Australian School Championships – Finalists decided in dramas

Australian School Championships – Finalists decided in dramas

There was drama on the third day of the Division I matches in the 2016 Sebel Australian School Championships at Riverview and that’s not counting the melodramatic weather conditions.

The rain poured down in cycles throughout the day which wet both the ground and the hardy spectators. The muddy field tested the lads in a different way. The Australian Schools’ selectors had a fair idea of who could perform on a dry track; so they were pleased, just quietly, to see who could play tight when they had to.

The real drama was the contest in the two pools: the leaders at the end of the day would contest the Championship final and a bonus point was to prove critical.

sporple schoolboy leaderboard

Victoria 17++Western Australia 12

by “Not in straight”

This game was a must-win for Victoria for any hope to top the pool. Western Australia was looking for their first win.

First half

Following an early WA penalty goal Victoria had a period of dominance and winger Lalotoa scored in the corner. The Vics led 5-3.

Then WA prevailed through tight forward play which breached the Vics’ defence and earned another penalty. Goal – and WA retook the lead 6-5 after 20 minutes; then they slotted another.

It wasn’t pretty but the westerners didn’t care.

Half-time score: WA 9 – Victoria 5.

Just scrumming in the rain

Just scrumming in the rain

Second half

Although the Vics started better, WA was the first to score after the break, with their fourth penalty goal.

But Victoria got their attacking reward after eleven minutes when Lolotoa finished well in the corner for his second try. WA 12-10.

The Vics started to dominate enabling13 Paisami to score with about five minutes remaining. The cracking wide conversion had Victoria ahead 17-12.

WA occupied the Vics’ 22 with the ball for the last few minutes and sniffed the try line several times. They tried multiple pick and drive phases, but elected to cross-kick to an unmarked winger at the end. It wasn’t to be for WA, because the ball was too long and time was up.

Final score: Victoria 17 – Western Australia 12.

Mila Lalotoa going into score

Mila Lalotoa going into score

The players

Victoria – winger Lolotoa (22) was fast and knew where the try-line was. 8 Finefeuiaki tested the defence all day, especially from the scrum, 13 Paisami ran hard with the ball and bagged a try.

WA – lock Van der Hayden was physical and had some good touches, including a good lineout steal and a strong run deep into Vic territory. Flyhalf McDonald almost won the game with his boot, and 7 Likio was solid.

Rucking in the rain

Rucking in the rain

Wrap up

WA played to the conditions better playing smart rugby so they could lead for most of the match.

They will be disappointed with the loss, but they did not take their chance to close out the game.

Victoria played an expansive game and were worthy winners of a tight contest scoring three tries to nil.

ACT 12++Combined States 10

by “Covered”

There’s nothing like good old wet weather rugby to level teams out, even though these two teams looked to be fairly evenly matched before they ran out onto the field.

The Combined States team had performed impressively in their first two games—they had defeated Qld II and lost narrowly to NSW I. The ACT would have been keen to atone for their disappointing loss to Qld II in their second match, after being pipped at the post in their first in a great game against NSW I.

As could be expected in the rain and on a muddy track, there was a lot of dropped ball and plenty of scrums. But the ACT made a few less mistakes and controlled the ball a little better than Combined States did. That was the difference: there wasn’t much in it.

First blood went to CS when a dropped ball in the ACT red zone was scooped up by 12 Orpen who raced over next to the posts. 11 Day added the extras.

Jack Mann prepares to pass the ball to Esei Ha'angana

Jack Mann prepares to pass the ball to Esei Ha’angana

Half-time score: 7-0 Combined States

The game settled into a see-sawing contest with good attack and strong defence on display from both teams. A CS miss-kick on half way was gathered up by ACT fullback Hughes, who out-sprinted the defence to touch down in the corner. Combined still led but by only 7-5.

A penalty goal from 40 metres out by winger Day then made the score 10-5 to CS.

The ACT were putting some good phases of play together, and a couple of quick penalties got them on the front foot. Quick hands saw the ball thrown out to Hughes and he scored his second, in the corner, to tie the match 10-all. An excellent conversion from the sideline was the tiebreaker.

Final score: ACT 12 – Combined States 0.

Combined States rumble the ball up

Combined States rumble the ball up

Combined States play Victoria in Saturday’s finals to determine 3rd and 4th spot, and the ACT will fight it out with WA for 7th and 8th. Whilst CS have exceeded expectations and impressed in qualifying to compete for the Bronze, the ACT can consider themselves unlucky.

A note to Brumbies’ management: no one can read the numbers on the back of the jerseys.

Queensland Ones 19+NSW Twos 13

by “William88”

From the start, including the warm-up, Queensland showed ascendency in a match that featured dropped balls, missed tackles and muddied jumpers, all-round.

They gained early field position through smart play: kicking and pick-and-driving their way down-field. Mahina 12 scored early with a slicing run after slick backline play from a scrum. Qld 7-0.

Quinton Mahina scores between the posts

Quinton Mahina scores first try – between the posts

NSW manoeuvred themselves into good field position and got on the scoreboard with a penalty goal, but Queensland continued to play smarter rugby. They got into the NSW half and the other centre Stanghon carried three defenders over the line to score.

14-3 and all Queensland after 17 minutes.

Tristan Stanghon about to get meat

Tristan Stanghon about to get meat

Back and forth attempts to gain field possession, kicks side-to-side, a litany of scrums, lineouts (and wingers trying to keep warm), followed.

Half-time score: Queensland I 14 – NSW II 3.

The NSW half-time talk was obvious: they started to play wet weather rugby. If you would describe the second half with one phrase it would be “pick-and-drive”. Field position was also key and both sides showed off their kicking game to gain advantage in the wet.

But a series of penalties marched Queensland down field and allowed Mahina to score his second with a quick movement of the ball to the right edge.

Justin Sikimeti charges for the line

Justin Sikimeti charges for the line

Towards the end of the game, some nice tries to the NSW subs, Cutler and Smealie, gave NSW a spring in their step, but the lead was too much and Queensland, who played smarter wet weather rugby for longer, won.

Full-time score: Queensland I 19 – NSW II 13.

Though beaten, a losing bonus point to NSW II was to prove crucial and they were the first to quality for the final.

Surf's up at Riverview

Surf”s up at Riverview

The players

Queensland I – Mahina (12) was excellent with ball in hand and scored two telling tries in difficult conditions. Tuilama (5) was one of the hardest workers on the paddock in the heavy stuff.

NSW II – Jordan (9) made a huge impact when he came on as a sub towards the end of the first half, changing the whole dynamic of the NSW team with his running game. THP Matthew tackled hard and kept getting back up for more.

Umbrella defence time at Riverview

Umbrella defence time at Riverview

NSW Ones 12+Queensland Twos 0

by “Crackerjack”

A Championship Final berth beckoned the winner, but playing conditions, with swaths of the playing ‘turf’ resembling something from the Somme Offensive, would prove a notoriously fickle influence on otherwise well-laid plans and their execution.

Much was played between the 22’s, and in the Piggies, but otherwise, it was “just play it down at their end!”

Both THP’s – NSW1 Helu and QLD2 Nasser – were rocks of the Easter Island variety anchoring their scrums, and the referee played his role too, seeking out ‘drier’ hillocks in the middle, like cattle retreat to when flood waters are rising in their paddocks.

All four locks on-field (NSW1’s Brown #4 and Frost #5, and QLD2’s Munday #4 and Wilson #5) got through a mountain of grunt-work, and of the back-rowers, NSW1’s Kemeny (#6) in particular, sought contact like they he was on, but only for the collisions.

Halfbacks, Vuta (#9) for QLD and Haskins (#9) for NSW, constantly probed, using their forwards and testing defences through the three-quarters.

For both sides though, it seemed the closer they got to the opposing stripe, there was an inevitable ‘Phweeeeep’ heralding calls like “Lost forward” or “Not releasing”, all conspiring to starve the game of oxygen, and the teams of momentum, territory, pressure and points.

Opeti Helu on the charge

Opeti Helu on a dry patch

Half-time score: NSW1 and QLD2: 0-0

With their back-rowers getting on top, NSW1 spent longer, more sustained periods in the other 22, while Queensland relied more heavily on flyhalf McCarthy (#10) to clear the ball upfield to relieve pressure, and then follow through with their own possessions.

NSW1 speed-machine, Mohi (#11), finally broke the scoring drought, ‘diving’ over in the swamp that the SE corner had become, and NSW led 5-0.

Substitutions, with clean jerseys gleaming, started to come on quickly. At scrum-time, NSW1’s new-look front row began to get on top of the corresponding new-look Queensland front row.

A last foray upfield by the boys in blue, and substitute scrummie, Fanolua (#21), dummied left and dived in under the posts. Flyhalf Doueihi (#10) casually drop-kicked the extras to finish.

Full time score: NSW I 12 – Queensland II 0

NSW I wins against impressive Qld II side

NSW I wins against impressive Qld II side

Reports on earlier Division I fixtures

Day 1 report.

Day 2 report.


Disclaimer – our writers depend on the official programmes for the names of the players they don’t know; so please bear with us if nominated players have been substituted before or during the Championships.

Photos by Lee Grant



Voted most valuable member of the G&GR Forum since records began - Ed.

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