THE Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen’s/Printer Corp first grade side played host to the always strong Shamrocks club on a windy and bitingly cold afternoon on Saturday. While the weather was bleak the rugby was on the high side with the closeness of the score keeping the avid fans engrossed.
While Shamrocks racked up five tries to Shoals’ two to take the game 27-10, Shoals were in it for most of the journey.
The half-time score was 12-5 points to Shamrocks, however three tries in the space of 10 minutes heading for the final whistle gave Shamrocks a comfortable margin in the end.
Shoals yet again were forced to make team changes with Kial Kilgallon filling in for James Smith at prop, and the evergreen, and at times brilliant, Chad Fraser coming into the side at number eight.
Mitch Hardy was again a towering force across the field while Chris O’Connor and Tom Horton had whales of games.
Shoals opened the scoring after some brisk early play.
Using their giant forward pack, Shoals dominated play in close for much of the first 10 minutes.
This allowed them to tie up Shamrocks’ defence and gave their backline some useful ball.
After a series of forward bursts Chris O’Connell was took a pass close to the line and forced his way across.
The wind played havoc with the attempted conversion but Shoals had the lead at the 12 minute mark.
Shamrocks always produce slippery backs and when given room to move, as provided by Shoals’ defensive lapses at times, they look to be a high class outfit.
They did not take long to get into stride with their lightning quick fullback joining the line and putting their winger away for a 50 metre try at the 17 minute mark.
The conversion took Shamrocks to a 7-5 lead.
The game became a forwards delight with a great deal of rucking, mauling and picking and driving.
The backs twiddled away for some time and left them to it.
While not the greatest of spectacles, this type of play is at times necessary given the conditions.
Neither side gained any sort of advantage for a 20 minute period as the ball was hidden from view within the tight formations.
Shamrocks broke the deadlock when their side-stepping but very quick inside centre burst through Shoals’ laboring defence and raced in for a try just before half-time.
This allowed them to go to the break with a seven-point buffer.
The second half of the game provided some rare thrills and spills as the teams threw the ball about in irresistibly irreverent fashion.
The wind began to dominate play, causing handling problems but also creating a lottery when the ball was punted high into the air.
Shoals seemed to be managing the condition better than their opponents with Mitch Hardy, Chris O’Connor, Chads Fraser sand Dom Whitingham standing out with ferocious tackles and hard hitting bursts up the centre.
Steve Holmes also began to cause havoc with his long runs out wide and was ably supported by his centre, Matt Spressor.
Shoals went into a lengthy attacking phase when their forwards rolled the ball irrepressibly towards Shamrocks’ line using short passing to advantage.
Finally, after a couple of near misses, Mitch Hardy, at the 12 minute mark, grabbed the ball about 10 metres from the line and used his bulk to steamroll through numerous attempted tackles.
Sam Watts’ shot at the conversion was just wide of the posts but Shoals had drawn to within two points.
Shamrocks slowly began to grind Shoals out of the game with their forwards locking up the ball for extended periods and then unleashing their dynamic backs.
Shoals clung on as wave after wave of flying green jerseys tried to overwhelm them.
Shoals got in plenty of tackling practice as they worked hard to prevent Shamrocks from scoring.
In turn Shoals did have a few scoring opportunities but poor ball handling and ball retention cost them.
Despite having a mountain of possession Shamrocks did not pierce Shoals’ solid defensive wall until 10 minutes before full-time.
At the 70 minute mark Shamrocks marched Shoals deep into their own territory through solid forward play and then some slick passing saw their winger burst over for a try.
They followed this up with two more quick tries as Shoals tired noticeably from their earlier, massive, defensive effort.
This was a good game of rugby in trying conditions.
Shoals are slowly getting into their stride and challenged Shamrocks for most of the game.
Best players for Shoals were Mitch Hardy, Chris O’Connor and Daniel Nash.
Shoals move on to play Avondale next Saturday in an away game at the interesting Gerry Capetta field.
They return to Ricoh Rugby Park the following Saturday for the local derby against the Kiama Club and will hope to avenge their sizable first round loss.
THE Coffee Fix/Cookes Tyre Service Shoalhaven second grade side again played a great first half of rugby to lead the fifth placed Shamrocks 12-5 at the half-time break.
Unfortunately they tired in the second half to allow Shamrocks to outpoint them by 19 points to seven to lose out 24-19.
The last few minutes provided an exciting finale as Shoals went on the attack to try to snatch back the game.
But this last gasp effort was thwarted when their winger was bundled into touch close to Shamrocks’ line right on the bell.
Shoals took to the field with a strong side with Mark Sproule converting into a number eight after playing centre last week and breakaway the week before.
Damien House provided a high class link at five-eighth and Tui Aberhama produced yet another strong game.
With other young players of the calibre of Tom Aney, Jed Ricketts, Brad Russell, Graeme Porter and Pat Connor, Shoals are well served for the future.
Shamrocks jumped from the blocks with high enthusiasm and it was not long before they opened their scoring through a well-earned try to their winger.
Play from that point was pretty even although Pat Conner did look likely to slice his way through in close a number of times.
Shoals put their first try on the board when Conner finally split the defence up the middle, raced 30 metres and then in passed to the ever supportive Jed Ricketts, who dived over for a sensational try.
Brad Russell’s conversion gave his side the 7-5lead.
The next 20 minutes saw the two sides battling away with neither looking like troubling the score keeper.
Shoals finally broke clear near the halfway line which ended with Ricketts flying over for his second try.
Shoals took their 12-5 lead into the half-time break.
Shoals have struggled in the second half in recent games and this pattern continued in this match.
Shortly after the restart of play Shamrocks put their second try of the game on the board after some good forward work.
They went in again at the 20 minute mark and put on their fourth try a few minutes later.
This took them to a 24-12 lead.
Shoals fought back in the dying moments to post a try Graeme Porter at the 35th minute mark which was converted by Brad Russell.
They then threw everything into the game to try to gain a last gasp win.
They went close to pulling off this aim but were just denied a late try when their winger was caught close to the line.
This was an enjoyable game to watch and no doubt to play.
Shoals’ first half displays in recent games has been outstanding, it is just finishing off their opponents in the second half that is proving elusive.
With improving fitness they will trouble most of the other teams as this second round winds through to the end.
Best players for Shoals were Graeme Porter, Pat Conner and Jed Ricketts.
THE Vincentia Van Goghs reigned supreme against Shamrocks on Saturday with a blistering performance that saw them finish with a 28-7 lead.
The home side started with a strong performance by tight forwards John Walker and Dave Pringle.
Pringle put his stamp on the game in the first three minutes after he made a barnstorming run down the centre.
The yards he made put the Shamrocks defence on the back foot, and from the ruck that followed, Tane Matson made good inroads and a cut out pass saw speedster Allister Flanders weave his way through the defence to score under the posts after four minutes.
Shamrocks hit back immediately with some good forward play employing the pick-and-go effectively to be within 10 meters of the try line.
A turnover saw the pressure relieved with a great clearing kick of 60 meters by Tane Matson.
The ensuing play saw the ball again taken up the centre by the Shamrocks forwards and as the ruck disintegrated their prop was able to crash over.
The try converted saw the game at 7-all after 10 minutes.
A deep kick-off by the Van Goghs saw Shamrocks’ the winger drop the ball and the Van Goghs were on the front foot pressuring their opposition’s defence.
A relieving penalty saw the visitors make good territory, however the return play by fullback Eddie Braddick and winger Corey James saw the Shamrocks under the pump again, and after a great scrum win against the feed, the lock forward Trent Vogel smashed his way over the line to score a great try.
Matson converted and the score was 14–7.
After the restart Shamrocks again pressured the home side with good yards made with tidy forward play.
Another great scrum following a knock-on by the Van Goghs saw the Rocks scrum collapse and the penalty that followed again put the Goghs on the attack.
A penalty saw the Shamrocks back in Van Gogh territory but the half-time whistle saw the score remain 14–7.
The wind played a big part in the second half and the Shamrocks did not try to spread the ball but continued to make good metres with the tight five using the pick and drive effectively.
A held-up decision in the maul in favour of the visitors saw the following scum play an essential part in the way the game was evolving.
The Van Goghs won the Scrum against the feed and the ball was delivered beautifully by halfback Matty Young to first five Tane Matson.
A step off his left foot drew the defence and a deft pass put Flanders away for a great try.
This was again converted despite the windy conditions and the home side had a 21-7 lead.
At the restart a loose ball saw Matty Young swoop and with 60 meters to go to the line he decided to give a younger member a shot at glory.
Unfortunately the pass went to ground and the try went begging.
A sin binning of the Van Goghs’ number eight saw the Shamrocks back in an attacking position but again Tane Matson’s clearing kick relieved the pressure. The wind caused Shamrocks to have problems with their passes and when one drifted forward the ensuing scrum saw the backs fire again Matson to centre Luke Griffen.
He ran a great straight line off-loaded to Flanders and he was away for his hat-trick for the day.
Converted the score was 28-7.
A late foray down the thin side by the Van Goghs saw Pap Matson unlucky not to score when the ball just slipped out with the line open.
The final score was 28–7 with the Van Gogh backs in scintillating form.