SHOALHAVEN Rugby Club’s destiny is in its own hands when it comes up against the Tech-Waratahs tomorrow at Shoalhaven Rugby Park. Shoals must win to be masters of their fate, according to first grade coach Scott Jones.
With last weekend’s shattering loss looming over their heads, the Tech-Tahs game is a must-win to give the Shoals the best chance of making the finals.
“If we win every game we take that out of the other teams’ hands – we will make it through,” said Jones.
“But if we drop another game, we are then reliant on other teams’ results.”
Shoals and Tech-Tahs faced each other for the first time in Wollongong on June 1 the with a 17-7 victory to Tech-Tahs.
Despite the scoreline, Shoals were within reach of victory late in the second half, but Tech-Tahs found a gap in the 10 minutes left of the final game to take the win.
“We had a couple of players out, a couple of injuries, and it is always tough. They are a very tough team to play because they have a very strong forward pack so they just kept it in their forwards and we found it very hard to defend against,” Jones said.
But Jones said he had seen much improvement from his team in the second half of the season.
“We have improved on our ruck area and keeping our formation through phase plays. Everyone is on the same page with that, which is good,” he said.
“We had a bit of a hiccup last week, which was disappointing for everyone, but we are still on the hunt for those semi-finals, so that is the focus on the must win game this weekend.”
Last weekend’s high drama match against University saw Shoals lead 36-25 deep into the second half.
But they could not contain Uni’s speed men, who raced in two late tries to take the game 39-36.
“We had a few injuries, and a few unlucky things that happened during the game, one being one of our centres got stung by a bee had an anaphylactic reaction and got rushed off to hospital,” Jones explained.
“So we lost our centre and had another injured centre, so we had a real weak area in that position. To their credit they found that in the second half and ran a lot of traffic through there.”
Jones said he will look at trying to get back the original team when Shoals beat Camden and Shamrocks at full strength.
Although he admitted that will be difficult this weekend.
“We do have quite a few players away this week with rep duties for the navy, under 20s team, and a few different injuries. But I think in the scheme of things we have got the calibre of players who can stand up and take their positions,” he said.
“I think we need to match them toe to toe up front, but we definitely have a better back three and that is something we need to focus on using.
“But we need to not just shovel the ball out to those guys; we need to be able to set the foundations up front and try to go toe to toe with them.”
Jones was excited about his first Green Steam Day as coach and hopes the occasion will get an extra rise from the players.
“It’s [Green steam Day], something in the community, and through the Shoalhaven Rugby club, historically that everyone loves to come and watch, a little bit like our Digger Day,” he said.
“I am expecting a big game, but also a big crowd.”
Jones said participation was key at training to give Shoals the best chance going into the finals.
“We have seen what we can do against those two top teams at full strength,” he said.
“We just need to continue that and be consistent at training so we can be consistent on the field.”
Shoals’ second grade team are having a ripper of a season and sit third on the competition leaderboard.
It is Phil Newlin’s first year coaching and he has done a fantastic job of leading his team to the top end of the table and supporting first grade.
Newlin, a former Shoals junior, moved back to the area seven years ago to play for Shoals in reserve and occasionally first grade.
He said his team have done well in a tough competition.
“I just aimed to get a competitive side on the field. Being a second grade coach is hard because first grade is the main aim and second grade need to back up that team and support first grade,” he said.