THE Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemens/Printer Corp first grade side played at home against a strong Camden side on the third annual Digger Day clash on Saturday at Shoalhaven Rugby Park.
Although a cold wind blew in from the south the sun shone brightly and the large contingent of service personnel’s medals glistened intensely.
The large crowd that gathered for the day was treated to a fine spectacle of military splendour with the Red Berets floating majestically onto the arena; the roaring helicopter bringing in the dignitaries including the Victoria Cross holder, Keith Payne; the stirring rendition of ‘Lest We Forget’; the lone bugler sounding those melancholy notes of the Last Post that reverberated around the ground; the minute’s silence for remembrance then that vibrant sounding of Reveille.
“Bring on the 2015 centenary commemoration” was the thought echoing throughout the gathering.
Event organiser Rick Meehan’s son, Luke, kicked the ball from the tee set up in midfield and put the game into action.
The game, but not the day, however belonged to Camden with a nine try haul against a plucky but outgunned Shoals.
Camden led 33-7 at half-time and ran out winners 59-7.
Shoals raced into the fray from the start and ground their way deep into Camden’s side of the field with some blasting play.
They were unlucky not to score in this opening frenzy with Tom Horton going desperately close only to be held up over the line.
Camden withstood this early onslaught and launched a counter attack of their own.
Their elusive and extremely quick inside centre sidestepped half of the Shoals’ team to race in for a try at the 10 minute mark.
Camden went in for their second try a few minutes later.
Shoals fought back for the next 10 minutes, and with vigorous rucking and mauling, tied Camden up in close.
After a sustained period of attacking rugby deep in Camden’s territory, the ball was swung wide to Keegan Stevens.
He dropped low to pick up the bouncing ball and with grim determination found his way to the line like a panther on the hunt.
Sam Watts popped over a wide range conversion and Shoals were on the board.
However from this point on Camden controlled the ball, space and territory and always looked in command of the game.
Shoals fought desperately to limit the damage but Camden’s danger men out wide proved too big, fast and powerful for the willing defence.
They raced in three converted tries before the half-time bell to go to the sheds with a lead of 33-7.
Shoals performed better in the second half as they held onto the ball for longer periods and their outside backs got opportunities to show off their skills. Camden did not get much room to move in the first 15 minutes of this half and when they did, they found their legs cut from under them with some stirring low tackling particularly by Tui Aberhama and Tom Horton.
Shoals kept Camden scoreless for this initial 15 minutes.
But Camden’s overall teamwork and pace was always a problem for Shoals and their wingers scored a couple of quick long range tries to take the game well out of reach.
Camden finished with a flourish and their final try, a 90 metre effort from close to their try line, was one of their best.
Most of Camden’s tries were scored near the posts, and with the seven point additions to the score line for each try, the scoreboard rolled over at a great rate.
Despite the loss, Shoals played with great heart despite going against the odds. Best players for Shoals were Tom Horton, Tui Aberhama and Corey Lee.
Shoals have a bye nextweek end then journey to Wollongong to play Tech Tahs the following Saturday.
Shoals again play away at Bowral on Saturday, August 23.
They return to Ricoh Rugby Park on Saturday, August 30 for the Foster Emery Trophy game against Wollongong to complete the season.
THE Coffee Fix/Cookes Tyre Service Shoals’ second grade struggled to contain a determined and explosive Camden side.
They lie in third place on the ladder and in running in seven tries to two, overpowered a willing Shoals team that, although lacking in co-ordination, was big on heart.
Shoals saw little of the ball and it was only their whole hearted defensive effort that kept the score board reasonably in check.
Camden led 21-7 at half-time and ran in four tries in the second half to take the game 45-14.
Shoals opened up strongly with Dom Whittingham racing down the sideline only to put his foot into touch just before he dived over for a try.
Camden won a penalty from the ensuing play and from there took the ball deep into Shoals’ territory.
Their forwards dominated the rucks, and after tying Shoals’ defence up into the tight play, unleashed their backs.
Camden’s winger flew over for his team’s first try at the eight minute mark.
Shoals crunched and scrunched their way into Camden’s 22 metre area with fine driving play.
They kept the pressure up for a full five minutes and were finally rewarded with an opportunistic try to evergreen half back, Luke Porter, who pounced on the ball as it rolled around the in goal area.
Damien House’s conversion brought Shoals to within seven points of the lead.
With their tails up, Shoals marched play towards Camden’s line.
They camped in this area for the next seven minutes but could not get the vital break to score again.
Camden weathered this onslaught and finally escaped the noose with a few penalties.
They then got on a roll and raced in two converted tries in quick succession to stretch their lead to 14 points that they held to the break.
For much of the second half Shoals stood toe to toe with Camden and tried to force their way back into the game.
Unfortunately a loose pass gave Camden an opportunity and they raced in for a lucky try after just a few minutes of play.
Shoals replied with a try of their own to Cruickshanks who raced 20 metres to score out wide.
House again converted and Shoals looked to be coming back.
But Camden fought their way out of some tough spots and loaded the score board with tries at the 25th, 30th and finally 35th minute of the half.
With most of these tries being converted their score line rapidly mounted. Despite a valiant effort by Shoals Camden scored a convincing win, albeit with no little effort.
Best players for Shoals were Damien House, Dom Whittingham and Duncan Madge.