Round 9 2018 vs Perth Bayswater RUFC
by the Lineside Lion
The Premiers faced Baysie in a crunch game. Missing the now departed trio of Minkley, Ratu and Powell (from the club, not this mortal coil) Brett Fell reworked his backline into a serviceable combination accommodating Masivesi Dakuwaqa on the far flank and bringing back Ben Carr into first grade (albeit on the wing instead of at half back) and promoting Jamie Fairbairn into starting inside centre. The forwards were relatively more stable with Josh Haynes coming into rake and Tomasi Bulunakoro starting at blindside.
The strong breeze wavered between being neutral for both teams and blowing across the field to favouring those running westward, gusting diagonally across the field.
The game began with both sides probing and trying to test each other and see-sawed between the 22’s. The Lions looked to spread the ball to Masivesi’s wing however passing into the wind was no easy task and the ball rarely made it all the way to Masi’s flank, although he made yards whenever he got his hands on the ball. He also proved the worth of having hands like coal shovels when he simply pinned the ball to the ground one handed and picked it up in traffic at full tilt. Masi was certainly keen to get his hands on the ball anyway he could.
However, Ben Carr, playing on the windward wing, saw a considerable amount of ball and was busy early as he tried to make yards down the far wing. Although half Masivesi’s size Ben made yards with every run and his low centre of gravity made him hard to stop as he pin-balled his way through several tackles.
The forwards looked to get involved as well with Vaka and Scotty Turnbull playing some hit-pop rugby which was exciting to watch but failed to produce any significant territorial gain until Couer de Lion Craig Atthis straightened onto a short ball and reset the attack.
The wind made throwing into the lineouts no easy task but Josh Haynes managed it well finding regular jumper Dan Swain but more frequently the lighter aerial specialist Tomasi who was magnificent all day in the air at lineout time. However, it wasn’t the tall timber who featured in the most dramatic lineout of the day with Josh and Vaka pulling off a wonderful front of the lineout move that caught everyone by surprise. Unfortunately Vaka mistimed his pass back to Josh in a wide open 5 m channel and the move came unstuck.
The resulting scrum was reflective of one of the troubling features of the day. For the most part the Lions scrum was dominant. In fact Vaka saw off his opposition tighthead quite early in the piece. However, the referee seemed set that the Lions scrum was illegally wheeling and we leaked 4 penalties at scrum time when in fact it appeared that all that was happening was that Baysie were just copping a bath at scrum time. As a result Perth looked to move the ball quickly out of their scrum and their strike speed and clearance was impressive with their hooker controlling the ball very well in the second scrum channel.
Another troubling feature of the game was Perth’s inside centre who caused our back line no end of trouble. The advent of skin tight jumpers on 115 kilo centres as tall as they are wide (i.e. spherical) is a modern feature of the game dear reader that yours truly did not have to contend with as a player. The only things at 115 kilos in a backline back then was a prop catching his breath or the combined weight of the wings and the full back. How, the game has changed.
I can only marvel at those that manage to bring such folk as Perth’s centre to ground. As the game wore on the Lions centres became wary of this character and shut him down getting up in his grill early but in the early exchanges this character broke the first tackle and proved a handful. Indeed, it was Captain Brad Fell who proved most effective in tackling him with a scything grass cutter from behind.
Perth opened the account after muscling up to their try line with some good breaks and working the overlap on the short side to cross for the first try of the game despite some close attention from Ben Carr.
After the restart Perth were reduced to 14 men as one of their wingers was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock down.
Iron Mike Smith and Josh Haynes were industrious in the loose and made yards whenever they got their hands on the ball and with a man down Baysie’s defence was stretched as Tomasi and Brad Woodford found some space to advance the ball closer allowing Gwyn to chime into the line as first receiver from full back and step back inside running the ball through a gap and under the posts to make the conversion easier for Joel Lamatoa who repaid the favour by adding the extra points.
However, despite this score, the Lions struggled to maintain any momentum while they held the one man advantage courtesy of the sin binning of Perth’s winger despite looking threatening through some individual pieces of play such as Scott Turnbull’s bullocking run through a line out that saw him make 30 metres ducking and weaving.
However, none of this was converted into any period of sustained pressure and the Lions failed to capitalise or add any more points in this period and the Perth winger returned to play with the score still at 7-5.
With their full complement back on Perth managed to move the ball up to the Lions' 22 where the Lions forced a knock on. This should have been a means to relieve pressure but despite what looked like nothing more than a dominant scrum the referee found fault again giving a penalty to Perth who took the quick tap and caught the Lions napping to score under the posts.
As the rain started to settle in the teams went into the sheds 12-7 at half time.
The Lions opened the second stanza falteringly with the restart not going the 10. However, Joel Lamatoa made up for this uncharacteristic error charging down a clearing kick from the ensuing scrum and soccering the ball ahead and turning the Perth backline around. Joel opted to try regather the ball several metres from the line rather than dive and slide and the try went begging as the slippery ball proved too hard for Joel to regather.
Penalties continued to hurt the Lions as Craig was caught offside at a ruck. Perth quickly kicked ahead and turned the Lions around making it a race for the ball. Masi got to the ball first and managed to run it back out to the edge of the 22 where he opted to clear the ball thinking perhaps to hare it down but the cross wind caught the lofted kick and blew it into touch.
From the ensuing phase play from the lineout the Lions conceded another ruck penalty and Perth, with the wind coming over their shoulder, opted for the only penalty kick of the day going ahead 15-7.
The Lions found some momentum down the club house side with Jamie Fairbairn, Brad Fell, Brad Woodford and Dan Swain linking well. However, the Perth back line was either up incredibly quickly or never made it back on side and managed to disrupt any attack the Lions attempted to mount and turned defence into counter attack when the ball was turned over. Having to change quickly between attack and defence the Lions themselves proved themselves handy at disrupting Perth’s counter-attack with Scotty Turnbull making a lovely low wrap tackle and Vaka pulling off a classic diving ankle tap when the opposition hooker looked for all money to have him beaten down the short side.
And so the game teetered one way and another with each team feeding off the others’ mistakes and not really creating anything for themselves. Tomasi made a good break down the far side and unable to beat the converging cover defence laid it back for his arriving support players. However, Perth got there first and from their 22 staged a series of broken field runs that saw them scramble over in the club house corner at the other end of the field. With the conversion Perth went ahead 22-7.
From the restart the ball was hotly contested as Joel kicked deep to avoid the fickle wind. Josh Haynes charged into the contest only to collide head first with someone on the other side and was out before he hit the ground. So obvious was his plight that the medics Errin, Grace and Danielle were on the park sprinting to Josh’s aid even before the whistle had sounded. Cleared of any neck injury Josh’s obvious concussion saw him shown the Blue Card and his day (and possibly several weeks subject to the blue card concussion protocols) was over. Sione left the shelter of the dug out and the warmth of the blankets to replace Josh.
Gwyn Parks sought to inject himself regularly from full back and made if not broke the gain-line when he did however too often the line drifted, missing a good straight runner to straighten the line and allow the outside backs some room to run onto the ball at pace.
Brett began to ring the changes with Ra Hinder coming on for Vaka, Brandon Nemier replacing Craig Atthis and Jonah being injected into the game as Jack Holt came off after a busy game at half back where he on occasion was required to stand strong under some pressure at the base of the ruck. Brad Fell came into scrum half, Gwyn into 5/8th, Ben Carr to fullback and Jonah to the wing. Masi and Joel also swapped around bringing Masi closer to the action.
This paid almost immediate dividends with Masivesi making a real pain of himself for the Perth inside backs as he ran in, through and around them creating opportunities for the Lions backs to run off him. Getting the ball in space Masi showed and go-ed (or in the grammatically correct past tense but slightly less poetic “showed and went”) to get passed the inside defence and put Joel into space down the outside. Joel ran the ball around under the posts to make the conversion easier. Score Perth 22 – Lions 14.
Perth then looked to maintain their advantage and used the wind at every opportunity to keep play deep in the Lions territory. Although the Lions lineout had been solid all day the ball bobbled loose and Perth attacked the line off the back of the lineout. A defensive miscommunication left a gap that the Lions were unable to cover and Perth went over for a try under the posts. Try converted, 29-14.
With the clock winding down the Lions needed to score thrice to snatch this one and played with some spirit to salvage some pride. A good bit of short hit pop rugby occurred down the far side with Scott Turnbull, Dan Swain and Ra Hinder all making ground. Again being able to get the ball in space paid dividends for Masivesi who again broke the line and released fellow Fijian Tomasi who beat the cover defence to the line to score. The conversion from out wide was unsuccessful. Perth 29 – Lions 19.
Unfortunately in the closing passage Masi looked to run a ball out from deep in our half and fumbled it on into the waiting hands of the kick chaser from Perth who fell over the line. The conversion saw Baysie run out winners 36-19.
Reflecting on the game the next day after watching the video footage Coach Brett Fell noted, “We didn’t lack momentum and in passages we played quite well which wasn’t really apparent on the day under those conditions. We just didn’t maintain our momentum. Almost every try they scored they scored from turn over ball.”
“I thought the boys lacked patience and let's face it, our discipline was very poor. The scrum penalties aside we gave away 14 or 15 penalties which on replay are all legitimate. That just killed us. We also fell off too many one-on-one tackles”.
“We did have some new combinations at play and that might explain a few of the things that didn’t go our way but at the end of the day it was our decision making under pressure that really let us down and we didn’t do what we did at training and didn’t execute the plan we had set for ourselves.”
“It’s the old thing: you earn the right to go wide by going forward first and we didn’t do that well.”
“Still, that puts us half way through the 18 round season and we’re 4 wins and 4 losses. There’s still some real ground we can make up next week against Palmyra but we can’t hide from the fact that they’ll be absolutely gunning for us so there should be no misunderstanding that”
“There’s a bit in that for us to work on, which we will. But, that’s rugby and we just get back on the horse, learn what we can from this and move forward.”
Next week the Lions play Palmyra at the Lions’ Den in the Battle of the South.