There are times in sport you are up against it. And there are times when you are really up against it. That was the case on Saturday when Neddies travelled to Bennett Park to take on Wests in round 10 of the competition.
An injury plague meant Neddies wasn’t just without backs – but pretty much the entire backline. And things got worse in the first 10 minutes of the game when both Fred Titoko and goal-kicker Izzy Lata were forced from the field with injuries. With no spare backs on the bench, Gus Martyn had little choice but to throw two loose forwards into the midfield in the form of colt Tevin Ferris and Will Brock, making a timely return from a long-time injury lay-off.
But in the face of such adversity Neddies not only stood up, but gutsed it out for yet another bonus point victory.
Neddies exerted the early forward pressure and were rewarded with the first try of the afternoon to loose forward Jandre (Drey) van der Westhuizen, a player who is becoming famous for more than just having every letter of the alphabet in his name.
By half time, Neddies had added two more tries to Brocky and dashing colts fullback Kauri “Gillies Kaka” Cudd to take a 17-13 lead.
Neddies looked to have busted open the game early in the second half when livewire flanker Shane Hemi charged down a Wests clearing kick and fed the bearded Dylan Loversidge, who scored under the sticks. The Gillies conversion gave Neddies a handy 24-13 lead.
However, a yellow card against Neddies loosie Reuben O’Connell swung the momentum back towards the home team. Wests proceeded to reel off two penalty goals and a converted try to snatch a 26-24 lead.
Just as the All Blacks were looking vulnerable against the Poms on the TV inside the clubrooms, things were looking grim for Neddies.
However, the boys dug deep when it mattered and worked their way up the field into the Wests red zone as the clock ticked down. From there it was another colt, front-rower Jermaine Ainsley, who rumbled over the line for the winning try as Neddies emerged victorious by 29-26.
Given the circumstances, it was perhaps the most courageous and satisfying win of the season for Neddies, who have consolidated second spot on the ladder. You can’t help but sense that the unique winning culture Neddies has built over the decades comes to the fore in games like these.
Saturday is looming as a cracker at The Foreshore as Neddies hosts Cottesloe. Coach Gus Martyn will be hoping to have a few of his injured backline stars back for the top-of-the-table clash, or will otherwise have to call on The Third Half for reinforcements. Hulk is already rumoured to have been spotted nuggeting the high-cut Adidas Flanker boots he got from a recent garage sale in Byford.
With a big lift in effort and control we had a barnstorming second half to score four tries into the wind and secure a bonus point victory. It wasn’t all plain sailing though starting with losing the toss and playing a lackluster brand that didn’t exploit the strong wind behind us. Nothing lackluster about the performance of big bustling Barry Kelly though who stormed into the game with some strong running and lots of hard work in the tight. A worthy winner of the three best player points on the day.
Once Sonny Bill Fonseka had rested for 10 minutes he decided to team with Steve Andre to become human wrecking balls smashing their way up field and leaving many a Wests player in their wake. Barry’s example was infectious. The hard grind at the ruck and tough carries created a bit more time and space that was well exploited with some superb offloads sending Casey and Givit away on long damaging runs. This was probably the best passage of play for the year and everyone joined in, with Ash having his best game of the season. Regan continued to provide well directed aggravation to ensure the forwards weren’t allowed to let up. On a windy day it was hard to get much flow going out wide, but all aimed up and made their tackles to keep Wests to a few points.
A contender for goal of the year from Jimmy whose conversion, after many twists and turns found its way over the bar somehow and likely with a fair bit of paint on it. Nothing could sour the good feeling we got out of this game, not even the sickening blow and threat to Greg’s future family aspirations. Lucky there is a bye next week to give him time to get the house in order before a big game at the Foreshore against Uni on June 22.