The NSW II team won the 2016 Sebel Australian Schools Championships at Riverview yesterday defeating the higher-ranked NSW I side.
It was an outstanding performance which may have confounded some spectators, but not those who had attended every game in the tournament. It was one of those weeks.
There was another fine display in the play-off for third spot in which both teams lifted to unexpected heights and produced a thrilling ending.
NSW Twos 22– NSW Ones 5
by “Not in Straight” (assisted by “Zara”)
From the outset it appeared that only one team had turned up to play, and it wasn’t the favourites.
Early in the game NSW I [the “Ones”] tried to get out of their 22 but the ball didn’t go out and fullback McTaggart got a long pass and did the same for 23 Smealie. He sprinted down the open space near the western touchline and sent a spot-on flick pass inside to 14 Rixon who had come off the other wing.
There was no catching the fastest player in the tournament and he scored the brilliant try. Rixon added his own extras and NSW II [the “Twos”], led 7-0 at seven minutes.
The Ones were looking shell-shocked and the Twos, dominant; but they lost their key player maker Kuenzle, the flyhalf.
Then came the individual brilliancy of the tournament when Rixon chip kicked from halfway, sprinted down the eastern touchline to score in the corner. However in reaching out to score he dislocated his shoulder and had to retire.
A few minutes later 22 Harrison kicked a penalty for the Twos to lead 15-0–they were scoring about a point a minute.
Then the Ones found some rhythm, and after good lineout ball was used and phases were put together, the Twos’ defence was pulled in, and 13 Terry scored when the ball went wide.
But NSW II hit back immediately with a well-worked try to McTaggart plus a successful conversion by 22 Harrison.
Half-time score: NSW Twos 22 – NSW Ones 5
After the break the Ones played like the coach had revved them up. Forwards were trucking up the ball and cycling it for multiple phases.
But the Twos responded and kicked the ball deep into Ones’ territory after they turned the ball over; then they charged down the clearing kick which went dead. The Ones escaped with a Twos’ knock-on over the line from the scrum—and twice afterwards because attackers went into touch.
There were no points chalked up in the second half but the final scoreline was flattering to the NSW I team. They never looked like scoring after the break and the Twos went close three times, as mentioned.
Final score: NSW Twos 22 – NSW Ones 5
There were many fine efforts from a team that carried no passengers. The forwards dominated the opposition and set the platform for the victory.
THP Mathews was everywhere and was the best front rower in the match, Lock Suttor played with physicality and effected many turnovers. Rasch, playing 6, was strong in the lineout and was awarded player of the match in the after-match formalities. 7 Rorke was commanding at the breakdown .
For the backs Rixon was sensational while he was on, but his replacement Veitch deserves a mention also. McTaggart, Harrison, Jordan and Smealie all played well.
The best forward was blindside flanker Kemeny who was physical putting in a huge effort for a losing team. No.8 Fenn had some good carries and 13 Terry was the best of the backs bagging a try.
The Twos were worthy winners. The forwards dominated at set piece and at the breakdown. They held onto possession and the backs took their opportunities. Three tries (could have been 6) to one, was a good indicator of their superiority.
The Ones did not play anywhere near their potential. Compared to the Twos they weren’t hungry, nor were they powerful at the breakdown—and therefore found themselves going backwards too often.
Combined States 20– Victoria 17
Someone said Combined States would need to bring their A game to defeat the strong Victorian side in the play-off for 3rd and 4th place, but they brought their A Plus game instead.
It was a mighty effort from the Barbarians-style team of the Championships. They exuded a team spirit from the first game and continued to improve as a team during the week.
Their effort looks even better when we consider the Victorian team missed out on playing in the major final by a whisker.
Victoria were first to score; they put it through the hands to post a converted try only minutes into the game. 7-0
Combined made it 7-3 when 11 Day kicked a penalty goal. Then the Victoria scrumhalf, Elliot, potted a three pointer for Victoria to lead 10-3.
The Combined States team was working hard. After charging runs from 8 Serhon and 6 Fry, scrum half Dowling threw the perfect pass to 15 Pellegrini to score. Converted by Day 10-10.
Then Combined scored a brilliant team try when they decided to attack from their own half. The ball was handled by many members of the team before long balls were thrown by flyhalf Shannon and THP Abra and onto Day who chip-kicked and scored in the corner—they were on fire.
Half-time score: Combined States 17 – Victoria 10.
That man Day was on target again for a three-pointer for CS to lead 20-10.
Victoria launched an attacking raid and looked like scoring when 15 Donghi was cut down by Day just before the line. But 13 Paisami eventually broke through the defence to score from a penalty. Elliot converted to get Victoria within three points with five minutes left, but the Combined team held on.
Full time score: Combined States 20 – Victoria 17.
It was a well-earned victory over the impressive Victorian team. As well as the players already mentioned, 5 Ha’angana had big match for CS and Victoria’s big number 8 Finefeuiaki had another strong game.
The best team won on the day, but well done to both teams of players and coaches who enjoyed a very successful tournament.
Because of the inclement weather during the week, the two opening finals (to decide 5th and 7th positions) were played earlier on the Riverview 2nd field to save the main venue from damage.
It was not easy for the youngsters to play their best rugby on a ground that was muddy but it did not affect their enthusiasm and will to win, one jot.
ACT 20– WA 0
by Rod Skellet
WA were hoping for an upset in the earliest final of the day (for 7th spot), and from the kick off they tried to play ball-in-hand to keep the slick ACT backs starved of possession.
The ACT lads were having none of that and some monster hits by no. 8 Tai and LHP Kaihea kept WA pinned in their own half. A turnover in tight and a four-man pick-and-drive got ACT close and enabled 11 Malisauskas to score the opening try.
WA reversed the roles from the restart and pressured the ACT line. Van der Hayden, Spina, Gourlie and MacAskill all showed commitment in appalling ground conditions, but they could not breach the ACT line.
A turnover by ACT hooker, Lachlan Lonergan relieved the pressure, and after a solid run by no. 8 Tai, lock Osborne barged over in the corner. ACT 10-nil.
Tai was having a whale of a game for ACT as was flyhalf Hansen, whose tactical kicking was proving decisive. When they pinned WA in their own half they turned the ball over and Tai got into the act again and scored.
Half-time score: ACT 15 – WA 0.
The ACT backs should be commended for executing ball-in-hand running rugby almost error-free on the muddy ground. WA had to tackle all day, and their lads got tired.
A rolling maul from a lineout ten metres out from the WA line had ACT 7 Gersekowski score the next try
WA did not give up but were plagued by errors one normally expects in a muddy game, whereas ACT were able to execute the simple stuff with relative aplomb.
With dominant field position due to almost perfect tactical kicking ACT 14 Marshall ran in the last try of the day. The lads from the capital could not slot a conversion in the match, having to plant their foot on the muddy ground, but they were the convincing winners.
Final score: ACT 25 – WA 0.
Best on the day for ACT – Tai (8), Lonergan (2), Hansen (10)
Best for WA – Van Der Hayden (4)
Queensland II 5– Queensland I 0
To the list of ‘muddiest battlefields’, like landscapes of ‘The Somme’ and ‘Ypres’, can now be added Riverview’s 2nd Field. “Heavy” doesn’t give sufficient gravitas to describing the field conditions, nor the difficulties facing both teams looking to finish well after campaigns that had been hitherto disappointing.
Early possession and field pressure was commanded by the Reds, with #2 Farrell leading his charges in the multiple phases required.
In the rugged arm-wrestle of the middle though, the Whites were well up to the task, and never too far from getting a turnover call to go to set pieces, led by their THP Nasser.
Reds’ flyhalf Lucas sniped and released his outside backs where he could, but there were only occasional break-outs by either side from “up-the-guts” offence or slogging defence.
From a Reds’ clearing kick which didn’t quite get ‘clear’, the Whites’ 23 Carswell kicked deep towards the Reds’ corner, and another toe-ahead into the Reds’ in-goal was grounded by flying left winger Hicks. The attempted conversion from touch, not surprisingly, fell short.
Half-time score: QLD2 led QLD1 5-0
The Reds set up camp inside the Whites’ 22, and sent in wave upon wave of pick-and-drive offence; the Reds’ #7 McReight upping the tempo but he had many ‘helpers’. At one point, the pick-and-drive was so dominant, even the Reds’ halfback was warned off daring to touch the ball at the base of the ruck by a much larger brother Piggy!
But the Twos held. Four times through the second stanza, under direction from Whites’ right lock, Wilson, the Whites dug in on their line like the defenders at Rorke’s Drift. And the Reds did not pass—the Whites’ flyhalf McCarthy, relieved pressure with clearing kicks that were prodigious in the conditions.
Close to time, one last downtown kick-and-chase by Reds #13 Stanghon, threatened to ‘steal’ the win at the death and give Whites’ coaching staff conniptions, but #13 Ikiatau dispelled that and the Whites went on to bank the win and bragging rights North of the Tweed.
Full-time score: QLD Twos 5 – QLD Ones 0
The wrap up
The 2016 Championships were strange.
We have seen several years when one of the two main rugby states had at least one of their teams falter, or sometimes both, and have noticed Victoria and the ACT rise to the occasion some years, at least in some games.
We have also seen bad weather corrupt the playing field and bring unfancied players to light in the conditions; and we have also experienced Championships where there was a lot of talent spread over many sides, but few outright stars who were certain selections in the national team.
In 2016 these things happened together and it was no wonder that some of the selections in the BMW Australian Schoolboys and the BMW Australian Schools Barbarians sides were unexpected. Good for them.
It certainly put paid to age-old mutterings that Aussie Schools’ selectors pick players on reputation.
Well done to the players that were selected. For those who were disappointed: they can take solace that this year the national teams were the most difficult to choose for some time—and that their future careers will not be affected by being omitted anyway.
The ASRU crew headed by Andrew Elliott did a quality job running the tournament in challenging conditions and the staff at St. Ignatius worked late hours to get the compromised fields ready for action.
A special mention is due to the referees who volunteered their time and performed admirably, though truth be told, they excited the ire of some concerned parents and the odd coach. Situation – normal.
Quote of the week
[Name has been changed]
A spectator was giving advice to a player who seemed to be a bit passive.
– Get stuck in Harry: stop watching the ball.
– Yes mum.
Australian Schools’ squads
BMW Australian Schools’ team selected to tour Samoa and NZ 18 September – 9 October
BMW Australian Schools Barbarians’ team selected to play the touring Tongan Schools’ Team at Newington College on 17 September.
Reports on earlier Division I fixtures
Day 1 report.
Day 2 report.
Day 3 report.
Division II Merit Squad
Photos by Waverley Sports Facebook where indicated – others by Lee Grant