A battle of attrition versus flair, and in the end there was no Winner!
It was a beautiful afternoon in Sydney with the sun shining down on Leichhardt Oval, although there was a brisky breeze to remind us that Summer has yet to arrive, but also toallow for perfect Rugby weather. The game itself, Sydney Stars versus UC Vikings reminded me of the first Rocky movie, where Apollo Creed (in this case UC Vikings) had all the flair challenged the more tenacious Rocky (Sydney Stars) in a battle that ended in a draw! Like today, where the flair of the UC Vikings challenged the tenacity of the go forward and fight for every opportunity approach of the Sydney Stars, which ended in a 37-37 draw, thanks to a try in the last 10 seconds to Sydney Stars winger Jono Sullivan, which was converted by their fullback Jack Macklin. The UC Vikings had the kick off (don’t know who won the toss), and the game started with plenty of flair from the UC Vikings, while the Sydney Stars were a little slow to get into the game. At the ninth minute, the flair played dividends for the UC Vikings with a rolling maul leading to openside Sean Doyle crossing for the first try. Jesse Mogg misses the conversion and the UC Vikings remain up 5-0. From the kickoff, the UC Vikings continued the fancy stuff, while the Sydney Stars seem to still be in the sheds, and in less than 2 minutes, the UC Vikings are out by 13-0 after a Fotu Auelua try and a Jesse Mogg conversion. The funny thing is that after 15 minutes, while being 13-0 down and with big Will Skelton being yellow carded for repeated ruck infringements by the team, the Sydney Stars tenacity wakes up, and they begin to attack, attack and attack! Like Rocky, when he wouldn’t go down against Apollo Creed. This new tenacity, good continuity and great straight running with the ball meant that the UC Vikings weren’t able to capitalise on the extra man, and remained 13-0 up. Actually, it took some really good scrambling defence to stop the Sydney Stars from crossing the tryline.
With 13 minutes until half time, and with big Will Skelton back from his stint on the sideline, the UC Vikings were warned for their own repeated ruck infringements. Rodney Iona (the newly signed Brumby this week) pays the penalty and gets himself a yellow card for not rolling away at the 29th minute of the first half. The Sydney Stars called for a scrum from the ensuing penalty, 5m out and under the sticks. The Sydney Stars tried to use their 8-man scrum to push over the UC Vikings 7 men, but the scrum holds and with the unsettled ball, it leads to a knock-on and the UC Vikings have a scrum to be able to clear the ball. The first Game Changer happens next, when Jesse Mogg juggles the clearance from the scrum, has to scramble in his in-goal, which leads to a forward pass and a Sydney Stars 5m scrum. From this scrum, the Sydney Stars attack the line, and finally fullback Jack Macklin scores taking advantage of Rodney Iona being in the bin, to bring the Sydney Stars back into the game. 9 minutes to half time. Jack Macklin misses the conversion, and the Sydney Stars are now down 13-5. The Sydney Stars continue their good field position and continuity for the next 5 minutes, helped by a second charge down of a Michael Dowsett attempted box kick. The Sydney Stars take advantage of a lineout about 20m out, and Sydney Stars Hugo Dessens crosses next to the sticks, and with the conversion by Jack Macklin, we have a tied game 13-13 with 2 minutes to go in the half. The Sydney Stars definitely took advantage of their extra man advantage, scoring 2 tries. The UC Vikings started the second half well, putting a lot of pressure on the Sydney Stars set-piece taking 2 early lineouts against the throw. Both teams have continued their game plan, with the UC Vikings trying to throw the ball around to break the Sydney Stars line, while the Sydney Stars combined their straight running, with an unbelievable commitment of numbers in the ruck to put a lot of pressure on the UC Vikings. The UC Vikings flair led to the first try of the 2nd half going to replacement winger (Robbie Coleman was subbed off at halftime – reason unknown) Lausii Taliauli and with the Jesse Mogg conversion, the UC Vikings back in the lead 21-13 after 5 minutes in the 2nd half. The Sydney Stars are next to score, with a great scoot by their talented halfback Jake Gordon, who offloads to openside Pat McCutcheon right between the posts, Jack Macklin converts and we are all square at 21-21. The Sydney Stars straight running is really starting to bend and break the UC Vikings defensive line. The second game changer was again provided by the flair of Jesse Mogg, with the Sydney Stars on the attack 15m out, and looking to capitalise on a 2 or 3 man overlap, when Jesse Mogg shoots up and looks dramatically out of position, and while recovering happens to intercept the ball to outrun the covering Sydney Stars winger to score under the posts. Jesse Mogg converts his own try, and the UC Vikings are up again, 29-21.
Fotu Auelua puts a shoulder into the Sydney Stars on attack, and gets the UC Vikings 2nd yellow card. The Sydney Stars capitalise on the resulting extra man, and big Will Skelton cannot be stopped 5m out to score. Jack Macklin converts to equalise again, 29-29. It is interesting that the UC Vikings had had 20 minutes with 14 men on the field, and have let in 3 tries and 21 points! Discipline once again letting down the UC Vikings.
Once the UC Vikings return to 15 on 15, their flair comes back, and Lausii Taliauli again breaks the line, before Rodney Iona makes up a little for his stint in the bin by delivering the pass for prop JP Smith to cross on the left. Jesse Mogg is able to convert, and UC Vikings take the lead, 37-29 with less than 10 to go. But just when you thought that this game may have taken its last twist, the tenacious Sydney Stars, following another line break by halfback Jake Gordon, and winger Jono Sullivan scores with 20 seconds remaining, giving Jack Macklin the chance to be the saviour, with the conversion to square it up, 37-37.
While the score ended all square, I think the Sydney Stars showed that they can put it to any team, with great straight running combined with committing men to the ruck to put pressure on the UC Vikings attack. They may not have had the flair of the UC Vikings, but if they had of not waited until big Will Skelton was yellow carded in the 15th minute to start playing, they may have come away with the result. The UC Vikings have a great game plan based on flair and attack, but they need to follow the old adage that you have to earn the ability to let the ball sing, through making ground first with straight running. The UC Vikings will need to assess whether they should put more players into their rucks in attack to ensure that when teams show tenacity like the Sydney Stars did today, they can still maintain possession. Interesting stat is that both fullbacks Jesse Mogg and Jack Macklin scored a try and 4 from 5 conversions for a total of 17 points each.
The Game Changer
There were really 2 game changes, which could be attributed to why the game ended in a draw. The two game changers came from the same UC Vikings player, Jesse Mogg, the first being a juggle of a pass that killed his chance to clear the ball of the line, which allowed the Sydney Stars to score their first try. The second game changer was a piece of Jesse Mogg brilliance, where what seemed like it may have been a defensive error was superseded by a great intercept and 85m runaway try.[/one_third][one_third last=”no”]
It was a tough call in a big scoring match, where both teams played different styles, but my Man of the Match goes to Sydney Stars halfback Jake Gordon, who was consistently a thorn in the UC Vikings side, and his breaks led to some great scoring opportunities by the Sydney Stars.[/one_third][one_third last=”yes”]
Players to Watch
Jake Gordon is definitely someone who I am keen to see more of from the Sydney Stars whilst Lausii Taliauli gave the UC Vikings plenty of go forward when he came on in the second half.[/one_third]
Score & Scorers
[one_half last=”no”]UC VIKINGS 37 (Half 13) Tries: Doyle, Auelua, Taliauli, Mogg, and Smith Conversions: Mogg 4/5 Penalties: –[/one_half][one_half last=”yes”]Sydney Stars 37 (Half 13) Tries: Dessens, McCutcheon, Macklin, Skelton, and Sullivan Conversions: Macklin 4/5 Penalties: –[/one_half]
15 mins – 5. Will Skelton – Sydney Stars (Yellow) 29 min – 12. Rodney Iona – UC Vikings (Yellow) 55 min – 8. Fotu Auelua – UC Vikings (Yellow) Crowd: estimate 600 – 800?
Game Day Photography
Pedrolicus (Peter Mitchell)