Almanac Rugby – Club rugby: A tale of two games

 

A couple of games to look at.  Home and away.  One of TV and another in the flesh.  Premier grade and third grade.  A gap in the quality of the play, but not in the spirit.

 

 

Premier grade to start with.  Old Collegians are away to Souths.  Not an overly long road trip, but we have got a bit on this weekend and some late morning rain seals the deal.  Live stream action it is.

 

 

In fairness, the weekly live stream of a selected premier grade match is a rather good production, especially given it is not hidden behind a paywall.  Decent (informed) commentary, good camera work, replays.  It puts some rival codes to shame.

 

 

The downside is that we miss the thirds and reserve grade.  We make do with streaming the first half of Eastwood v Warringah on Stan.  It is the first Sydney club rugby I have watched since I saw the Canberra Kookaburras take on Randwick at Manuka Oval in 1995 in the pre-Super Rugby days.  Eastwood v the Rats is ok, but it is not quite the same as watching your own club in the flesh.  We also have to make do with toasted cheese and onion flake sandwiches in lieu of the club BBQ.  They are a fine substitute.

 

 

Old Collegians get off to a great start, with five points on the board after 25 seconds.  The new winger is Johnny (or Brian) on the spot to collect an errant pass from the Souths half back and stroll over untouched from 40 metres.  It is a stroke of good fortune.  The short ball was on, but the half put too much mustard on it.  If the pass was a touch better, it would have been five points the other way as the Souths centre was off and gone.  But it wasn’t.

 

 

The new winger is one of those stories you get in community sport.  Fitting sport around work commitments, he shows up at a training session, carves it up on the track, a run in reserve grade one week and premier grade the next.  His first touch in premier grade is the opposition half’s stray pass hitting him on the chest.  With his second touch, from the subsequent restart, he beats a couple of tacklers and runs the ball out of his own in-goal.  We are lauding this dynamic new winger until he tries to hurdle the one muddy patch on the whole ground at the 22 (faulty sprinkler?).  He clears it but pulls up short.  Just like that his day is over.

 

 

Old Colls backs were already under-manned from the start.  The fullback gets the vote as best player.  Initially named at outside centre on the Thursday, he dons the 15 jersey on the Saturday when the first-choice fullback is out.  He earns his keep with a hat-trick on tries and a slew of try-saving tackles.  You have to love it when a fullback inserts himself into the line and puts on a couple of cracking steps to score.  He does it again, and again.  Old Colls seem to have a decent backline on their books, they just need to get them all on the park at the same time.

 

 

The commentators liken the contest to a 15 versus 15 game of sevens!  Yet, there are still plenty of big hits from both sides.  This is not bruise-free rugby.  Souths like to play a quick game, but they have a few blokes that like to hit as well.  As the players get tired towards the end of the game, and the running and hits take a toll, the play can get a bit ragged.  But it is here that you see who is willing to put their body on the line.  When play is ragged and broken, we see who can find a way to get to the breakdown, who has the drive and the discipline to keep hunting the ball and backing up their teammates.

 

 

Neither side lets themselves down.  Old Colls keep coming but South defend gallantly.  It goes down to the wire.  Who will crack first, attackers or defenders?  A late penalty is given.  The Old Colls kick doesn’t find touch!  Did he bite off too much striving for more territory?  Now they are defending.  From attack to defence, and desperation opens up holes.  Time is expiring and the game feels lost.  The Souths hooker finds open space in the middle to go over under the posts with the final play.  Souths prevail 33 to 22.  So close yet so far in the end.

 

 

Our premier and reserve grades have a bye this week.  But our thirds and women are home to Barossa Rams.  It is a good day for rugby, cloudy and cool, not much breeze.  The senior players turn out in force to support their colleagues.

 

 

There is plenty at stake in the thirds.  Old Colls are reigning premiers and Barossa currently sit on top of the ladder.  We find a nice sideline position on the 22 line at the southern end.  The only problem is that the majority of first half play takes place inside the 22 at the northern end.  At ground level we spend of lot of time straining to look through, over, and around our fellow supporters on the touch line.  To make things worse it is Barossa that is doing all of the attacking!

 

 

Barossa make all of the play in the first half.  Old Colls can barely get their hands on the ball.  When they do, it comes in the form of desperate counter attacks, the ball is spread wide, the line broken, but the final pass continually doesn’t go to hand.  They need a chance to slow it down.  To go through a few phases and get some ball safely in their hands.  The one stroke of fortune is an Old Colls interception try against the run of play.  Outside of that, Old Colls don’t spend too much time in Barossa’s half.

 

 

Still, rugby is a game suited to poetic tales, and the game isn’t over until it’s over.  Old Colls find some more ball in the second half and make some inroads into Barossa’s advantage.  The young winger that just couldn’t get on the end of the passes in the first half, hangs on to the one ball that counts.  He reads a Barossa attack and juggles and interception.  Off he goes down the near touchline to run in the try from inside his own half.  Old Colls are in front, but Barossa are not done.

 

 

The final minutes are played inside Old Colls half.  Right in front of us and the bench.  When it really counts, we aren’t going to have to strain to watch.  There is tough defence.  Defenders hunt the ball and hit the body hard.  Barossa keep coming.  The Old Colls crowd are right in this, imploring the players to fire off the defensive line and shut down the attacks.  The players lift.  They just need to hold on.  Alas, Barossa will not be denied.  They come again and again.  The final play and a valiant goal line defence is breached.  Game over.  It is Barossa 29 to 26.  Well played.

 

 

A couple of weeks and a couple of nail-biting losses, but you cannot be unhappy with really good games of rugby.

 

 

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE

 

 

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Dour opener and close-checking fullback. Peaked early.

Comments

  1. Who’d have thought there’d be a Barossa Valley sports story – about rugby!

    May hear more about this brilliant thirds match in due course. The No. 7, out of France, makes great wine at Soul Growers.

  2. Loving your coverage, Greg! There’s nothing like sport at the grass roots level. I hope you can get back to the club bbq next week.

    And I’m with Harms – rugby in the Barossa: who’d a thunk it?

  3. Thanks gents.

    Barossa fielded teams in U12/14/16/18 Third Grade and Womens. They brought a fair travelling contingent.
    A good effort for a country region with so many Aussie rules and soccer options closer to home.
    There is also the lure of premier grade rugby just down the road at Elizabeth.

    Plus their thirds are still sitting top!

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Greg. Live streaming is a wonderful recent addition to local sport. Our cricket competition started streaming a match of the round each week in the recent season. Has created much interest. And it’s been easy for my club to grab the highlights for our our own YouTube channel.

    Really enjoying your club rugby stories. As someone who has just got back into local footy (Aussie Rules) this year can well relate to much of it despite the different code.

  5. Cheers Luke.

    Agree re: live streaming. I was able to watch my nephew bowl in an U-12 rep game over the summer, and go back and replay the highlights. The stream had most of the ‘bells and whistles’ of regular cricket coverage. It is a great initiative and a great tool.
    There is no photographic imagery of me on the sporting field in my youth let alone video footage to replay!

    My background is also in country footy, but I am finding that I can apply a lot of what I learned and witnessed there to the suburban rugby code. From juniors to seniors the club is very much ‘connected’ on game day.

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