Match Report – Parramatta v Gordon First Grade – Chatswood Oval

Yet another beautiful day for Rugby, with a small but vocal crowd of Two Blues supporters in the grandstand, with hopes high for a reversal of fortunes. However also a dog day afternoon – at least as far as Samson the Swiss Shepherd was concerned. But more of that later.

Overall, though, not a bad day. We prevailed in all three grades of Colts, and Seconds have come home with a wet sail. Twenty points down with twenty minutes to go, they have pegged Gordon back: five points down; five minutes to go. Almost a pushover try, and a try would have achieved a draw, conversion or no conversion. But it wasn’t to be: 45-40 in favour of Gordon at full-time.   And so on to Firsts.

Parra kick off and, in what may well be a world record, Gordon score a try between the posts. The ref was still putting his whistle back in his pocket. Best guess seven seconds. With the easy conversion, 0-7. An unseen dog goes crazy – a Gordon supporter, I assumed. (Later, this dog turned out to be Samson: owned and only barely controlled by Adrian Musico’s father Tony. Samson wasn’t a Gordon supporter: he just loves football.)

On the restart, Gordon kick, Jonathan Malo takes the ball well, and Parra move the ball upfield, but again lose it through poor ball control. Gordon kicks again, Parra wins the lineout 15 metres out; the boys build the pressure, and Robert Duff goes over to score Parramatta’s first try. Jonathon steers a difficult conversion over from the sideline: 7-7.

From the restart, Gordon knock on, the boys take the ball upfield, spread it wide, and another great try, this time through Jonathan. However he can’t convert: 12-7, and just over ten minutes gone.

After the restart, Parra kick long but not out, and Gordon carry the ball back. But there’s a turnover, and again Parramatta is pressing on Gordon’s 22. Senio Toleafoa takes the ball up the middle, but loses it. From scrum Gordon takes the play back up into Parramatta’s territory. Gordon attempt a sideline kick that goes into the in-goal, well caught by a Parra player who looked as though he was taken in the air, but no penalty. Gordon regain posession and, despite desperate defence from Parra, score a try in the far corner. The conversion attempt almost a daisy-cutter: low and to the left of the posts . The scores are level at 12-12, and 25 minutes gone.

Parra again take the ball up in attack, spreading it, but the final pass goes over the sideline without a player within two metres of it. Gordon regain possession and again score in the near corner. This time the conversion attempt at least gets off the runway and isn’t quite as far wide as the previous attempt, but still misses, Now it’s 12-17. Once again Parra has been punished for an error.

This time Parra try the short kick-off, and nearly regain it but knock it on. From the scrum Gordon get a penalty and kick out. Gordon botches the lineout, but Parra can’t control the ball.

During the last ten minutes of the first half, Parra mount two or three good attacking moves, but each of them breaks down through poor handling. Eventually, with Gordon in possession from one of these errors, they again spread the ball wide and score in the corner. Samson, clearly not too fussed about which team he supports, woofs his appreciation. Again Gordon misses the conversion: 12-22. And, despite a good run in the ensuing play by Larry Hermens, that’s the half-time score.

The Master is flying out tomorrow for Sweden, then on to Russia to try to smooth things over with Vladimir Putin. As the Apprentice walks past on the way to much-needed a refill the Master, relieved of match reporting duties, smiles a beneficent, Buddha-like, smile.

Second half, and Parra turn it on with continuing attack with too many phases to count. Senio, David Lolohea, Robert, Dan Tomone are all involved and eventually the pressure tells and Larry goes in under the posts: with the conversion, 19-22.

However Parra can’t keep it up, lose possession from the restart through a bad error, and are only saved from being punished on the scoreboard by a forward pass from Gordon. Parra regroup, resisting the Gordon pressure, but after a while a Gordon player runs onto a good pass and scores another try. This time the goalkicking is a bit better, and the score is 19-29.

Again Parra are creating opportunities, but can’t finish off. With about 20 minutes gone in the second half, another great backline movement breaks down with another pass thrown over the sideline to an imaginary player. And the next time Parramatta attack breaks down through a turnover, Gordon score again, this time under the posts, giving another conversion: now 19-36.

The boys don’t give up, keep moving the play forward, and keep moving the ball wide. Eventually it all works, and Sam Hayward goes in for the bonus point try. However the conversion is wide: 24-36. Although the boys are keeping the pressure up, with about five minutes to go, again the turnover, with Gordon spreading it wide for another try. Although the try is not converted, this is the nail in the coffin: 24-41 with less than five minutes to go. However something seems to spark the Two Blues and, in the shadows of full time, they produce two unconverted tries to take the final score to 34-41. Another sombre note was a knee injury to Aaron Blacklock, seriousness unknown at the time of writing.

What to say? Parra created plenty of opportunities. There’s plenty of heart. But the tendency to push the pass in the quest for glory so often leads to error. Sometimes, this just means the loss of a scoring opportunity. But sometimes it’s worse: an error while the boys are in an attacking structure means disorganised defence and, if the opposition latch onto the ball, every now and then, a try. The double whammy.

The boys, as usual, never gave up.  President Brian’s Free Sideline Advice for Referees service was in full swing, and his wife Jenny was offering encouragement to the boys, sometimes at frequencies only Samson could hear.

The Apprentice’s spirits were slightly buoyed when, after the game, a Gordon supporter sitting nearby asked if I was a member of the Referees Appointment Board. My slightly judicial appearance occasionally prompts questions of this kind, but it turned out that my concentration, and furious scribbling on sheets of lined paper, had led him to an erroneous conclusion.

And Samson? He was just happy that he’d been at the game. He busted a few moves on the Oval afterward to show his appreciation.

The Apprentice