Match Report – Parramatta v Eastern Suburbs First Grade – Merrylands RSL Rugby Park

The day started well with an emphatic win by Fourth Grade scoring a pushover try on the bell to win the game. The try was scored  in the south western club house corner of the oval after sustained pressure by the team for at least 15 phases of football.  The try took Parra Fourths to 33, Eastern Suburbs 27 after Parra had been trailing 27 to 26. The win brought spontaneous jubilation across the ground with spectators hugging each other and jumping for joy. The club song then resonated around the ground.  Sung twice, just to make the point. Third Grade played well but went down narrowly to Easts 17 Parra 12. Thirds aren’t far away from a win.

Second Grade came storming  home  after a slow start to the game where  Easts looked like they were going to run away with game and put on a big score. To Seconds’ credit Parra came back in the second half, scoring a great try early on and closing the gap.  Lock James Benton converted from the score board sideline 45 metres out.  Easts 24 to Parra’s 19.  After Parra  scored this great try Eastern Suburbs  hits back straight away through Wing Scott Ferris, son of Parra  premiership Captain Peter Ferris with a good run down the clubhouse sideline. Easts converts. Easts 31, Parra 19 after 50 minutes of play.

The question was asked , “Can we win this?” Hooker Sefo  Stefanao  answered this question with   stab kick into the Sponsor’s corner  with a Parra player grounding  the ball for a great try. Easts 31, Parra 24. Unfortunately Parra were subsequently then awarded to two penalties but we could not find touch, which took the pressure off Easts. Then when we were able to gain good field position we turned the ball over on our own line. This allowed Easts to get out of trouble and work the ball down-field. Easts were then able to score through their forwards near the posts. Easts 38, Parra 24 after the conversion.  Parra weren’t finished , however, as Easts  turned the ball over on the bell. Parra were able to regather and score through a pushover try. Great work! Lock James Benton converted with Parra gaining the extra bonus point. Easts 38, Parra 31.  Parra Seconds started slowly   but finished on fire. And, although it’s still not a win, there is still a lot of excitement over securing the “7 points or less” bonus point from the full-time, pressure, goal-kick.

It was now time for First Grade. [Apprentice’s Note: the Master’s confidence was dented when, limbering up to record the First Grade match, he thrust his hand into the ice bin, withdrew a can of Bundy and Coke and, mystifyingly to the Apprentice, cracked it, took a big swig, and choked. Turned out he was after a can of Solo. Just as well the Master didn’t have to distinguish between different shades of yellow on the field.]

The mighty Two Blues set up on the northern  end of the field waiting to receive the kick from Easts. Number 8 Tyrone Viiga takes the ball forward strongly. The first penalty goes to Parra on half way for Easts being offside. The first scrum is 10 metres out from Easts line on the clubhouse side. Our scrum wheels but we hold for another Parra put-in. The Parra scrum exerts   good pressure but we let Easts off with a turnover. Easts come down the western clubhouse side and score a controversial try in the Sponsor’s corner. Where’s the Bunker when you need it? I reckon the ball was held up. It makes no difference what I think! Easts 5, Parra 0. The conversion was unsuccessful after 10 minutes of play.

Parra has had the better part of the play but the score does not reflect this. Easts are penalised in front for not releasing. Parra look to takes the points. Not a good kick. Easts clear and are penalised again for not rolling away. Parra are going to take another kick at goal 5 metres further out after 15 minutes of play gone. A much better kick from our fly half Jarrod Nyssen.  Easts 5, Parra 3

Parra is definitely playing with more purpose and the scrum is much better this week. Easts have only been down our end twice but, on the second occasion, Easts score another try. Disappointing: it is far too easy for Easts. Turnstile tackling was being displayed by Parra. Easts 10, with the kick to come. This time the conversion is successful. Easts 12, Parra 3 after 22 minutes. Poor hands are causing turnovers. Parra receives a penalty for Easts not rolling away. We kick to the south west clubhouse corner.  Parra lineout 5 metres out.  Parra brings the ball down into a rolling maul. Hooker Aaron Blacklock scores a great pushover try. The kick is unsuccessful.  Easts 12, Parra 8.

The Parra improvement continues as our scrum dominates the Easts forwards up front. Easts are penalised for wheeling. Parra kick for touch.   We are awarded a scrum 5 metres out from Easts’ line and 5 metres in. There is an accidental offside as half Waldo Wessels runs into our own player. This may work to our advantage.  Easts pack down a scrum on the same spot. Easts kick for the line. Parra lineout on Easts 22. Parra are attacking Easts line 22 metre out.  It is only three minutes to half time.  Parra are penalised for not rolling away and Easts kick to the Sponsor’s corner.  A let-off for Parra as Easts line out throw is not straight. Half time score Easts 12, Parra 8.

Easts head to the change rooms as Parra go to the southern end of the field.  Our coaches talk about how Easts are trying to get on the outside us to run the ball. As a team we need to get off the ground and get to the play. Easts’ centre and fly-half are clutching their shoulders. We need to draw them in and run at them making good body contact. Our scrum is about attitude, you are doing well but we need to lift more. We need to clean out the ruck and take it to Easts. Go through them not around them.

Second half: Parra kick off and Easts turn the ball over. Parra are playing with enthusiasm as the first penalty of the second half goes to Parra for Easts not releasing. Fly half Jarrod kicks for goal. The football gods aren’t with us as the ball is waved away. Eastern Suburbs 22 metre drop-kick.  Wing Robbie Duff drops the ball cold for an Easts Scrum.  Rob is really shirty with himself. From the scrum Easts turn the ball over and Parra stream towards the try line. The Easts’ half is yellow carded for holding down. This is our time but we turn the ball over. Easts scrum as they receive instructions from the Easts’ water boy.  Kohli, the Indian cricket captain would have something to say about this. It’s very unsportsmanlike! Parra are all over Easts in their red zone. Easts work to half-way. I can’t but think we are going to be punished soon as we are playing so well. And I’m right: that’s better Easts, as Easts receive a penalty in front of the sticks. Easts convert the penalty goal. Easts 15, Parra 8.

On the kick return Easts try to run the ball out from their line.  Hooker Aaron Blacklock has different idea as he powers into the ruck and causing the turnover.  Aaron has excellent upper body strength. The ball goes left to the Sponsor’s corner. Full back Sam Hayward scores as he drives through the ruck on the line. Easts 15, Parra 13. The conversion is unsuccessful. Recently appointed Two Blues’ Board member Sean Duff perceptively observes that fly half Jarrod Nyssen “is kicking well, but missing them!” (Apparently a stylish Irish insult is to say of a player that he has his father’s cooking and his mother’s kicking.)

From the kick return Parra are again down in Easts red zone as flanker  Adrian Musico  charges down  the Easts’ half’s clearing kick.  Adrian picks the ball up and passes to Aaron Blacklock who streaks to the line to score besides the post. Fly Jarrod Nyssen converts. Parra 20, Easts 15 with 10 minutes to go.  Can we do it?

The kick return witnesses Parra being penalised for not releasing.  Easts kick to the western corner. Easts lineout as Easts probe our line 5 metres out. The Parra winger saves the day with a classic ball and all cover tackle.  Parra line out but we knock-on 5 metres out. The troops are now being rotated as prop Daniel Arona replaces Brendan Crosilla. ‘ Hinny’  to  his mates.  Easts scrum as they attack and are held up over the line. Our scrum was strong early on but we have seemed to have regressed. Easts attack our line and the Easts player is held up.  Parra are awarded the scrum in front of our posts. A reprieve for us!  Now to get out of our red zone.

Parra are playing with passion as Easts replace their damaged players. Parra scrum and put in on half way 10 metres in from the clubhouse.  Parra dominate the scrum and are awarded a penalty. Parra kick for line. Parra lineout on Easts’ 22, clubhouse side. But we lose the lineout. Easts scrum on their 22m. Why aren’t I confident of a win? Because we know who we are, and anything is possible both negative and positive? We need a big scrum Parra. Easts run the ball left then right to the south west corner. Easts score on the corner post. Parra 20, Easts 20 with the kick to come. It was a beautiful kick but fortunately missed with 3 minutes to go. Parra get the ball and take it forward and we are again penalised. Easts kick deep and from the ensuing line out scores in the southern scoreboard corner. The football gods have really deserted us as Easts converts the try from 45 metres out. Easts 37, Parra 20.  Unbelievable!  Then if that’s not bad enough Easts run the ball back from the kick return for another try on the death. There are Parra players down all over the place.  We have capitulated!  Even losing the bonus point. Easts convert from the sideline again. Final score Easts 34, Parra 20.

Being ahead by 5 in the last 10 minutes and behind by 17 at full-time must be some sort of record, although not one you’d want, and this made an exciting and well-matched contest look much more one-sided than it really was. [Apprentice’s Note: other bonuses were the Master’s practical lesson on how to tell Bundy from Solo, and Sean Duff’s valuable suggestion that beauty, arc and symmetry of a kick should be worth something, even if the ball doesn’t actually make it over the crossbar and between the uprights. The AFL “behind” is a score for missing, so there’s a precedent; and the name already suggests itself: a “duff”. Worth raising with the IRB?]

Anyhow congratulations Easts: you showed us what good teams can do when you back yourself!  Parra, it was a heartbreaking finish and we will all rue the one that got away. I am disappointed but I can’t be critical as you all improved and you brought the spectators to their feet. Bring on the Marlins!