Trinity 23 — Cranbrook 18
What a weekend for school Rugby: a critical, top-of-the-table clash between Barker and Waverley, and a titanic meeting of Newington and Scots in the GPS competition.
So, naturally, I was at Rose Bay watching third play sixth in the CAS competition.
Well, the whole point of grass roots Rugby is to go where you belong, whatever the standard of the play. Also spotted on the sideline was University legend Brian Burnett who, like me, could have been watching his old club’s army of Super Rugby stars put 64 points on Northern Suburbs.
Sometimes you just need to watch the old colours. “Burnie”, incidentally, viewed the proceedings with that forbidding, impassive glare of faint disapproval that he developed coaching a series of less-than-excellent University teams.
It was a perfect afternoon to Rugby, and Cranbrook remains one of the few places where they still let you walk up and down the sideline – very civilised.
Cranbrook went into the game as the underdog, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the early exchanges.
Inside the first three minutes, Cranbrook won a scrum just inside the Trinity half, and 10 Jack Remond popped a short pass to 13 Christian Wylie, who found the gap and ran 40 metres to score untouched. It was a beautifully executed move, but soft defence – Cranbrook 7-0.
Trinity responded with a penalty to 12 Christopher Ebeling from about 35 metres: Cranbrook 7-3.
For the first 20 minutes, Cranbrook dominated possession, recycling the ball nicely and attacking through the backs at every opportunity. A penalty attempt by 15 Sam Renton hit the post, and Ebeling, 3 Junior Satiu and 15 Rihann Barkley-Brown counter-attacked for Trinity. But Trinity struggled to retain possession, and twice failed to win their own lineout ball on attack.
After a clean break by 10 Robert Siteine and a snipe by 9 Brent Whicker. Ebeling landed an easy Trinity penalty to reduce Cranbrook’s lead to 7-6, but Renton retaliated with a penalty of his own to restore the four-point lead: Cranbrook 10-6.
Trinity 6 George Corias was then presented with a yellow card for repeated offside infringements. Because this was a Trinity-Cranbrook game, there was the obligatory in-goal scuffle, which this year brought only a stern word from the referee.
Cranbrook could have sewn the game up either side of half-time.
Just before the break, the backline took the ball within inches of the tryline, only for the ball to be lost forward in a tackle. And just after the break, Cranbrook’s backs twice worked themselves into big overlaps deep in Trinity territory, only for the final pass to go astray.
Finally, one of the forwards (I think 1 Julian Horton Patch, but don’t hold me to that) took matters into his own hands with a barging run, and a neat offload to Wylie, who crashed over for his second try – Cranbrook 15-6. Renton had a chance to extend the lead with a penalty 37 metres out, but hit the post again.
By now, Trinity could have been so far behind that the game was over, but Junior Satiu got hold of the ball, made a surging run, and then slipped a one-handed offload to 14 Rowland Kotobalavu, who ran 60 metres, past two rather reluctant defenders, to score under the posts. When Ebeling converted, Cranbrook was still ahead but by only 15-13.
Cranbrook regathered the kick-off and charged down field; another overlap – and this time the final pass was to the touch judge. Then Cranbrook 12 Oliver Nelson got over. the line, only to be held up by Whicker. But soon after, a breakdown infringement gave Renton a simple shot at goal, and at 18-13 in favour of Cranbrook the scoreboard showed a decent reflection of the game.
But Trinity finally put together some phases in Cranbrook territory, and from close range 8 Riley Innes squeezed over. Ebeling converted. Trinity lead for the first time in the game – 20-18 with a few minutes remaining. Ebeling soon added a long-range penalty to give Trinity a five-point buffer.
Cranbrook’s last attack was snuffed out when 1 Jackson McLean wrested a turnover and the final whistle blew with Trinity deep in Cranbrook’s quarter and winning 23-18.
For Cranbrook, 5 Hugh Summerhayes worked hard all game; 6 Nick Makas made several powerful runs and 8 Judd Harvey dominated the lineout. 13 Wylie was a constant threat in attack and 12 Nelson made several clean breaks. 9 Anthony McDougall had a crisp pass.
For Trinity, 3 Satiu was exceptional, running hard and making dangerous offloads in the tackle. 1 Mclean had his usual strong game. 9 Whicker had a good all-round game, and 10 Siteine was excellent, tackling ferociously and making several breaks. 12 Ebeling was a threat in attack and kicked five from five. 14 Kotobalavu was big, strong and fast – a real handful in attack.
For Trinity it was a get-out-of-jail game, but a reward for persistence, too.
For Cranbrook, it was a lesson in the importance of taking opportunities.
Riley Innes, Rowland Kotobalavu tries, Christopher Ebeling 2 goals, 3 penalty goals.
Christian Wylie 2 tries, Sam Renton goal, 2 penalty goals.
See Page 2 for a match report of Knox v. Aloys by “Elfster”