FIRST GRADE Match report, Lions v UWA, Round 4, 28 April 2018.
I will be honest Lions Family, last week’s report was so much more fun to write.
It was a hard day at the office for the Seniors, as the Lions’ First grade faced their toughest test so far this season going down to UWA 36-5.
Coach Brett Fell did his homework on UWA and gave his charges direction in a chalkboard session Tuesday night. Brett’s assessment of Uni was not wrong. UWA ran from everywhere, looked to off-load at every chance and were efficient and effective at the breakdown, effectively playing two fetchers despite having 6 and 7 on their back.
However, the Lions opened well enough with some savvy kicking for territory from Gwyn Parks to keep Uni deep on their line. Joe Ratu was unlucky (on more than one occasion) to not have the ball bounce his way down the far side and Teegan Minkley also troubled the Uni line on several occasions making some penetrating inroads down the left flank in the early exchanges.
And so it was a pretty stolid arm wrestle in the early pieces as both sides danced around each other like pugs jabbing and countering, trying to find a weakness or an opening.
That opening came for the Lions courtesy of Craig Atthis, or more correctly Craig being cart-wheeled base over apex in front of the goals courtesy of Uni’s No 4. A few nervous moments occurred while Craig was attended to and the Hill buzzed with the question: Red or Yellow?
A sterner ref (perhaps with the benefit of a video replay) might have gone for le carte rouge but your man was only shown the yellow and play taken back for the penalty.
The Lions eschewed the 3 points on offer from a penalty dead in front and opted for the scrum. A solid platform allowed Ben Carr to run left and he planted a well-timed fend on the opposite 10 to off load with his left to Brad Fell who steamed into the line from full back. Five metres out the Uni centres held him up but then the heavy cavalry arrived in the shape of our back 3 and Scotty Turnbull who manhandled Brad (ball and all) over the line for the Lions to open the account.
Joel Lamatoa pushed he conversion wide. It was to be the Lions' only points.
Uni clawed 3 points back from the restart as the Lions gave away a penalty on the 10 for going off their feet and University began to build some momentum.
Vaka left the field after twisting his knee and Jordan Shelford, who had already scrummaged admirably in Reserves came on for him.
Both teams were committing men to the trenches without remorse and Uni constantly sought to release the ball from the contact zone. In one passage the Uni runner copped a high shot that the Referee called up and calling Dan Powell over went to his pocket to give Dan 10 minutes on the bin.
However, Dan himself had been nowhere near the play when the high shot occurred, as the vocal Lions' faithful reminded the referee. After conferring with the Assistant Referee the Ref rescinded his yellow card and Dan Powell was allowed to stay and no-one was binned, although Uni nevertheless secured the penalty. (People Power!).
Dan and Gwyn continued to turn Uni around with some clever kicking and changed the point of attack whilst when the backs ran the ball Teegan and Joe combined well down the left wing. Joe Ratu displayed a sound set of soccer skills and, again, was unlucky with the bounce of the ball whilst Dan Powell placed a well weighted cross field kick for Joel to chase who took it on the fly but found himself well covered by the opposite wing and full back.
University kicked into gear and made increasing forays deep into the Lions’ territory as the game wore on. University took a penalty lineout 15 metres out and tried to maul their way over however Scott Turnbull and Mike Furze muscled their way into the heart of the maul and sacked it effectively forcing Uni to release the ball which they did trying to exploit the short side. However, the Uni 9’s pass sailed clear passed everyone into touch.
This set the scene for Uni’s first try with our throw from the ensuing lineout going a touch high and some miscommunication as to the sweep allowing Uni’s very industrious open side to dive on the ball and shuffle his way over the line.
With the score at 10-5 the sides traded blows mid-field. The Lions scrum held up well with neither side having any scrum advantage (at that stage of proceedings).
However, after a clearing kick from our 22 Uni looked to move the ball quickly and took the quick lineout. A lack of kick pressure on the clearing kick saw the only Lions' chaser given the one-two run-around and with the rest of the Lions still deep in our own 22 Uni had space to run at the Lions, building sufficient momentum to crash over the line (but through several Lions players) for another try.
As a result of this Craig Atthis left the field with a suspected broken rib or cracked sternum and Joe Claes came on at No 8 forcing Danny Swain into lock and the Lions held on for the remaining few minutes of the half to trail Uni at the break 17-5.
The Lions did not have the start to the second half they desired. As with our second half against Kalamunda in Round 2 the Lions started slow out of the blocks with Uni securing turn over possession and, on the back foot from the resumption of play, University’s bustling blindside split our backs and scored. University 23-5.
From the restart Uni again maintained momentum with some hard runners making inroads down the left flank to be bundled into touch not far from the Lions line. Securing the lineout Uni attempted to do what the Lions had frustrated at the other end of the field successfully mauling their way over the line in the far corner. University added the extras. University 29-5.
With momentum swinging University’ way things could have easily degenerated further and ended up a 50 point second half as University did last week putting Wanneroo to the sword in their second half in round 3. However, the Lions rallied and despite having to weather a resurgent Uni still found some glimpses of form such as Trei Saukuru’s lovely little show and go down the Hill-side tramlines and his over-hand pass to Joe Ratu who unfortunately lost the ball forward with a line beckoning to him.
But with Uni looking to close out the game things got pretty willing and both Mike Furze and Brad Woodford came off at the same time for blood bins. Ra Hinder and Mike Smith took the field until our flankers could be attended to.
This lead to an unfortunate series of scrum penalties that saw Uni take scrum after scrum after scrum sapping the forwards' energy. The play did not stray far from the 22 with Uni unable to break the Lions' line playing advantage and so returning to take another scrum and putting the Lions' pack through the grinder. Although the forwards struggled manfully University got the better of this exchange and as a result of repeated scrum infringements Jordan Shelford got shown the yellow card.
However, the Lions still had some run in them with Teegan making a nice break and freeing Joe Ratu who again had no luck with the fall of the ball and got bundled into touch.
After stretching the Lions back line wide to the left the full back injected himself into the line on a nice insider angle and went over under the posts. With the extras added University went ahead to close out the game, 36-5.
However, despite not getting on the board in the second half Coach Brett Fell didn’t think it was all doom and gloom.
“It was a hard game. We didn’t take our opportunities when they came and were outplayed for 45 minutes of the game which we knew would be a challenge. We knew Uni would take it to us but sometimes you’ve got to take it on the chin when you get outplayed and that's what we have to do. Learn from it, process it and move on.”
“You have to learn from your mistakes and this year is a hell of a learning curve for everyone. The pro-teams talk about BIGS (“Back In Game Stats”, a measure of how long a player is out of the game after contact), UWA’s BIGS were phenomenal. Their time out of the game was so much less than ours which means they reloaded faster and could do more with the ball. We don’t need to change our systems or do anything radical. It’s not a difference in skill it’s just a difference in intensity”.
“They’re also a fit team. If the boys can take anything away it’s that training 2 nights a week isn’t enough and they need to be putting some yards in a few times a week themselves to be able to compete for 80 minutes against the likes of Uni”.
However, Brett was positive that the boys fought to the end and didn’t capitulate.
“The scrum was good for most of the game and we were in the game. It could have easily been a big blowout in the second half but the boys tried to stay with them and never stopped having a crack which was pleasing. They could have chucked the towel in but didn’t. We made them work for all their tries which was good to see.”
“This week we have the bye so we’ll heal up, see what we have learned and get back in the saddle in 2 weeks”.
1st, 2nd and 3rd grade have byes next week and return to play the Coastal Cavaliers at the Lions’ Den on 12 May 2018.
COLTS (Away to Palmyra in Rd 5)
The Young Lions took on UWA Colts for their second encounter against The Students in the reduced Colts competition and put in an improved performance, going down 29-0. However, the game was not without its positives for the Lions and there were long periods of attack in which the Lions threatened UWA and sent them scrambling.
The Lion Cubs looked far more cohesive than they had in previous encounters and were genuinely threatening with Jordan, Nathaniel and Jonah combining very well in unstructured counter attack and providing repeated good cover defence to mop up kicks or shut down UWA’s outside backs. However, the attack lacked structure from first phase ball and the Lions were let down by some adventurous passes that UWA’s drift defence were able to shut down easily and capitalise on going into the break 17-0.
A few sage words from Coach Jock Tiernan at the break paid immediate dividends with the Lions attack being directed to the UWA’s weak spots and the Colts threatened the UWA line with more intent in the second half.
The Brothers Szydowski combined well around the rucks and the scrum held its own admirably all day. There was no lack of tackle practice either with Kory Rapana and Ily Stone making some teeth chattering hits. Again, some wonderful individual aggression was shown at the breakdown with the Lions frequently counter rucking back over Uni’s ball and there was no lack of courageous tackling through the halves and three-quarter line either.
All in all there are signs of improvement each week as cohesion builds.
In warm conditions Chalky’s Third Herd went down to a spirited UWA 3rd grade 42-10 but not without playing some adventurous rugby and maintaining pressure on the UWA line for extended periods of the game.
This game had something for everyone with some wonderful bullocking runs by the forwards, cheeky darts from the 9 to keep the opposition (and the sidelines!) on their toes, some veterans showing they can still keep the young guns guessing and some wonderfully cohesive forward play laying a platform for the backs.
Although the Thirds leaked tries early the second 20 before half time was theirs putting on their 10 points in this period and dominating play until the break going into the sheds 28-10.
Mark Carmichael wound back the clock with some deft footwork in traffic whilst Benny Rule displayed a nice turn of pace and a bit of a show and go as well. This fixture also saw the 2018 return of Micky Perkins.
Despite the forwards doing the heavy lifting it was the Lions 9 and 10 that scored the tries with Ray unable to add the extra points, his second being a mistimed agricultural hoof that might have unnerved the ref as it veered off towards him unexpectedly but left the posts untroubled.
In the second half the Lions also attacked with aggression with Ash Peel making a nice line break on the back of some storming in close running by the likes of Dr Jack, Jake and Stephen but UWA held their 22 with fortress-like mentality and the Lions could not penetrate to add more points.
Coach Chalky was philosophical lamenting the curse of 3rd grade. “It wasn’t the squad we had Thursday night and we had our 3rd prop playing No 8, wings and fullbacks playing at 6 and 7 and our breakaway playing in the centres and as a result things were a bit patchy at times”.
However, Dave had some high praise for Man of the Match young tighthead Rayden Leef. “The boys didn’t want me to take him off 2/3rds of the way through the game as he was rock solid in the scrum”.
Reserves put in their best performance so far this season and clawed their way back into a game they could have easily taken.
Uni got out to an early lead in the first 5 minutes with some loose defence and over-adventurous play costing the Lions on two occasions. Uni showed early that they were prepared to chance their arm from anywhere on the paddock and after turning over our quickly taken penalty dead in front of our sticks inside our attacking 22 The Students’ left wing turned on the afterburners and showed Jonah a clean pair of heels to go 70 metres for a wonderful solo try.
Poor handling was the theme for the first 20 minutes from the Lions and UWA did their very best to upset any rhythm the Lions might find, getting up in the three-quarter lines' faces very quickly. Helpful suggestions to the referee to “Look behind you” went unheralded and Uni’s line speed in defence continued to frustrate our halves ability to distribute the ball.
However, Joe and Iuan led from the front with Joe a tower of strength over the loose ball and Iuan demonstrating wonderful fend technique to run the ball out of our territory on several occasions. Both secured some important turnovers to swing momentum back the Lions way.
The Lions took confidence from this and began to play their way into the game with some lovely one handed Island style rugby being shown and Nathan Lamatoa beginning to change the point of attack to slow down University’s line speed.
Still, it was pretty starchy stuff and the Lions backs were run ragged with Iuan and Johnny both being subbed out seeing Saren and Fin Szydowski move into the centres. Taking a leaf from UWA’s defence book Dan Hutton raced up out of defence catching the UWA backs unaccustomedly flat in attack and snatched an interception on the Lions' 22 and raced away. However, there was still some rugby left as Dan had to outrun UWA’s jet-shoed Mercury who turned and gave chase but he held on to win the footrace and fall over the line.
The boys when into the break 17-7 down.
Returning for the second half Nathan and Jamie continued to change the point of attack. Uni were hard to go through and with them being allowed to come up so fast they were hard to go around which only left going over them.
Fin secured a wonderful pilfered ball on the half way mark and the ball spilled out to Jamie. With few options on he put a cheeky little chip through and Jordan hared after it. Unable to get to the fall of the ball in time it was taken by the UWA winger but spilled loose.
It may have been a knock on. It may not have. But what didn’t happen was the referee blowing his whistle. So, whilst the Uni player looked at the ref askance Jordan got on with the business of playing until the whistle blows, grabbed the ball and ran. No whistle. Fair try Jordan.
Nathan then followed suit and from deep in his 22 with the wind coming over his right shoulder hoofed it out into the space behind the right Uni wing who stood too shallow. The ball ran end over end and bounced kindly for Jonah who had the jump on the winger who had to turn and chase but to no avail.
Lions back in the game, 3 points down at 22-19.
However, that was as close as they got. Uni’s superior fitness began to tell and they ran in two tries as fatigue set in and the Lions fell off their tackles or made defensive misreads. Junior injected himself into the game but alas, the Students put on two more tries to run out victors 36-19.
After injecting himself into the game for his first cameo of the season Junior Tairea handed the reigns on the sideline to manager Gus Harriman.
“The boys played a lot better than last week”, Gus said after the game. “they were much more committed, ran straighter and were better over the ball which was a real concern last week against Joondalup”.
“Fin Szydowski plays above his weight every time he gets a run and Joey Claes played a real Captain's knock today, leading from the front all day.”
Junior agreed telling the boys, “Hold your heads high. OK, we didn’t win and it wasn’t perfect but we move on. Our defence was a bit off but with ball in hand we’re very positive”.
Captain Joe Claes, who also received Man of the Match, agreed that there were big positives to come from that.
“We didn’t start well and it took us 25 minutes to get our tails up but we didn’t quit either. We went hard all day and once we found our way into the game we were competitive. But its hard to chase and we just need to start from the first whistle next time”.
Updated 09:00 - 16 May 2018 by Ronan OShea