Match Report – Parramatta v Southern Districts First Grade – Forshaw Rugby Park

As everyone knows, everything is different in the Shire. And here we are in the heart of it, just a dozen yacht-lengths away from Sylvania Waters. As the small but valiant band of Parramatta supporters settle in to watch the First Grade match, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison strides past, headed in the direction of the Southern Districts’ corporate supporters box. None of your common-or-garden backbenchers around here.

In the lower grades, Fourths have got a win, as have Firsts Colts – a particularly pleasing result.

Parramatta kick off toward the southern end of the ground, and Southern Districts immediately gain 70 metres of ground through a long and well aimed kick. And, not quite within the first minute but before 90 seconds have elapsed, Southern Districts have scored their first try, and converted it from the sideline. ScoMo is still settling into his seat, and the score is 0-7.

From the restart, we fumble the return kick, with the ball going backwards, but, just to make sure, the ball is nudged forward by the player, and Southern Districts are again in possession, and score another try. This time the conversion is much easier, from directly in front, and with five minutes gone it’s 0-14. However for the first time we get more than about two phases in attack, and, after some pick and drive, David Lolohea barges over. Jaline Graham’s kick is successful, and it’s 7-14.

A measure of composure seems now to have descended over the Two Blues, who have leaked 14 points in the first five minutes, but Southern Districts are relentless in attack, with their number 11 in particular repeatedly breaking the line. And, with 20 minutes gone, the Rebels win a scrum and go in again under the posts. With the conversion, 7-21.

Shortly afterwards, Parramatta re-group and get a penalty about 30 metres out straight in front of the sticks, but Jaline Graham’s kick inexplicably goes wide. The boys continue to try, but it’s hard to resist the pressure from Southern Districts, who are moving the ball around, especially to a couple of runners with great penetration. With 30 minutes gone, Southern Districts have their fourth try, in the north-east corner, although the conversion attempt hits the post. 7-26. And a couple of minutes after, with the Parramatta defence clustered on the eastern side of the field, Southern Districts fling a long pass to a player on the other side with no marker in sight. Although the conversion attempt is from the sidelines, the Rebels’ kicker makes no mistake, and it’s 7-33.

We are not doing too badly at the breakdown, and getting a couple of turnovers, but we don’t seem to be able to hang on to the ball for any period of time. Nonetheless, as half-time approaches, the boys keep up the pressure and Sam Hayward dives over. The conversion attempt however hits the post, and the teams go in at half time 12-33.

As has been said, things are different in the Shire. It’s announced that the Federal Treasurer will be drawing the raffle and, shortly afterward at the end of the half-time break, a rainbow appears, though it hasn’t actually been raining. Whether this bit of magic is just the sort of thing that happens in the Shire all the time, or whether it’s a sign that the prize in the raffle is a tax cut, is not clear.

Second half, with Southern Districts kicking off. The boys start strongly, with Sam Hayward making a great break, and captain Andrew Cox securing an important penalty. From a lineout 20 metres from the Southern Districts line, Parra spread the ball and David Lolohea goes in again. He obviously hasn’t been taught that the wingers are supposed to score the tries. Joey Leatigaga converts, and it’s 19-33 with five gone. However the joy is shortlived, with Southern Districts striking back about a minute later take the score to 19-40. But the Rebels knock on from the restart, to loud cheering from modest but vocal knot of Parramatta supporters surrounded by a sea of Southern Districts fans. Possibly by way of retaliation, the group of the Rebels’ supporters start singing On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at, a Rugby song the Apprentice hasn’t heard for forty years, and never really understood anyhow.

The boys have periods when they comfortably hold their own, and in the mid-part of the second half the boys are matching it with Southern Districts, especially in the scrum. The Apprentice is particularly impressed with a passage of play in which the boys, holding onto the ball with great aplomb, actually move backwards about fifteen metres before moving forward again, a bit like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. However pressure does not turn into points and, with about 20 minutes gone, Southern Districts score again, although without converting the try: 19-45. Shortly afterward, however, the boys’ repeated efforts bear fruit, and Robert Duff dashes over for a try. It’s a difficult kick, and goes wide; but it’s the fourth try and has earned a bonus point. 24-45.

The boys produce moments of individual brilliance, but too often followed by an avoidable mistake. The kick downfield which does not even appear to be aimed at the sideline is starting to reappear, giving possession back to the opposition.

In the grandstand, the contest is also in full swing. In response to President Brian’s roar of “keep him onside, ref!” a Rebels supporter  yells “he’s been onside all day”, to which Brian fires back, just as loudly “no he hasn’t!!”. The speed and strength of Brian’s retort apparently surprises the supporter and seems to silence him, and to generate a few chuckles among his mates.

Although Parramatta has produced a lot of last-minute scrambling defence, boys can’t stop everything and, in the last seven minutes of the match, Southern Districts produce another two converted tries, taking the final score to 24-59.

It’s fair to say that the boys, although certainly not disgracing themselves, have been outgunned by an outfit with too much speed and strength out wide. The bonus point is however a bit of consolation. Next week, away again (although not quite as far), when we take on Uni.

The Apprentice