Parramatta First Grade verse Penrith, 8th July at Nepean Rugby Park

History could be made today as the Penrith Emu’s look for their first win of the season. It is Back to Penrith Day and there is lot of emotion in the air. Penrith got pipped on the post by Gordon last week and their first round loss  to Parra was very close. Julian Huxley Penrith’s Coach has also been interviewed on Rugby News and there have been emotional speeches posted on Facebook. Even Sampson flanker Adrian Musico’s dog received a mention again. Parra are looking at a hiding to nothing. The match is also being called by Hawkesbury Radio who is also pro Penrith.

As I walk in to watch Reserves it was not hard to notice that James Benton is playing fly half in Two’s. Not bad when he started out in the juniors as a prop and has been playing in the second row for Parra. This means there has been a shuffling of players in firsts. Fly half Sam Hayward is out. Tui Fassisilla is playing inside centre. Tui runs straight and hard. Johnny Poe is at fly half, Josh Tupuola is at outside centre and Robert Duff is at wing along with new recruit Zakir Slaimankhel. All fascinating!

Parra takes the field first and are running south. The old boys are singing Emu’s, Emu’s, Emu’s as Penrith run on to the pitch to take the kick. Penrith are looking very formidable with their halves looking sharp. Captain Cox takes the ball on the full and steams up the field. Fly half John kicks to the sideline. Penrith look like they are searching for the corners. Parra lineout on Parra’s 22 on the western sideline. Scrappy play as the ref calls a scrum and Penrith are penalised. Parra tap and run and hooker Aaron Blacklock is put through the gap with a great ball from Captain Andrew Cox. Aaron has a good turn of speed but no one is with him as he covers 40 metres. Aaron then puts in a deft kick to the sideline as Penrith coral him. Parra has started well.

Turnover, lock Michael Ross losses the ball forward. Penrith run the ball back at Parra as the Penrith half runs 40 metres and is brought down by wing Robert Duff with a great ball and all tackle. Robert stopped a certain try.  Parra are penalised for not releasing the player. Penrith take the scrum. They must not be confident in their lineout. Parra are again penalised for Parra offside. Penrith take the scrum once again 10 metres out. Penrith put on an 8 man shove. The crowd goes ballistic as Penrith score in the north eastern corner. The conversion is unsuccessful from 23 metres out. Penrith 5, Parra 0 after 12 minutes of play.

From the kick return Penrith take the ball down and spread right putting in a grubber kick for their wing. Prop David Lolohea does a down up ball and runs straight back at Penrith. David sets the ruck and the ball goes right only for lock Seva Domoni to spill the ball forward. Penrith scrum on our 30 metre on the eastern side.  Penrith spread left but they throw a loose pass as our centre Josh Tupulola sprints forward picking up ball and passing to wing Zakir Slaimankhel who sprints 50 metres to score in the right hand western corner. Great try! Full back Hayden Coles kick is unsuccessful. Parra 5, Penrith 5.

Coxie takes the ball from the restart, the ball goes to lock Michael Ross who takes the ball forward and sets the ruck. Lock Seva picks up the ball and runs into open space picking up flanker Adrian Musico who sprints for the line. He is forced down and flicks the ball to wing Zakir. Zakir passes to Seva who pucks the ball from his ankle straps and the ball goes to the left. Brilliant play the whole team is involved. Parra scrum 15 metres out from the Penrith line. The ball goes right from Waldo to Johnny Poe. Centre Tui runs the decoy and Johnny passes inside to wing Robert Duff. Robert is caught and passes to Johnny Poe who puts wing Zakir into the gap and Zakir scores his second try wide out wide. Full back Hayden then converts from the sideline. Parra 12, Penrith 5.

The game is see-sawing. Parra are playing well but it is the simple mistakes that are a concern.   Wing Zakir takes a mark and then taps and passes to fly John. John has the distance but does not find touch.  Penrith put up a mid-filed bomb which is totally stupid. Unfortunately for us the Penrith fullback chases the ball like a drovers dog and plucks the ball virtually from fullback Hayden’s grasp passing to his wing who is not short of pace and scores in the north eastern corner. Maybe it wasn’t that stupid. Penrith converts and the game is locked at 12 all after 25 minutes of play.

Over the next 15 minutes we witness both Penrith and Parra trading the ball with no real direction. Both are kicking hap hazardly. Finally Parra give away a penalty in front of our posts for being off our feet. Penrith take the penalty kick. Penrith 15, Parra 12. Penrith receive Johnny Poe’s kick and automatically put up a high kick to fullback Hayden Cole who runs elusively back into the Penrith half for 30 metres. The Penrith number 8 is yellow carded for a shoulder charge on Hayden.

Half time sees hooker Aaron Blacklock replaced with Sefo Setefano.  Aaron was going well and I would have used Sefo later in the game when the big Penrith forwards were tiring. Parra kick off to Penrith who immediately bring it back into Parra’s half after a number of phases. Penrith are pressing our line when the first penalty of the second session goes to Parra for Penrith not rolling away from the ball.  Parra kicks deep but Penrith come back with a number of runs up the centre. They eventually go left to the south western corner where they knock on with the line wide open. From the scrum Johnny Poe kicks for line for a Penrith lineout. Penrith spread right and the ball goes to ground and wing Zakir toes it through regathering and passing to flanker Dan Tamone who is in support. It then goes to wing to Robert Duff who steps back inside to be tackled short of the line. The advantage rule applies as Penrith are penalised for offside and Parra kick for the lineout on the eastern sideline 5 metres out. Prop Nigel Vaifale knocks as he steam rolls into the Penrith forwards from the lineout.

Penrith lineout and they fine touch on their 15 metres out on the eastern side for a Parra ball. Parra brings the ball down through Dan Tamone and Coxie scores a soft try. However, the ref has his arm up for an obstruction. I’ll need a clarification on this one. If Coxie stays bounds it’s a try if, he breaks loose its obstruction? Penrith kick for line and in a first for Parramatta we actually win Penrith’s ball through lock Michael Ross tapping the ball down to hooker Sefo. Half Waldo spins the ball left after I don’t know how many phase of play big lock Michael Ross unloads to flanker Adrian Musico who scores beside the posts. Hayden converts . Parra 19, Penrith 15 after 15 minutes of the second half.

Parra’s lead is short lived. From the kick restart we try to work it out of our half. Half Waldo on the eastern sideline passes to inside centre Tui who at a explicable moment falls over on the greasy field. The Penrith winger swoops like a thief in the night catching the ball on a half-volley and sprints to the line.  The conversion is unsuccessful. The lead has changed 5 times. Penrith 20, Parra 19. Prop Nigel is replaced by Brendan Crosilla. Penrith are penalised for offside at play the ball. Penrith are becoming lazy. Parra kick for the lineout on the eastern touch corner. Lock Seva brings the ball down from the lineout and we turn the lineout into a rolling mall.  Prop David breaks form the maul and sets up for an inside pass form half Waldo. David is just short of the line and lays the ball back. There is a penalty advantage as we spread the ball left an inside centre Tui runs straight and hard. He is centimetres away from scoring as flanker Dan Tamone picks up the ball and crashes over. Hayden converts Parra 26, Penrith 20 after 22 minutes of play in the second half.

The kick return witnesses lock Seva goes high and propels the ball forward. Penrith scrum on the 30 metre. Try scorer Dan Tamone has been replaced by Tyrone Viiga. Penrith knock on for a Parra scrum. Fly John kicks deep and Parra follow through. Prop Brendan is penalised for an offside position. Penrith kick to our 22 for a Penrith lineout. Penrith spin the ball right with quick hands and their winger score his third try after 2 turn style tackles. Penrith convert.  Parra 26, Penrith 25. With 10 minutes remaining of play. Penrith camp in Parra’s red zone as both sides turn the ball over 3 times each. Eventually Parra from this scrappy play gives a penalty away for not releasing the ball. Penrith opts for the penalty kick just left of the left upright. Penrith covert Penrith 28 Parra, 26 with 5 minutes to go.

From the kick restart Penrith bring the ball forward to the half way and then knock on for a Parra scrum. Parra attack for 13 phases of play before Penrith steal the ball close to their try line. Brilliant play by Parra! Everybody put their bodies on the line. Lock Seva burrows into the ruck as he drives through the ball comes back to the Parra side. Half Waldo passes left as Parra attack the line. After 6 phases the man who started the play, Seva scores a great team try next to the posts. The Penrith hearts are broken as fullback Hayden converts the try with 3 minutes left on the clock.

Penrith kick deep for the restart. I would have thought that the kick should have been short so Penrith could get the ball back. The ball is taken by fly Johnny. The team has been instructed by Captain Cox that we are going to keep the ball and take the ball up to Penrith so there is no chances of a run a way try.

The boys keep the ball alive for 6 phases before Penrith are penalised for offside play while trying to get the ball back. Half Waldo taps the ball and then kicks the ball out. Parra win and Penrith rue another loss. It was an excellent game of football. To our boys you have brought discipline back into our game. All it is patience and belief in yourself. We are developing as a group of players. Proud of you!

My man of the match goes to Coxie who led from the front. He kept his hand the rudder and never panicked. Coxie took the majority of the kick offs and was as safe as the Bank of England. Congratulations on a well-deserved win boys.

Randwick is going to be a different game. You need to control the game and not give the ball up without a fight. Nowhere in the rule book does it say you have to give the opposition the ball. Keep possession for the full 80 minutes. Value the ball like it’s your own life. Bring on Randwick. See you at Coogee.