Shoals first grade get up in thriller against University

The Shoalhaven Ex Servicemen’s Shoals’ 1st grade team had not beaten Wollongong University in 1st Grade for some time and were keen to win back the Foster Emery Trophy on Saturday. Both teams were coming off season opening wins, Shoals narrowly against Campbelltown and University who had a stirring win over the always strong Avondale Wombats. Shoals managed to win back the Foster Emery Trophy, but only just. Pleasingly for Shoals 11 of the starting 15 in this game came through Shoals’ Junior teams.

Shoals surge: Rhys Williams is surrounded by University defenders as he tries to bust through the line on Saturday.  Photo: DAMIAN McGILL

Shoals surge: Rhys Williams is surrounded by University defenders as he tries to bust through the line on Saturday. Photo: DAMIAN McGILL

In a fast moving game Shoals made their task harder through conceding penalties and losing line outs. However their scrum was solid all game and put pressure on the much vaunted University pack. Tom Horton was outstanding in both defence and attack and he managed the marauding back three of Uni’s forwards with great skill.

Also replacement prop, the very sizable lad, Tristan Healey, made a huge impact during his time on the field. Again the Brandon brothers showed speed, flair and skill to complement their tackling efforts. Ava Raboitiga showed he is running into form with some sensational attacking runs.

Shoals led 15-8 at the half time break. As with last week they scored 3 good, but unconverted tries in the half to University’s sole try. Mark Brandon scored the first try, Angus Maddinson finished off a fine back line move to score the 2nd while Steve Brandon created his own opportunity from a kick ahead and a good bounce to race over for the 3rd try.

Shoals had little ball for long periods in the 2nd half. University camped in their quarter for much of the time and only stout-hearted defence kept the score line manageable. University drew level on the scoreboard at the 13th minute with a slashing try to their winger. They went ahead a few minutes later through a fine cut through try to their burly centre. Shoals responded with an exhilarating backline move that saw centre, James Mather, race in for a converted try and Shoals again had the lead by just 2 points.

All looked lost for Shoals when University scored again with just 10 minutes to go, to take the lead 25-22. Shoals were conceding penalties as they fought hard to retrieve the ball and mount a counter attack. University were playing well and keeping Shoals pinned in their own quarter. However as the clock raced its way to the final bell Shoals, through brilliant play, extricated themselves from the deep and scored the match-winning try.

With just 90 seconds left, Shoals set a scrum just 10 metres out from their line. The backs lined deep standing almost on the dead ball line. The forwards did their job and delivered a strong scrum win. Halfback Sam Watts quickly passed the ball to his five-eight, Steve Brandon, who surprisingly, but with great accuracy, punted the ball 30 metres across and down the field to his brother Mark.  He leaped high and caught the ball near the touchline around the 22 metre line. He was quickly rounded up but not before he slipped a pass to Ava Raboitoga who carried play to Shoals’ 40 metre line. From the ruck the ball was hurled across Shoals’ backline.

Not much looked to be on offer as the University defensive line seemed to be well set. However Shoals’ speedy winger Keiran Brandon changed all that once he received the ball. He showed remarkable pace to run around the two nearest defenders, then as another couple flew across to stop him, he elegantly stepped inside them. He straightened up and then ran around the full back and seemed to have the try line, lying 20 metres away, in his sights. Up, however, jumped a further three University defenders from almost nowhere who collared him. Just as he was falling he noticed his flying prop, Tristan Healey who had amazingly covered an enormous amount of ground in support, racing up outside him. Keiran shovelled the ball to him and he raced away to the line leaving University defenders flailing behind. The local crowd erupted as the try took Shoals to an exciting 27 points to 25 win.

Shoals have started the season well with their two wins. They play Tech Tahs at home next Saturday then, after a week off, play away to Shamrocks on Saturday, May 5.

Shoals 2nd Grade

The  WorkforceXS/Soilco Shoals’ 2nd Grade team played a strong game in the first half to hold University to just a 5 points to 3 lead at the break. They conceded however a couple of soft tries in the second half to allow the students to take the game by 24 points to 10.

Shoals played well throughout the match and the score line would have been closer except for the couple of defensive lapses in the 2nd half. Corey Lee as always played well at half back while Stu Scibberas made several hearty bursts in mid field. Both Adam Sargent and Joe Calcraft added strength and vitality to the team.