Lions v Cavaliers, at the Lions' Den, 12th May 2018
The sun shone on the South as two of the Championship heavyweights met at the Lions’ Den for Round 6 of the FMG Premiership competition.
Coastal Cavaliers, the union of Rockingham and Mandurah travelled north to take on Southern Lions, rested after their round 5 bye. The Lions were joined by the Roaming Sea of Blue, a core of non-aligned rugby purists who love the game and travel to watch club rugby for the pure joy of it.
The Lineside Lion was there to catch all the action.
FIRST GRADE MATCH REPORT
The Premiers took the field this week with some new faces in the team but the same game plan: get it wide and go!
The Cavaliers weren’t taking this game easy and after having gone down to fellow former Championship division aspirants ARKS already they clearly saw this as a good chance to open their account for season 2018.
The Lions welcomed new Force recruit Masivesi Dakuwaqa to the Lions’ Den for his first game in Lions' colours, whilst George Pisi was again made available to us. New Fijian recruit Tomasi Bulunakoro took the absent Mike Furze’s place at blindside. Joel Lamatoa played his first game at scrum half, whilst our front row crisis saw Trei Saukuru pushed across to tight head, as he and Jordan Shelford supported Josh Haynes. Gwyn took on the playmaker's duties, and Danny Powell dropped back to 15. Brad Woodford deputised as captain for the injured Brad Fell.
The Lions started as they intended to finish with Masivesi getting across the chalk with almost his first touch of the ball disposing of Cavaliers defenders at will.
However, the Cavs were not deterred by this and looked keen to play a high tempo game and made it clear they weren’t to be taken lightly trying to unsettled the Lions by taking penalties quickly and contesting the ruck area vigorously. It wasn’t all one way traffic at the breakdown though with Danny Swain and Craig Atthis their usual abrasive selves and Scotty Turnbull all over the ball like a soup sandwich any time there was a delay in the Cavaliers’ ruck support, forcing several turnovers along the way. Similarly Josh Haynes and Brad Woodford made equal pests of themselves frustrating the Cavs ability to get clean phase ball.
Gwyn Parks pounced on one such turnover that came loose at the ruck and threw a long looping pass to Masivesi who was brought down short of the line only for his long powerful arm to reach out and plant the ball on the try line. Dakuwaqa with a double and the Fijian crowd on the sidelines celebrated with delight!
Masi and George Pisi found each other on several occasions and with Teegan hovering for an offload our three-quarter line really threatened the Cavs’ line well. Just as he did against Joondalup George straightened our attacking line nicely granting Teegan the space to move the ball in the 13 channel.
Tomasi Bulunakoro might not be the largest breakaway in WA rugby (let's face it, although he's tall he may have to run around in the shower to get wet so slight does he seem) but he proved that what there is of him can make a difference bringing down some larger opponents with some lovely low wrap tackles. One of these occurred right in front of Joel Lamatoa who showed real courage to get his body over the ball and survived the clean out to force the turn over.
At this stage Joe Ratu got fed up waiting for the ball and injected himself into the game and made a break in space. Using Trei Saukuru outside him Trei decided that it wasn’t only wingers that can run and stun showing a lovely turn of pace and a deceptive show and go to fox the converging outside man as he crashed over for the try in the corner.
A TMO moment occurred as the touch judge was consulted but Trei had managed to contort his body enough to avoid being dragged into touch and the Lions moved to 15-nil.
From the restart the Cavs managed to drive deep into the Lions territory on the club house side securing a lineout from an offside penalty. Setting for the lift and drive the Cavs fluffed the throw and the bounce favoured the Lions who managed to squeeze the ball to Joe Ratu. Weaving his way through a broken field Joe put the afterburners on and with a man to beat flicked the offload to Tomasi but the ball came unstuck with the open line beckoning.
Trei then secured the second of his tries for the day. No doubt as the years pass this will grow to be the story all props dream of telling: the 80 metre solo try, beating all the opposition backline and then chipping over the full back to regather and swan dive under the posts. Admittedly, Trei shows a deceptive turn of speed for a big man but his intercept try from 40 out was spectacular for his well timed run as much as anything else. Joel added the conversion from dead in front.
The Cavaliers showed no end of desperation from this point on with the momentum swinging their way of the rest of the half as they bottled the Lions in their own 22. For over 10 minutes it was a war of attrition with the familiar pattern of tackle, ruck, repeat, scrum, turnover, scrum, tackle ruck repeat, penalty, lineout, catch and drive, held up, scrum, turn over etc repeated ad nauseum. The Cavs threw everything at the Lions who held on desperately.
However, the attrition showed as after 10 gruelling minutes of this the Cavs managed to force a defensive misread in the Lions' centres and they cruised over untouched for a try to go into the sheds 22-12 at half time.
The Lions came out with a view to tweaking their defensive line speed and pushing the Cavs back off the gain line however the Cavs took first blood in the second stanza with a penalty. 22-15.
Despite this hiccup, as Brett encouraged at half time, the Lions' line speed and tackle selection improved with more tackles being dominant and pushing the Cavs back to disrupt their momentum.
An off the top ball from Dan Swain saw Joel put the ball in front of Gwyn who had to stretch to take it at pace who passed the ball onto Joe Ratu. Given a ball in space within sight of a try line Joe only knows one direction and made it a foot race to the corner, collecting a try and a high tackle for his efforts.
The Cavs sallied and made the most of a disjointed defensive line after the restart, exploiting a staggered line to put their No 8 through on an angled line to score again, taking the score to 27-22.
However, from this point onwards it was all Lions as the Pride found their second wind.
After the restart as the Cavs’ players and supporters alike endeavoured to impart upon the referee the benefit of their superior knowledge of the offside laws Trei played the whistle (which did not sound and remained firmly away from the referee’s lips) popping to Teegan. Teegan ran over in the corner. 32-22.
The Lions rang the changes and fresh legs were injected with Teegan, Trei and Danny Powell all coming off with niggles and George Pisi being tactically replaced. Ily Stone, Jamie Fairbairn, Jack Holt and Rayden Leef came on, the latter making his First grade debut and the back line was reshuffled accordingly.
The Cavs half back succumbed to some scrum pressure muffing his attempted dive pass from the base of the scrum under some serious pressure from Brad Woodford as Jack Holt pounced on the ball to send Joe Ratu over in the far corner. Lions 37-22.
From here a quick succession of tries flowed with Masivesi and Joe Ratu respectively steam rolling and pin-balling their way into space to cross the chalk to both come away with hat-tricks and advance the score to 47-22.
In the final stages, Sheldon came on to spell Brad Woodford. The Cavs by this stage were largely done in although they hadn’t given up by a long shot and the contest for the loose ball was still stiff.
Joel swooped on one such loose ball and scooped it up Aussie Rules style one handed to off load to speed merchant Joe Ratu who made it into space only to for Joe to consider that 4 tries was one too many for the day. Joe unselfishly popped the ball back to Joel who, from the look of surprise on his face, appeared to have been running with Joe more for moral support than tactical support and wasn't actually expecting the ball back! Joel was left with a wee bit more rugby to play to outpace the cover defence to score in the far corner to close out proceedings 54-22.
Coach Brett Fell was happy with the outcome but saw room for improvement in how the team executed the game plan set earlier in the week.
“Seems odd to say this given we ran away by so much in the end but the boys got out of jail today. That could have easily gone either way at half-time. We spoke about the energy levels and the Cavs were in there until three quarters of the way through the game.”
“We spoke about wanting front-foot ball in order to get it out to our flanks and use our wingers. When you’ve got real threats out wide like Masivesi, Teegan and Joe Ratu that’s where you want to get the ball.”
“But that said there were some pieces of individual brilliance. I mean Trei got a double and we had two hat-tricks today which is pleasing. But overall I think we struggled with our platform and we played too tight. We ended up playing their game, not ours. After half time we played the way we wanted but it took us a fair while to take that game by the throat”.
“At half time I told the boys their defence was good, and they did defend well for long periods but the reality is we shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.”
“It was good to see some good young talent coming through and players like Rayden Leef getting his first senior cap. Even if it was just for the 3 or 4 minutes at the end would be a great experience for him.”
The Lions managed to secure the bonus point win without any major injuries. “Yeah, Teegan, Trei and Danny all have minor niggles and should all come good for next week”, Brett said.
“However, ARKS will be 30 points better than the Cavs and that won’t be an easy game for us as they’ll see us as a real opportunity to get a win. But a win’s a win and there positives to come out of that too in that we did manage to get back on track to our plan after half time. I am pleased the boys turned things around in the second half to play the way we wanted to and got a good win in the end”.
Next week the Lions travel to ARKS which will be a match played with no love lost between our closest neighbours.
Hope to see as many of the Pride at Harrisdale to roar for the Lions in round 7.
Reserve Grade took centre stage at the Lions’ Den also chasing their first win of the season in front of a home crowd and the Roaming sea of Blue.
Reserves saw young Rayden Leef making his first start in 2nd grade joining fellow Lions junior teammate Jack Holt as another of our Lions cubs to be promoted up the ranks in 2018. Despite his broken fingers keeping him out of the senior stating side Ben Carr was granted clearance by Brett Fell to play left wing for Reserves whilst two more Fijians made their Lions debut in Reserves, Ratu Waase on the right wing and Tomasi Bulunakoro in the forwards.
It was, as with 3rd grade, a pretty starchy affair in the opening exchanges with some vigorously contested phase ball on both sides of the equation. However, it was the Cavs who opened proceedings early going 3 points up on with the Lions going off their feet at a ruck 20 metres in front.
Still, it was a game that held something for everyone when from the restart the Cavs again assailed our 22 for a shirt-ball-and-all tackle to be made by the Lions’ line with the ball being stripped from the Cavs player after it became entangled in his jersey as it was stripped off over his head in the tackle, ice-hockey style.
This had the referee coach on the sidelines flipping through the rule book trying to work out what law covered this area of play. However, yon lad, out in middle, brooked no doubt when the ball trickled out of the stripped jersey and rolled forwards calling knock on given the ball was last in possession of a Cav’s player (or his jumper at least). Lions’ turnover!
The Lions then worked the ball up the far left of the field with Charlie Pinkerton taking a quick tap and making some yards, a penalty going our way, a free kick at the lineout also going the Lions’ way too. From the Cavs’ scrum on the 10 yard line the Lions pack drove up and through buckling the Cavs’ front row to secure their first tight head of the game. The ball was manouvered down the blindside with Iuean Bowse working on a narrow margin diving for the corner.
The assistant referee signalled that Iuean had put his foot in touch however the consensus from the assembled paparazzi suggests that this was in fact a bum call and Bowse was denied his rightful 5 points. Still, it was exciting stuff.
This is where the comic becomes the bizarre. From the ensuing lineout it became apparent that the Cavs’ fly half must have owed their No 8 money or otherwise offended the big lad somehow as the 8 threw what could only be described as a hospital pass at him. While he waited for it to come down Craig Hale and Nathan Lamatoa converged on him no doubt counting with glee how many of your man’s ribs they were each going to dent.
Self-preservation won out for their No 10 who opted to expedite the clearing kick by bicycle kicking the ball mid-air, Pele’ like, out of immediate danger. Not a play, I suspect, that was in the Cavalier’s Coach’s exit strategy.
Now, far be it from me, dear reader, to suggest who started what, but after seeing the vicious delight in Craig Hale’s eyes lining him up, Craig copped a rather high and a little late and only slightly from behind swinging arm across his beak possibly by someone who looked an awful lot like the Cavalier’s Pele-impersonating playmaker.
Nevertheless, despite this rather comic turn of events, this was a serious arm wrestle in the early exchanges with both sides pouring on the acid at scrum time, although as the game wore on Mike Smith worked his opposite number hard putting him through the roof of the scrum on more than one occasion.
The Lions synchronised their play with some fantastic hit-pop and pick and drive rugby lead by the likes of Sheldon and Joe Claes who opened the account for the Lions on the back of some grinding rugby.
After the restart of proceedings Mike Smith and Charlie Pinkerton monstered the Cavs centre and put on an effective choke tackle to force a turn over whilst Craig Hale, with his blood now up, looked happier to run through people than around them. Jack Holt scored a lovely individual try drifting lazily from half back across the line daring the Cavs backs to tackle him, which no-one did until Jack planted the ball in the club-house corner by which stage it was too late.
Deep into the half the Lions parked themselves within 10 metres of the Cavs’ line and threw men at it with abandon, being held up over the line twice until Ben Carr came off the blind wing to hit a wonderfully timed inside ball in the 9-10 channel and waltzed over unmolested to put the ball down between the sticks taking the Lions into the break 20-3.
Coming out of the sheds the Lions picked up where they left off with new wing Ratu Waase making running fast look effortless as he glided more than ran through a broken field of Cavs’ players on a kick return. However, the front rowers weren’t to be outdone by these wee slips of backs with Rayden Leef fielding a mistimed clearing kick on the half volley at full pace. If Rayden ever masters the art of doctoring a cricket ball the Aussies will put him in the slips pretty quick with hands like that! If not, he can play for an honest cricket team like New Zealand.
White-line fever is a real thing. A normally placid and loving young man a malicious gleam formed in Rayden’s eyes. The eyes rolled back, the head came down and even though he was a good 30 metres out from the line “The Fever” gripped him and 115kg of Rampaging Rayden went BOOM into the full back who instantly regretted mistiming his clearing kick, who tangled in Rayden’s legs, tripped him up inadvertently bringing him to ground.
Sadly all this still occurred 28 metres from the line. Nevertheless, the fullback kicked away from Rayden for the rest of the game.
However the Cav’s weren’t done and their left wing caught the Lions napping with a cheeky kick chase that bounced back to his arms to go over in the far corner.
Jamie Fairbairn provided honest safe service at full back whilst the forwards continued to provide good platform for the backs and forwards alike, with both Sheldon and Craig going over on the back of some solid platform ball. But it wasn’t just the forwards doing the rough stuff with Ben Carr pin-balling through 3, 4, 5, 6,7, Ily Stone securing some valuable turn overs in loose play and late sub Nathaniel Bond-Williams, another Lions Junior on debut taking the Cavs on out wide.
Ratu, Jonah and Jordan all combined to put on a magical display of running rugby to put Jordan over the line (although he had some traffic to negotiate at the end to get the ball over the chalk) and Mike Smith showed that he wasn’t to be out down either adding 5 points to “1. M. Smith” on the team sheet from a driving lineout maul to see the Lions secure the first win 37-10.
“It’s a good feeling to have the win and the nose doesn’t hurt so much with the win but it’ll be sore tomorrow”, said Craig Hale after the game. “We had so much gas out wide I was just trying to shovel it out as fast as I could. While you see a bit more of the ball at 12, you see a lot more traffic too!”.
Coach Junior Tairea was pleased for the boys agreeing it was good to get the first win in front of the home crowd.
“We have a few things to assess but it was a solid performance. Sheldon was everywhere and deservedly got player of the day and Rayden Leef had a fantastic debut in reserves. If I have my way Chalky won’t be getting him back in 3rd grade!”
“It is great to see our juniors coming up and playing seniors now and playing well too.”
Chalky’s Third Herd are a team on the improve and played 60 minutes of really good rugby. Sadly, with 70 minutes allotted for the fixture the 3rds weren’t able to hold out a late challenge from the Cav’s and went down 19-22.
However, that belies the quality of rugby played. In truth, the first half was a true old fashioned evenly matched arm-wrestle with the Lions looking to change the point of attack from across the park and the Cavs looking to play an up-tempo game and move the ball quickly from every stoppage that went their way.
Like a fine wine Mark Carmichael just seems to be getting better with age and controlled his back line superbly and he and Jamie Pascoe worked very well together as a halves combination running, kicking and probing the line to change the point of attack and keep the Cavs guessing.
However, this was built on the back of some bullocking work and a very solid platform set by the forwards with the likes of Dr Jack putting his shoulder to the wheel, although it could also be said that Jack was just trying to drum up some business for Monday morning for his colleagues by knocking the opposition down like 9 pins.
There was no lack of courage shown with some very big hits being made on both sides, none bigger than Phil Smith’s wonderfully well timed tackle on a one out runner that could be heard clear across the park. Unfortunately the referee had a different view as to just how involved Phil’s arms were in the tackle and Phil found himself shown the yellow card, sent to Coventry to ride the pine for 10 minutes.
With one man down it was the Cavs that opened the score board after a seesawing encounter when the Cavs got on the front foot after a scrum. With one man down a defensive misread by Ben Rule allow the Cavs to exploit the far side overlap and cruise over in the far right-hand corner.
However the Lions rallied and were desperate to move the ball wide at every opportunity with Sarron showing some wonderful show and go moves rampaging through the centres. A good bit of pick and go grafting from a penalty saw the ball drift wide to throw an inside wall to Benny Rule went over just to the left hand side of the uprights allowing the Lions to draw even at 5 all, which is where the scores stayed as the teams went into the sheds half-time.
The Lions came out roaring and again looked to move the point of attack. With the afternoon breeze coming over their shoulders the Lions look to kick deep and one such kick held up for Mike Clifton who offloaded to Reece who went over in the left-hand clubhouse side. Ash Peel took the conversion and the Lions went 12-5 up.
The Lions maintained the momentum with Jamie Pascoe taking a quick tap from a penalty 15 m out and managing to muscle over for a try almost underneath the sticks. Again, Ash Peel with his accurate short range toe pokes slotted the conversion and the Lions went ahead 19-5.
However, the Cavs were far from done. The Lions consistently tried to pin the Cavs deep in their own half with some long-range kicking overhead which was supported with some wonderful kick pressure by Dan Hutton and the outside backs. Despite this, the Cavs stubbornly refused to roll over and gamely looked for every opportunity to run the ball from deep within their own half. This paid dividends with the Cavs eventually going over after some lax tackling through the three-quarter line.
Again the Lion’s restart went deep and found a wonderful bit of space unmanned by any of the Cavaliers' players however the ball ran end over end and carried too far allowing the Cavs the restart scrum from halfway. From the ensuring scrum the Lions defended desperately but unfortunately Mark Carmichael and the ever industrious Dawid Van Sittert both went for the same man knocking themselves off the tackle and allowing him an open paddock to gallop into.
The Lions attempted to maintain pressure down the clubhouse side but weren’t able to arrest the Cavs’ now ascendant momentum and the visitors went across for a further try to go ahead 22-19.
One last valiant desperate roll of the dice to try and secure their first win for the season unfortunately came unstuck deep in the left-hand clubhouse side when after a brief period of sustained pressure on the Cavs line the Lions knocked the ball on 15 m from the line with an overlap to exploit to allow the Cavs to run out victors 22-19.
Coach Dave Cleary was understandably disappointed for the boys to not come away with their first win after having led deep into the game.
“The boys started very well and played the way we have trained and were dominant for most of the game. Just some poor options shifted momentum away from us and a warm day like this the fatigue got worse and the boys weren’t able to put in for the full 70.”
“I thought Phil was a bit unlucky to get yellow carded and from where I was standing it just like a good hard tackle to me”.
“I probably could have used the bench a bit differently and injected some fresh legs at different times but otherwise I thought the boys generally played well. Their cohesion and consistency is improving week to week and when they are able to make changes during the game without that upsetting the team’s flow which is a real positive.“
Updated 05:24 - 17 May 2018 by Ronan OShea