Match Report – Parramatta v Randwick First Grade – Merrylands RSL Rugby Park

Another beautiful day for Rugby, and a better day for the Master, Thommo, because it’s Back to Parramatta Day.

Not only does the Master play a huge role in organising BTP Day, but this year, after 40 years, he’s brought together many of the 1977 Premiership-winning side. Together with Club Patron, oldest living Wallaby and all-round legend Eric Tweedale, they’re forming the tunnel as the First Grade side led by captain Andrew Cox takes the field.

Randwick kicks off, heading south, but the Two Blues return the kick and Randwick regains possession, spreading the ball wide, as they are to do throughout the whole match. With the benefit of blatant forward pass, thrown to avoid a Two Blues tackle, Randwick in the near corner. The try is converted, Randwick ahead seven-nil, with less than five Minutes gone. A Board member who will remain nameless (because he’s the Club President) reckons the pass was three metres forward. After being taken to task by a Club stalwart who will remain nameless (because she’s his wife) he’s lowered the volume of his sideline free advice to referees, but compensated by turning up the dial on the size of the error.

After the restart, the Two Blues get a penalty. We win our lineout 40 metres from the Randwick line, and lose the ball through scrappy play, but get a penalty, so with the goal we’re on the board: 3-8.

But we can’t seem to hang onto the ball, and, after the restart, turn it over, and again Randwick’s away down the clubhouse side, bolting in another try. Less than 10 min gone score is 3-12, but this time Randwick can’t convert.

In possession again, Randwick’s following their formula of spreading the ball wide to the backs. But when we regain possession, we knuckle down through a lot of phases. The boys are hanging onto the ball and working hard, but there’s not much go-forward. Eventually we turn the ball over and Randwick are away down the far side, for another try. In Randwick can’t convert: 3-15.

After a long kickoff we get the ball back again, but what would have been a good kick to gain field position is knocked back into the field of play by a Randwick back who must have been about a metre the wrong side of the touchline. This time the Two Blues are close to the Randwick line. Our scrum holds and we get a penalty and a lineout which we win and tried to go down the short side. Other scrum and another lineout to us, but unfortunately we knock on with the line in sight. A lot of effort for little return.

And Randwick are punishing us. It seems that Randwick inflict pain by scoring quickly after the Two Blues have lost the ball after a lot of good work. Randwick can’t convert and, with 25 minutes gone score is 3-22.

The boys regroup, working hard close to the Randwick line, and keeping the pressure on. The problem is that we just can’t penetrate, although Larry Hermens is doing his level best to inject spark into the back line. Aaron Blacklock, who is always in the thick of things, has to come off injured.

Finally, couple of minutes short of halftime, Robert Duff, following some great lead-up work by Tyrone Viiga,  goes over in south-eastern corner, but the conversion attempt goes wide. Although it’s nearly halftime, boys keep the pressure on and are rewarded with a try right on half time; this time by Waldo Wessels under the posts. After strong efforts from David Lolohea, Randwick can’t secure the ball, and Waldo dives on it. The conversion by Johnathon Malo is successful, at half time we trail by 15-22.

Half-time, and the Master has other official duties out on the hallowed turf, acknowledging both Eric and number of former Club Presidents, who have been specially invited for Back To Parramatta Day.

In the second half, the pattern seems to repeat, with the boys holding the ball for a number of phases, but without any reward on the scoreboard. However they seem to have got their second wind, and are competing strongly with Randwick, keeping their line intact, although occasionally disappointing losing our own lineouts, and with them scoring chances.

However the organisation of the Randwick machine is starting to take its toll. This isn’t helped by missed tackles: frequently two or three attempts are needed bringing an attacking Randwick player down. And, with a bit over 20 minutes left to go in the second half, Randwick scores three tries within the space of about seven minutes. Although these are all backline tries scored in the corner, the Randwick conversion rate improves, and two of the tries are converted. Quickly the score has gone from 15-22 to 15-41, and the game has slipped away. And, with about five minutes left to go, Randwick score another converted try take the score to 15-48.

However, as always, the boys never say die, and with a couple of minutes left to go the urgency level  increases, propelled by a lot of yelling and cheering from the grandstand and the sponsors’ box. The full-time bell has just died away when Parramatta, who have thrown everything at this, go in again through Tyrone Viiga. With the conversion all-time score is 22-48.

What to say?

First, Randwick were clinical and precisely-drilled. No tries through the forwards here. Everything out to the backline; each player coming up at just the right pace; no cut-out passes; no fancy stuff. In theory predictability is bad, but when it works this smoothly, so what?

Second, Parra scored twice in the shadows of half-time, to come within a converted try of Randwick. We were in the game at that point. Scoring just before half-time should bring momentum, and maybe it did because the boys held Randwick out for the first fifteen minutes of the second half. But at the end of the day, Randwick were just too good.

We’ve had a tough schedule at the start of this season, and it doesn’t get any easier, up against the reigning Premiers Northern Suburbs at home next week. But, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!

The Apprentice