Drummo was on hiatus this week so if you would like to read RugbyWA’s Round 11 write up headlining Neddies vs Cott, please Click Here
The enigma that is the Nedlands 2nd grade team took the field again this Saturday. Once again it did so with a completely new backline. The most consistent feature of our season thus far has been our inability to build any continuity in the backline. This week the injury crisis across the club in the midfield backs was particularly acute, with three of the club’s most prominent, home grown and long serving loose forwards (Will Brock, Cal Sauer and Matt Suter) all having to play at 12 (in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade respectively). In addition to playing Sauer at 12, the 2nds were so short of backs that they also had to run a flanker (Sisa Tukuwara) on the right wing and regular scrum half Mike Botes (who had been unable to train all week because of his work commitments) at 15. So to say that the backline was disjointed was something of an understatement.
And yet, by way of contrast, the forwards were, as they have been all season, a settled and imposing bunch. Our five front rowers: Hawgood, O’Connell, Chong Sue, Weir and O’Dea are, collectively, the foundation stone upon which the best scrum in the competition has gradually developed and our three young second rowers, McAuliffe, Egan and Scharff (all former Neddies Colts) have dominated lineouts all season. The back row, led by courageous captain and eighth man Ryan Lucy has been consistently outstanding. The loss through injury of long serving open side flanker, Ben ‘Fud’ Ashford, has been more than adequately offset by the rise of Chris Mclean (another former Neddies Colt) whilst Rob Carter is, and has for some years now been, the outstanding blind side flanker in this competition, and indeed in our entire club!
As you may have gathered from the above description of the team, the 2nds lack attacking firepower in the backs. So our game plan has, of necessity, had to be pretty simple. Keep it in the forwards, kick for field position, smash the opposition in tackles and at the breakdown and attack with ball in hand in a very narrow and direct manner. This type of game plan is never going to produce a lot of points but, if the forwards stand up, it is a very hard game plan to contain and one which makes it very difficult for the opposition to score themselves.
But the problem with this game plan is that its success depends on the ability of the team to build and maintain pressure on the opposition. Lapses in defence, a failure to take scoring opportunities (especially from penalty kicks at goal) and conceding penalties by virtue of a lack of discipline at the ruck or the offside line let the pressure off and give the opposition an opportunity to play. Unfortunately the 2nd grade has an uncanny ability to do all of these things, not consistently, but often enough, and at the most crucial times in the game! As a result they have, all season, played themselves into positions to win games and then, through one or more of the lapses just described, found a way to let the opposition off the hook. Throughout the season the team has been highly competitive and, as a settled (albeit limited) game plan and a real sense of team spirit has evolved, they have become more and more of a force to be reckoned with. In the last five weeks the team has actually played really well, but not quite well enough to convert all their good work into competition points. Instead they have recorded three draws and two heart breaking last minute losses.
By far the most heart breaking of these results came this Saturday against third placed Cottesloe. Despite the large gap between the teams on the competition ladder Neddies played all the rugby and dominated Cott for most of the match. Unfortunately two chronic lapses in defence (one in each half) allowed Cott to score easy tries that kept them in the game but, as the last minute of regular time ticked away, Neddies were camped deep in the Cott half and were in front by two points. Then disaster struck. A series of cheap and ill-disciplined penalties presented Cott with the opportunity to work their way up field and kick a goal in injury time to steal the match 23-24. Afterwards everyone associated with the team was at a loss to understand how we had failed, yet again, to win a game which we had dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard. But in the cold light of reflection on Monday morning the answers are pretty clear and are the same as they have been all season. The only question now is whether the team can recover from the disappointments of the season to date, pick itself up, dust itself off and start all over again this coming Saturday against UWA.