Parramatta  v Northern Suburbs, 22nd July, 2017, Merrylands RSL Rugby Park.

Today Parramatta and Norths play for the Rod Phelps Cup. Rod played for both clubs in the 1960s and 70s. He was also captain coach of Norths and Parramatta. Rod is true believer of the Shute shield having won 2 premierships at Sydney University and a premiership with Northern Suburbs.  Rod coached Parramatta to 2 premiership grand finals in 1974 and 1975. The Parramatta team going down to Northern Suburbs 1975, 9-6 in a penalty only game.  Rod a played 6 years for Norths and then 6 years for Parramatta. It was Rod, along with Club patron Eric Tweedale, who initiated the Parramatta Juniors and put Parramatta on its course to its first premiership in 1977 coached by Peter “Fab” Fenton. Rod played 22 tests for Australia. Rod is a true gentleman of the game of rugby and refused to be lured by the professional code.

The match starts. Norths are running north and take the kick. Parra kick through and Norths quickly return the kick to our fly half Puka Malo who puts up a mid-field bomb and chases. Puka nearly regathers but the Norths number 8 virtually snatches the ball out of Puka’s hands. Norths spread right and score after 2 minutes in the north eastern corner. Norths 5, Parra 0. The conversion is unsuccessful. The kick restart witnesses Robert Duff taking the high ball and running it up to Norths. Robert is still driving forward when he is penalised for not releasing. First penalty to Norths. Norths’ kick for the line and from the lineout take the ball forward. Centre Sam Hayward is penalised for a high tackle. It looked alright to me. The player still had his head and he was tackled around the shoulders. Maybe it was the facial he received. Norths take the penalty conversion. Norths 8, Parra 0.

The kick return, and Norths take the ball and bring it forward. Coxie takes the man as he bounces off he is deflected into a lazy arm tackle from prop Nigel Vaifale. It is a nothing and Nigel receives a yellow card. Amazing! We can’t get the rub of the green. Norths kick deep and Parra are defending well as Norths spread the ball left with wide passes. In the final pass is given wing Josh Tupuola puts is hand out and knocks the ball forward. The ref awards a penalty and yellow cards Josh for a deliberate knock down. Come on ref, at worst it’s a penalty. Talk about giving Norths a leg up. Where are Norths coming ? Fourth or something and we are 11th? Give us a break! Thirteen men against 15. Real fair! After 9 minutes of play. From the penalty line out Norths spread left and Parra hold the man up. It should be a penalty to us. Use or lose it! The ref awards a Norths’ scrum. Prop Brendan Crosilla replaces Riley Jacobsen while Nigel is in the bin. From the scrum Norths spread left and nearly fall over while scoring the try next to the posts. Norths convert. Norths 15, Parra 0.

From the restart Norths take the ball forward then spread left with wide passes. We have only 13 men as Norths run the down the sideline. I believe there is a hint of a forward pass as the left winger races down and cuts in passing to the North’s half. The conversion is successful. Norths 22, Parra 0 after13 minutes of play.

The restart kick witnesses Norths’ flanker penalised for offside. Parra kick to the eastern sideline for a lineout. Nigel and Dan Tamone are back. Parra turns the ball over after 5 phases of play. Norths kick deep to Parra’s 22 metre. Parra ball as half Waldo Wessels does a box kick. Norths run the ball back left and then the Norths’ fly half puts in a chip kick. The ball finds the Norths number 8 who scores.  Unbelievable! If we kicked we would be punished with a try. North’s are running with confidence and it is all coming off. The conversion is successful. North’s 29, Parra 0 after 20 minutes of play.

Parra from the kick restart are dominating and complete 6 phases of play until centre Sam is caught at the bottom of the ruck. We are penalised for not releasing the ball. Norths are killing the ruck and we are penalised as we go forward! Norths kick to our 22 on the western side. Norths are just playing touch football with us as they move the ball both right and left before they score. Too easy, nobody to blame here. The conversion is unsuccessful. Norths 34, Parra 0.

Norths’ next try is just about sustained pressure and backing up. Parra held the ball for at least 10 phases of play before we kick.  Fortunately Parra follows through and we able to force a turnover. Half Waldo grubber kicks to the western side line to find touch. Unfortunately the ball didn’t go out allowing Norths to mount a counter attack. Norths’ number 8 is able to break our line with a good run. Parra don’t number up and Norths play touch football until they score. Norths converts. Norths 41, Parra 0. From the kick return Parra are penalised again for offside. Nothing is going our way. Norths never released the ball or rolled away. The next penalty Nick Blacklock takes the ball forward through the ruck and puts the ball between his legs. Parra again is penalised for not releasing. Parra defend valiantly but the weight of possession by Norths eventually means  Norths are able score again through very good line speed. The conversion is unsuccessful. North’s 46, Parra 0 with 2 minutes to go to half time

The kick return witnesses Norths’ controlling the ball really well and being able to change the direction of attack from one side to the other. Parra are eventually outnumbered again and Norths score out wide in the north eastern corner Norths are unsuccessful with the conversion. Norths 51, Parra 0.  The half time score, signals it’s going to be a long day at the office. The rub of the green has not gone with us and Norths’ line speed is ripping us apart. Everything they do sticks and makes us look pedestrian. It is going to be a cricket score if we don’t muscle up. Hooker Nick Blacklock has been replaced by Brendan Crosilla.

Second half, and Parra kick off north and we are all over Norths like a rash with some very good play. Parra swing the ball both left and right driving to North’s line. Parra are awarded the first penalty of the second half for Norths being offside.  Parra attacks the line through prop Nigel Vaifale. We swing the ball left and the boy’s efforts are awarded with another penalty.  Norths were offside 5 metres out on the left of the goal posts. Parra take the scrum. Half Waldo goes left and passes to fly half Puka Malo who darts forward passing to centre Robert Duff who powers to the try line. Great work boys! Great try! Fullback Hayden Cole converts with his lucky white sock. North’s 51, Parra 7.

From the kick return Parra display enterprising football trying to get out of our own 22.  Eventually Parra is able kick deep into touch on the eastern touch line. However, Parra do not chase the ball. The Norths’ winger throws in a quick ball and Norths run back at us down the short side scoring in the south eastern corner. Unbelievable! Norths have so much confidence in running the ball. Norths convert. Norths 58, Parra 7. The restart of play witnesses Parra camp in Norths 22 for 12 phases of football. Great work as we finally turn the ball over Norths kick into our 22. Parra is then able force its own turnover and kick deep. Parra are applying the pressure however, we knock on for Norths’ scrum on North’s 10 metre. Hooker Sefo Setefano replaces Bredan Crosilla. Parra are penalised for offside play and North’s kick to the eastern touch.  It is caught by wing Josh Tupuola on the full and brought back. North are penalised for a high tackle on lock Michael Ross. Parra win the penalty lineout and charge Norths’ line with some very good play. Fullback Hayden puts in a grubber kick with Norths forcing the ball for a 22 kick. Parra bring the ball back through the forwards with hooker Sefo making some good gains as the forwards hit the ball up through the centre of the field. Full back Hayden Cole is standing shallow of the back of the ruck as half Waldo gives Hayden a short ball.  Hayden accelerates through the centre of Norths team and scores under the posts. Hayden converts his own try. North’s 58, Parra 14 with 20 minutes of play left. Well done boys a great try. Both our tries have been very good.

Norths kick out on the full for a Parra scrum on half way. Parra takes on Norths with great recycled ball. We then turn the ball over with a stab kick to the in goal. Parra are penalised for offside for a Norths lineout on half way. Norths come back left and are very good at setting up the inside man when they get to the fringes. Norths then set and go again. Parra force the turn over and take the ball back at Norths.  Parra kick through again and Norths are given the ball which is then followed by a penalty for Parra being offside. There is 15 minutes of play left. Norths take the scrum 5 metres out. Norths kick through into the in goal and the ball is grounded by flanker Dan Tamone.  Parra kick out from the 22 and Norths run it back us as prop Nick Blacklock makes a great tackle. I can’t work out what Nick has done. It didn’t look high but the Ref pulls out a yellow card. This is our third innocuous card. Nick hobbles off with a hamstring injury. Norths kick for touch 5 metres out on the western sideline. From the lineout Norths spread wide and scores in the eastern corner. The conversion is unsuccessful. Norths 63, Parra 14 with 10 minutes to go.

From the kick return Parra force a turn over and replacement Amos Viiga takes the ball forward towards Norths’ goal posts. Parra are working hard with the pick and drive and are putting Norths under immense pressure. As the ball spreads left Norths replacement player knocks Dan Tamone’s pass down.  Wing Joey got marched for this. What’s the difference? Parra are awarded a penalty. Parra scrum 5 metres out. Parra then pick and drive across the field both left and right. Finally Hooker Sefo flips a beautiful pass to Captain Andrew Cox who scores in the north west corner untouched. Liam Tully has replaced Hayden Cole as the kicker and takes the kick 22 metres out. Liam is as cool as ice and quietly coverts a difficult kick. Norths 63, Parra 21

The restart witnesses Norths kick out on the full for a Parra scrum on half way. Norths wheel the scrum and Parra are penalised. Norths kick to our 5 metre for a penalty lineout. Parra are again penalised on the line for not rolling away on our line. Norths don’t need this type of help. I am feeling a little frustrated. I need counselling. Norths kick to our 5 metres in the south west corner. Norths take the ball down into a rolling maul and score.  The Norths kicker doesn’t make any mistakes and rubs salt into our wounds. The final whistle sound full time. Norths 70, Parra 21.  Well boys you came back winning the second half with scoring 3 good tries 21 to 19.

Congratulations Northern Suburbs for your great win and retaining the Rod Phelps Cup. It was very good to see both teams pose arm in arm for a group photo with the cup at the end of the game. Rod would be very pleased as rugby was the winner and game was played in the right spirit.