Match of the Round: The Southport School at Nudgee College (
Nic Darveniza (TheKing)
It was crunch time at Ross Oval on Saturday. The home team were hurting after a hard loss against that other undefeated team in the competition, and needed to front up if they were to keep their shot at a second consecutive premiership alive. Southport needed to crush Nudgee out of the contest to maintain their undefeated record before hosting Churchie in Round 6. The stage was set and the stakes high – the perfect recipe for a thrilling match of Schoolboy Rugby.
Clever marshalling of the cattle at his disposal saw Nudgee halfback Eli Pilz draw an offside penalty 40 metres out just seconds in to the fixture, after a Joey Fittock clearance failed to find touch. Calling for the lineout, the Nudgee backs elected to have a crack at Southport’s defensive line from just inside the defending 22. In the following possessions Nudgee got over the advantage line with ease, and a dummy from flyhalf Liam Moseley went close to scoring Nudgee first points. A hand underneath the ball saved the day for Southport, but the danger was still present.
The scrum was packed to the sounds of fanatical screams of support from both sides well aware the significance of this first scrum of the encounter. Early enthusiasm from both sides required a re-set, but some strong work from Southport’s loosehead Harry Weld heaped the pressure upon the Nudgee scrum. With the scrum collapsing backwards, Nudgee Captain Reece Hewat scooped the ball up and threw a short pop pass to a looping Eli Pilz, who managed to squeeze the ball to flyhalf Moseley behind the decoy run of menacing centre Calvin Pritchard. A sharp inside ball at pace to a charging Tyrone Hussey saw Nudgee take an early converted try lead.
A cheeky re-start saw openside Angus Allen regather Southport’s kick off, and Nudgee gave away an offside penalty immediately. Fullback Fred Dorrough stepped up to the plate and kicked the goal, reducing Nudgee’s lead to 4.
Southport finally earned some meaningful possession from the kickoff and went close to cracking Nudgee’s line, but a ball and all tackle on Dorrough shut their first opportunity down. Halfback Jordan Lenac sent a towering box kick down Liam Moseley’s throat, and good pressure from the defensive line forced an error on the return kick. With an attacking lineout 35 metres out an air of anticipation fell over the crowd. An accurate throw was ruined by a poor pass from Lenac, and a comically aggressive chase from Eli Pilz was enough to ensure the ball was knocked on.
Nudgee were certainly brave in the conditions, with the bulk of their running metres earned through offloads and tight passes. The disregard for muddy conditions paid off as Nudgee slowly built momentum with each phase. Southport tried to build their own pressure through contesting the breakdowns, but their efforts were penalised dead in front, 35 metres out. The kicking tee was left on the sideline, but not for long.
Nudgee’s forwards ground out some tough yards before Moseley sent the ball wide. Some shaky passes through wet hands proved enough to beat the bunched TSS defence, and Nudgee’s wing Tyrone Hussey pulled out a swan dive you’d have expected from one of the NRL’s great finishers, planting the ball inside the corner post mid Superman dive. With two tries scored inside 15 minutes Hussey and Nudgee had gotten off to a perfect start. As Moseley’s sideline conversion soared between the posts one could spot the Southport players body language start to drop in the face of the Butcher Stripes frenzied onslaught.
Southport’s renowned strength and conditioning program usually sets their First XV as the benchmark for power and physicality in the competition, but Nudgee were playing above themselves. Whilst committing disproportionate numbers to the breakdown to preserve possession, the Nudgee ball carriers demonstrated fantastic leg drive as their one out runners were able to make inroads to the defensive line largely without support. Southport couldn’t find a way to disrupt Nudgee’s building momentum early, though loose forwards Emery Pere and PJ Van Den Burg were able to put on some big hits. An third offside penalty against Southport deserved a yellow card from the match referee, but none seemed to be forthcoming. Nudgee took the opportunity to form a 5 man lineout outside the 22. Uncontested at the back, Nudgee worked the ball to the far side before shovelling a pass to bulldozing prop Gavin Luka. Breaking straight through the gang tackle of four players, Luka lost the ball as he started to accelerate.
A series of penalties allowed Southport to work their way to the 5 metre line of their Brisbane hosts. A long pass was knocked down by Liam Moseley, who saw a yellow card for his sins. A numerical advantage in the backs encouraged the Gold Coast boys to play a simple set piece from a quick tap. As the forwards aligned to the right, roughly 25 out, Jordan Lenac took the tap and sent the ball wide left to flyhalf Tyler Campbell. With wing Josh Neal running a hard line to the outside it didn’t take much for Southport to crack the corner of the defence. Good support play from Campbell was rewarded with a try, receiving a perfectly timed inside ball from Neal to beat the cover defence.
Skill errors were starting to creep into the match, with Nudgee’s restart going out on the full, followed in turn by a knock on by Southport’s first receiver off the scrum. Nudgee’s work in attack was dominant to say the least, going 30 metres in four phases from forward runners. Piggies Reece Hewat, Gavin Luka, and Agassi Stowers all recorded bruising runs, but their hard work was all undone by sloppy work in the backs. A double knock on 30 metres behind the advantage line was just what Southport needed to re-establish themselves in the match.
A sweeping move to the left couldn’t find any space for Josh Neal, but a clever kick ahead plied the pressure on Queensland wing Tyrone Hussey. In a footrace to the line Hussey was forced to dive on the ball from outside his goal line, carrying the ball in. With ascendency in the scrums you’d have been forgiven for thinking a pushover try was in order, and Nudgee committed all 8 to preventing that from occurring. Eightman Emery Pere decided to take matters into his own giant hands and tried to finish the job, but couldn’t get over the line. Southport attacked the goal line for 11 consecutive phases, all inside the 5 metre line, but Nudgee’s desperate defence was unbreakable. Centre Jai Whitbread’s run back in to traffic was powerfully turned over Alstonville product, Openside Tom Zappala, and Nudgee escaped the raid without leaking any points.
Painfully aware of the time restrictions left upon them, both sides kicked to and fro to eke out any advantage they could before closing out the half. A penalty against Nudgee was quickly tapped 15 in from touch, and a quick transfer to 2013 veteran blindside PJ Van Den Burg on halfway saw the zippy loose forward shoot straight through the muddy remains of centre field. With fellow loosie Pere trailing on his inside, Van Den Burg drew the fullback and popped a pass left. With an open goal line before him, Tyrone Hussey saved the day by cutting down the rampaging forward from behind. Pere had the vision to offload to supporting Inside Center Jai Whitbread, but Nudgee had recovered quickly enough to force a knock on over the line.
Oranges: 14-8 in favour of Nudgee. Mostly even contest thus far, but Nudgee have the edge.
Southport started the second half by putting huge pressure on Nudgee both in rucks and defensive line speed, trying to force an error early. Over the top enthusiasm saw them penalised for offsides, and Nudgee produced 8 phases from the forwards alone to carry the team inside Southport’s 5 metre line, but hands in the ruck from the attacking team ended that chance.
That was the closest any side got to the try line for another 10 minutes, but when Southport were awarded a penalty 5 metres out there would be no stopping them. A quick tap through the hands found it’s way to centre field. Emry Pere took the ball at full flight, running straight through Nudgee’s blind winger first and a desperate halfback second to score under the posts, granting Southport a 15-14 lead for the first time in the match.
Nudgee’s mohawked Outside Center Franklin Calugay was able to render the kickoff reception ruck unplayable, but TSS Loosehead Harry Weld again produced a destructive effort over his Australian Schoolboy opposite. Nudgee somehow retained possession despite being marched backwards at a rate of knots, and some spirited defence finally began to stem Nudgee’s forwards roll. Nudgee opted to go around the defence, and Gavin Luka threw the final pass to Tyrone Hussey. With a one on one opportunity against TSS wing Dylan Riley just a metre out from the line, Hussey decided to run over the top of his defender, but Riley had other ideas – the crack of the hit rang out across Ross Oval, and Hussey was driven powerfully into touch.
From then on the game came down to which side could do the most on counter attack, and good decision making from the back proved the most important skill to possess in the game. When Eli Pilz was tackled in the air just 30 metres out from the tryline and 10 in from touch, the kicking tee was summoned. Points had been much harder to come by in the second half as both packs began to tire, and the atmosphere in the crowd could be cut with a knife. Moseley kick was spot on, and the lead was Nudgee’s again.
Southport’s lineout heavily relied upon Lock Liam Clifton, and in the second half Nudgee began heavily contesting Clifton’s space in the air. With Nudgee aerial strength disrupting the lineout ball, Southport’s kickers began having greater and greater difficulty exiting, with one clearance landing just 5 meters out from the line, dead centre of the field. The kick return was held up over the line, but Nudgee were awarded a penalty. Taking the scrum option, Nudgee tried to send the ball wide again to Tyrone Hussey, unsuccessfully. Southport cleared, but a lacklustre chase nearly allowed young fullback Liam Richman to send Nudgee in the right edge if not for some tackling from stars Joey Fittock and PJ Van Den Burg.
With the game hanging in the balance, tired players began producing handling errors that hadn’t been a factor previously. It was a war of attrition in the trenches, but a phenomenal on-the-ball effort from Nudgee Captain Reece Hewat produced a penalty to Nudgee in the exact same spot that Moseley had nailed 10 minutes previously, and history does tend to repeat itself.
Leading by 5 points with less than 3 minutes to go in the match, the side who showed the most character under pressure would be the one to win the game. Nudgee made the bold move to kick the ball back upon reception of the kick off, granting TSS a chance to end it all. Nudgee gave away a penalty in the breakdown, and from the lineout TSS’ forwards worked their way 20 metres ahead before the wet ball struck. Nudgee’s plan had paid off, and with the advantage Liam Moseley booted the ball downfield. Wing Tony Hunt chased as hard as he could whilst obviously carrying an injury, and not only made the tackle but forced the ruck to be unplayable – Nudgee feed, five metres out.
Liam Moseley sealed the deal by running straight through his opposite number to score the match winning try on the final play.
Though Eli Pilz played an excellent game with skill and intelligence, Reece Hewat was again faultless and was my man of the match in a fantastic match up. Nudgee and Southport matches always are, and with their victory Nudgee have done themselves every favour to share in a joint premiership. You can guarantee that there will be eyes peeled on Southport next week as they take on Churchie.
Special mentions must go to underdog Loosehead Prop Harry Weld for outcompeting against an Australian Schoolboy with 15 kilos on him.
NC 25 (Tries: Tyrone Hussey (2), Liam Moseley Cons: Moseley (2/3) Pens: Moseley (2/2) defeated TSS 15 (Tries: Emry Pere, Tyler Campbell, Cons: Fred Dorrough (1/2), Pens Fred Dorrough (1/2)