Tough day out at Avondale for Shoals

IT was a sad state of affairs on Saturday as a determined Shoalhaven Rugby Club ventured to Gerry Cappetta Field to face the competition leaders Avondale.

Shoals have competed well against this professional club in recent years but Saturday was no match for their pace and power.

Avondale was too strong and Shoals had to settle for a 103-5 scoreline.

Shoals forwards went about the task of trying to contain their big opponents with enthusiasm with Tom Horton, Arron Louden and Chad Fraser leading the way.

However the mounting pressure of little possession and lots of tackling provided Avondale with many attacking opportunities and they capitalised on these at regular intervals.

Reserve grade were down just 12-nil at half-time, but couldn’t hold on in the second half, with the final score 52-nil.

Veterans Ash Henry, Duncan Madge and Tui Aberhama charged into the fray with great enthusiasm and were ably supported by the youngsters Tom Aney, Graeme Porter and Pat Conner.

In the end Avondale were far too slick for a weakened Shoals outfit which did enough to suggest better results as the second round winds its way through.

Shoals move on now to play local foes Kiama at home next Saturday in what is always a great encounter between these old foes.

Shoals are slowly rebuilding and this home game should prove to be yet another fine game in this traditional battle for local honours.

INSPIRED: Stand in coach Ian Cook inspires the Vincentia Van Goghs to an unlikely draw against competition leaders Avondale.

INSPIRED: Stand in coach Ian Cook inspires the Vincentia Van Goghs to an unlikely draw against competition leaders Avondale.

FOURTH placed Vincentia Van Goghs came up against first placed Avondale at Dandaloo Oval in Dapto in the Illawarra District Rugby Union first division competition.

With Vincentia’s coach Shawn Bugg at a reunion of his old club Blacktown, assistant coach Ian Cook took over the reins.

The Shoalhaven Medical Centres Van Goghs had to muster the troops as injuries have taken a heavy toll of the players late in the season.

With the return of Karl “Kiwi” Rawlins and Andrew Van Oploo the Van Goghs ran on a competitive side for this crucial match.

The X factor in this match was the gale force westerly that the Van Goghs had first use of.

Avondale are leading the competition because of their strong bench, their skill and their huge forward pack.

They dominate possession then unleash their fast allusive centres.

Coach Cook developed a match plan with aggressive defence,  taking on the Avondale forwards at their own game.

From the kick off an Avondale knock-on gave the Goghs a dream start with the forwards pouncing on the ball and burrowing upfield.

Clever half back Matty Young fired a pass down the blind side to a rampaging fullback Eddie Braddick, who skirted millimetres inside the touch line to dive over in the corner.

The Avondale men were immediately on the back foot.

Tane Matson’s conversion was taken by the blizzard and ended up over the Goghs' own try line.

Avondale were disjointed under the intense pressure being applied by the Van Goghs forwards, particularly Corey Morrison and Pat Matson, and made numerous mistakes.

However they were next to score points when inside centre broke the line and scored wide out.

Though unconverted, Avondale were easing back into the match when Rawlins, in an inspired moment, decided that the best way to the try line would be right through the middle of the Avondale pack.

He took the ball at pace from a Matty Young pass and beat six before diving over near the posts.

Tane Matson converted.

It was proving difficult to keep the pacy Avondale backs in check and they were in again just before half-time, with the score 12-10 to Vincentia at the break.

Inspired defence from lightweight winger Corey James, Luke Griffis and the entire forward pack kept the Goghs in the game.

Tireless centre Alistar “Ned” Flanders had to be replaced after receiving a nasty head wound from an Avondale tackle and the Goghs had to do a quick reshuffle.

Avondale scored a converted try soon after this incident and led 17-12 with 15 minutes to go.

Then came an inspired moment from lock Adam Drummond, who took the ball off the side of a ruck and headed up field.

Drummond may not be in the same class as Ussain Bolt, but he covered the ground amazingly quickly and was caught by the Avondale fullback.

In the next phase Tane Matson broke the shattered Avondale defence to score out wide.

The scores were locked at 17-all with a kick to come.

The kick was dead straight but was taken by the wind.

There was more great defence for the next 10 minutes until in the last three second of the game the Van Goghs were awarded a penalty 30 metres out.

Tane Matson had the winning of the game on his boot and hit the ball sweetly straight at the black dot, only to be foiled by the gale again as the ball skewed wide.

There were emotional scenes in the shed afterwards as coach Cook acknowledged the courage and effort put into this drawn result.

Best and fairest points went to Tane Matson, Karl Rawlins and Corey James.

Next week’s game is Sponsors and Ladies Day at Vincentia Rugby Park against Engadine at 2pm.