroo that went unrewarded, but it was equally good, last ditch defence by Uni.
It was rugby at its best by both sides, and a pleasure to watch.
The missed try seemed to galvanise Wanneroo into even greater efforts and they stepped up a notch in their control of the game. Grayson made another telling run that shredded the Uni defence and after fending off a couple of tackles he gave a fine pass to captain Andrew King, who had matched him step for step. Kingy continued the assault, with strong support from other team mates, and he went over for a well deserved try. The conversion was successfully slotted over by Kris.
University 16 – Wanneroo 20
The Roo Dogs were on fire and it looked like they would demolish Uni, who seemed shell shocked and were struggling to keep their game together. Joe made another burst up the left wing and once again the support players were on his shoulder and they easily took the ball on. They inter-passed between themselves and took play deep into Uni territory. Uni’s defence was ragged and they were struggling to cover the break. Wanneroo had a three on one situation, but the ball carrier chose to kick the ball when it might have been better to pass. The ball landed in University’s goal area and the Wanneroo runners chased hard to get their hands on the ball, for what should have been another try for them. But suddenly, University’s full back (and ex Wanneroo player) Aidan Higo swooped in from nowhere and showed good dexterity to gather the ball on the run, just before the Wanneroo players could get to it Somehow, he evaded their tackles and ran the ball wide from inside his own goal area to save the day for his team.
This must have lifted Uni, because they came back strong and forced their way inside the Dogs 22. Wanneroo’s defence had to work overtime to stop them, and it was all hands to the pump. The ball popped loose from a contested breakdown near the sideline and players & spectators alike all thought it would bounce over for a line out. But a Uni player slid along the ground and somehow got a foot to the ball, which fortuitously popped up into a team mate’s hands. He took off and was stopped just short of the try line by a thumping tackle. Uni took the breakdown ball and probed to the left, before switching to the right and sending quick ball through the hands. A poor tackle resulted in Uni scoring another unconverted five pointer.
University 21 – Wanneroo 20
Wanneroo should have had University dead and buried, but amazingly the result was now back in the balance and the home side was taking the game to the Roo Dogs with renewed confidence. They sent a high ball deep into the Wanneroo half and it seemed to be comfortably covered, but the catch was spilled. Uni took possession of the loose ball and forced their way into the 22 where young replacement prop, Maui, put in a massive hit that stopped the ball carrier in his tracks. But the ref ruled it a no arms tackle and sent Maui to the bin.
This topsy turvy, unpredictable game continued and Wanneroo were awarded a penalty. They kicked for touch and were rewarded with a line out in Uni’s 22. The pack grabbed the line out ball, kept it tight and hammered their way forward. They looked unstoppable, but Uni eventually managed to hold them up right on the line. The Dogs made multiple one out drives to try and get over, only to be denied by totally committed Uni defenders hurling their bodies into the fray. Seeing that it was stalemate in the forwards, Wanneroo changed the focus of their attack and sent the ball along their back line to the right wing. It was taken cleanly and it looked as though the elusive try would finally be scored, until a desperate, last ditch Uni tackle forced a knock on five metres out and the opportunity was gone.
Uni ran the ball from the resulting scrum and Wanneroo did well to force the ball carrier into touch on the half way. But disaster struck when they lost their own throw in. Uni took the free gift ball and sent it out to their right wing in a classic, sweeping back line move that should have resulted in a try. But Wanneroo’s defenders showed that they too could demonstrate classic play. They closed the space in unison, tackled magnificently and forced the ball carriers backwards to deny them the points. The ref eventually awarded a scrum to Uni about 15 metres out. Their live wire half back saw the blind side wasn’t adequately defended and made a break right. Wanneroo’s defence raced across, but couldn’t stop him scoring out wide in the dying moments of the game. The try was successfully converted.
FINAL SCORE: University 29 – Wanneroo 20.
Congratulations to University on toughing it out to take the honours on the day.
It was great to catch up with Aidan and another ex Wanneroo player, in University captain Harry Scobles. It’s always a pleasure Rusty.
Captain Andrew King and his players were honest enough to admit they had underperformed and didn’t achieve or show their true potential on the day. They know they should really have come away with a comfortable win and been second on the ladder instead of sixth.
Coach Steve (Festa) Cavanagh was also honest, but very positive, in his post match chat to his players. He agreed with their opinion and assessment, but insisted that this game should not define their season. What will define their season, he said, is how they come back from it. He urged them to learn from their perform,ance and be ready to start afresh at training on Tuesday.
Next game is on 27th April.
It was supposed to be a home game against Perth Bayswater.
But because the cool room is being replaced, there are no adequate bar facilities at Wanneroo, so the fixture has been changed to Perth’s ground.