Brisbane Grammar at Churchie (0-92)
Nic Darveniza (TheKing)
It’s never pleasant to overhear young boys from any school whispering about whether their flagship Rugby team would lose by 40, 60, 80, or 100 points on the weekend, even less so to hear whispers of a Mercy rule.
A sad vulnerability hung over the visitors end of Churchie’s Number 1 Oval as students brave enough to stay and support prepared themselves for the inevitable. The Grammar students were juxtaposed by an intensity I haven’t seen before in supporters from the home side. The ground around the Churchie grandstand shook as the restless students bayed for blood, creating an atmosphere like something out of a Roman colosseum. As the booming voice of the ground announcer echoed around the ground, the game was underway.
Churchie weren’t kept waiting long. The 2014 GPS Champions advanced 60 metres in a minute and a half after a knock on and an offside penalty had BGS back-pedalling, but a forward pass kept the electronic scoreboard at nil all. Grammar sent the ball right to earn some extra metres on the clearance, but a run back in to traffic was turned over. Churchie transferred quickly to Kalyn Ponga, breaking the line with some great speed before performing one of the most spectacular offloads I’d seen in schoolboy rugby – full horizontal, around the corner, in the midst of 3 defenders, yet still finding Jayden Su’a for an easy try.
BGS showed some attacking intent early by trying to slip blindside winger Oli Fison by Churchie flyhalf Mack Mason one on one in a set piece move, but a strong tackle forced a knock on. Churchie took the ball back and sent a grubber deep in the in-goal, where a prowling Kalyn Ponga went close to scoring Churchie’s second – denied only by quick thinking from BGS flyhalf Tom Sly.
It didn’t phase Churchie, as just a few moments later flyhalf Mack Mason unlocked the BGS defence by accelerating in to half a gap, fending off outside centre Max Wenck and offloading inside to Ben Ogilvie. Ogilvie carried the ball forward, drawing the fullback before passing right for Australian Schoolboy loose forward Harley Fox. With the goal line open before him, a semi-decent pass would have made a certain try. However, an absolute shocker flew behind the back of Fox, running at full speed ahead, but was somehow reeled in. Forced to slow down considerably, Fox was caught by the BGS defence, but powered ahead, dragging 2 defenders behind him while fending off another in a skilful try.
Just four minutes later Mason lined up talented ball-running hooker Josh Webb one-on-one with Grammar wing Eddie McCorley, and a high attempted tackle was fended off with venom. With the line broken an easy offload to Izaia Perese 40 metres out was enough to shred the defence, and sheer pace burnt the outside defenders for a try under the posts.
After turning over a BGS lineout on halfway, Churchie flung the ball wide to Perese again who went within an inch of scoring a try. Eddie McCorley won a turnover for BGS by pilfering the ball, but Churchie weren’t done yet. As the lineout was formed, the jeers of hundreds of Churchie boys piled the pressure on BGS to win their ball, in the end failing to. Churchie hit it up through the guts but lost the ball in a tackle.
Flyhalf Tom Sly kicked an up and under, giving Churchie possession on halfway. A great line from Harley Fox got him past the first defender, and Fox turned on the jets. Hotfooting it to the 22, Fox looked up and fired a 15 metre bullet to speedster Izaia Perese coming up on the left wing in support, but Perese couldn’t beat the sliding defence. The ball was sent to the right wing, where Mack Mason nearly set up another beautiful try from a great individual effort, but the final offload went to ground.
Churchie were gifted a 22 metre lineout after the BGS clearance gave them a net gain of zero. A beautiful long pass got the ball into the hands of Mason on halfway, who shovelled the ball on to inside centre Jayden Su’a. As the defence congregated around the dangerous Rugby league star, a deft pop pass back to Mason on the loop had the defence at 6’s and 7’s. A dummy to outside Izaia Perese opened up a hole for Kalyn Ponga to steam into. With the defence truly beaten, a pass to Brodie Croft on the right wing was enough to ensure that the cover defence couldn’t affect the try. Scrumhalf Harry Nucifora stepped up to kick his 4th successful conversion from 4 opportunities.
BGS were getting plenty of opportunities to string phases together as Churchie’s inaccuracy at the breakdown quickly irked the match referee. The backline targeted the 10 and 12 channels of the defence, trying to catch lazy efforts by utilising the J-ball, or inside ball. Churchie were switched on in this respect of the match, allowing players like Angus Scott-Young to line up and decimate semi-defenceless runners, leaving favourite target wing Eddie McCorley gasping for air numerous times. BGS School Captain Elliot Cichero was gingerly assisted off the field injured after copping a brutal tackle from the enforcer at lock.
The next try of the game came from a direct error from the inside backs of BGS. A scrum to Grammar on centrefield presented an opportunity to win back some momentum in a game that was fast threatening to blow out. Flyhalf Tom Sly took the ball on the right before popping a pass to his right for a runner to crash on to. Though three runners surrounded him not one ran on to the ball, allowing it to bounce wickedly in to the hands of Mack Mason. With the line cleanly broken Mason pinned back his ears to score untouched between the posts despite a desperate chase from Grammar Captain Paddy Dooley and wing Oli Fison.
The half ended with a Churchie free kick 40 metres out from the line. Working the ball to the middle before spinning it right, Jayden Su’a broke the line by breaking two tackles, accelerating to space, and passing to Kalyn Ponga on his right in support. With plenty of work left to do, Ponga took on the defence and rolled over the try line. Despite the best efforts of Tom Sly to hold up the ball, Ponga wriggled it down to score the 6th try of the half in the far right corner. Nucifora missed his first conversion of the day, and a mass of Grammar old boys began to leave. A hundred point win was on offer for Churchie, and the crowd certainly knew it.
The second half opened with Churchie winning back it’s own kickoff. Lock James Wall took the first hit up of the half one out and from a standing start, slicing through the BGS line like a warm knife through butter. Having run 25 metres already, the Brick couldn’t sidestep Tom Sly, and was let down by his supporters who gave away another breakdown penalty. A long kick from young halfback Campbell Halliday failed to find touch, and Churchie’s counter attack was dynamic to say the least. Mack Mason kicked the ball ahead, finding turf and earning a perfect bounce straight back in to the hands of sole chaser Brodie Croft. With the bounce taking out both defenders Croft was able to cross untouched for his second.
Though only three minutes had passed since the first kick-off, a BGS knock on inside Churchie’s half was scooped up by ‘Brick’ Wall and popped for Mason, who steamed ahead 60 metres to score a try with Tom Sly hot on his heels the entire way.
Churchie’s counter attack struck again just two minutes later, with whizz kid fullback Kalyn Ponga getting the ball away to Izaia Perese under big pressure. Perese chose to take contact, trying and failing to fend off BGS inside centre Fraser McReight. As he was taken to ground, Perese managed to throw an around the corner offload, putting Brodie Croft into space on the right wing. Croft burnt the cover defence to take the ball inside the 22, but was met by four retreating defenders. A step off his right followed by a spin move like something out of a video game left Croft with one to beat, drawing and passing to his inside for Kalyn Ponga to score untouched. A successful conversion carried Churchie’s second half tally to 21 points, 4 minutes in.
Upon reception Mason punted the ball downfield, and openside Liam Wright was able to snaffle the lineout throw. Churchie carried the ball up through the middle before attacking left, and Izaia Perese scored his second for the home side after beating the corner defender with speed, scoring what might be one of the easiest tries of his footballing career.
At this point Churchie were very clearly scoring at will. A shovelled pass to Richie Asiata through the middle was enough to break BGS’ line, and two tacklers slipped off the steamrolling Australian Schoolboy. Wrapped up by a third, Asiata tossed up a speculative offload for blindside flanker Jeremy Gimple, juggling the ball twice before passing to Jayden Su’a. Though defenders surrounded him the Churchie inside centre put his head down and sprinted dead straight before stepping off his left and hurdling the diving tackle of Tom Sly for an 11th try.
With 20 minutes to go, Churchie led 73-0, with 5 members of the backline scoring doubles.
Grammar kicked off to Scott-Young in the middle. Mack Mason stepped off his left, creating space on his outside shoulder for Kalyn Ponga. A sublimely timed pop pass saw the Youtube sensation tear through the line, and an outrageous dummy to the outside left him with a clean run to the try line for his third.
Scott-Young and Jayden Su’a both laid on a shoulder charge within a minute of BGS earning possession, and Su’a was sent for a spell to atone. Grammar tried their best to muscle it up through the middle, but a turnover gave Ben Ogilvie a chance to carry his side into the opposition half on a long run. With the backs clearly a bit tired after scoring so many tries, Churchie’s forwards drove the team from halfway to the try line, Richie Asiata carrying the ball for the final time. Nucifora kicked his 10th conversion of the day.
In the dying 10 minutes Brisbane earnt more and more opportunities, predominantly through the referee’s whistle and in counter attack, with Tom Sly particularly doing the most for his side from the back. As the game progressed on it became clear that the referee was doing his best to keep the scoreboard under 100, but there is only so much a whistle can do when line outs are overthrown and balls dropped. One such dropped ball ended the match by finding it’s way into the hands of Kalyn Ponga, running straight up through the middle for an untouched fourth personal try, Churchie’s 14th of the day.
If Churchie didn’t lose Su’a for those 10 minutes, and the referee stayed 100% neutral for the entire game, the scoreline would easily have surpassed the State High 2009 routing.
Controversy abounded after the game about the game ending several minutes before full-time, according to the scoreboard clock. Having reviewed the footage, this is not the case. The referee is the sole judge of time in any fixture, and the scoreboard did not match the stoppage times. Though the game was a blowout, there was no mercy.
Churchie 92 (Tries: Jayden Su’a (2), Harley Fox, Izaia Perese (2), Brodie Croft (2), Mack Mason (2), Kalyn Ponga (4), Richie Asiata; Conversions: Harry Nucifora (11/14)