Premier Grade Match Report, Rd 15 2018 vs Palmyra RUFC
By Ronan OShea
by the Lineside Lion
There is a story. A tale. A legend.
It is the story of the stone cutter and his rock.
Every day the stone cutter journeyed to his quarry and contemplated a piece of rock he had quarried. Much like the single piece of marble that Michaelangelo carved his David from he knew that within that rock dwelt the purest marble. Stone that held the potential to be fashioned and shaped, polished to perfection and that would fetch a high price.
But to get to it he had to break the rock.
With his poor hand tools he returned each day and pounded the rock. Each day he devoted time to this task to try and reveal the potential within. Each day the rock resisted and refused to yield but with each chip more of its potential was revealed.
He pounded the rock 100 times to little avail. On the 101st day and on the 101st strike the rock cracked and revealed itself to the stone cutter.
The metaphor is one of persistence. It is one of perseverance. It is the tale of working with the tools you have.
It is the tale of the second half Southern Lions' season.
Yet again the Lions senior side had to work with the personnel available and did an admirable job in trying conditions against Palmyra.
Like the stone cutter, we all know the potential within the Lions and, like the stonecutter, the Lions persevere, continuing to “pound the rock” hoping to access the potential within and return to the winner's circle.
Whilst this week’s performance revealed glimpses, unfortunately, the rock won. Again.
Naming the best side available to him on Thursday Coach Brett Fell and the team were again disrupted by late changes with Isi Pedersen unavailable and Brandon Niemann unaccounted for.
And so the patchwork team that seniors has become was cobbled into action again.
Jonah Naborisi was promoted to his first grade starting debut on the right wing whilst Brad Fell moved up into inside centre and Nathan Lamatoa dropped back to full back. This made for an underweight back line. However, for all that, Brett asked the backs pre-game to not shirk the hard work and to try and bend the line, outsized as they were and the players responded in kind displaying no end of willing against the larger Palmyra backs.
With Scott Turnbull and Dan Swain both injured, Craig Atthis still away and Brandon AWOL a mismatched second row pairing was forced with man of the match Jordan Shelford pairing up with Fergus Lee Warner. Jordan accepted this with us usual phlegmatic grace which he abandoned once kick off started carrying with vigour and never far from the rough stuff.
The bench was filled by those who had already played one, and in places 2, games with Nathaniel Bond-Williams being called up at the last minute with Jonah’s promotion to the starting line-up and Jack Holt, Ben & Ra Hinder and Charlie Pinkerton all doing more than their duty in making themselves available for the bench. The silver lining in this is that Brett is getting the opportunity to expose some young up and comers to the rigours of Premiership rugby.
Proceedings got under way after a minute’s silence was observed as a mark of respect for former Lions’ coach Michael Caes, and father of 1st XV hooker Joe Claes, who sadly passed away earlier in the week.
The Lions stuck to their game plan well in the conditions which were already wet and muddy but were not helped by 10 minutes of gusty squall early in the first half.
Kyle Fell looks to have played his way back into some match fitness after admitting to being breathless after his return several weeks ago at Soaks and was aggressive with ball in hand taking it to the line and abrasive over the contested ball.
Keegan Rowley directed play well for the Lions in the opening stanzas again showing his worth directing traffic and providing reliable service linking the forward and backs.
The Lions looked to have adjusted to the conditions well after not having played to the conditions the previous week and capitalised on the heavy brigade when they bent the line with the indestructible Iron Mike, Jordan Shelford and Dean Kingi running some nice lines off the Maxi Taxi’s shoulder and really stretching Pally’s defence around tackle contest.
The scrum was stable if not dominant and was assisted by some very clean strikes from Joey Claes who got the ball to the back cleanly and quickly more often than not despite some close attention from the Palmyra pack. The lineout was generally consistent with squally conditions making it difficult for both sides at line out time and the Lions won as much ball as Pally did.
Palmyra varied their attack well and with Force recruit and former Australia u/20 Jack McGregor at stand-off turned the Lions' defence more than once with some deft kicking to Ben Carr’s wing. However, although ceding height and reach to his opposite number Ben played his usual pinball style game of kick return retreating and recovering well and linking inside with Nathan Lamatoa.
Joel and Brad defended well in the centre channel whilst Joey Claes played like an extra breakaway.
Dean Kingi picked up shouldering much of the work carried this season by Dan Swain and with Dean knowing only one way to play, straight forward and heart on his sleeve, he bent the line and gave the Lions some real go forward in the first half.
Whereas much hullabaloo always accompanies Professor H. Vakuola’s aggressive approach to his practical demonstrations in the laws of physics in and around the one channel the understated Jordan Shelford quietly went about the business of doing the hard graft and put in a solid 80 in attack and defence.
However, it was Pally’s straight and low runners that did the damage opening the account through some good hard, low running to burrow over twice after they had muscled their way out of their territory against the wind.
The restart allowed the Lions to again use the wind to their advantage and keep Palmyra in their half for long periods but their far winger found some space and ran the ball out of their 22.
Although ran down by Nathan Lamatoa it was the converging Jonah Naborisi who showed wonderful positional play and a good work rate to get into a position to cover from the far wing to be the second man there. Pally recycled and looked to take advantage of Jonah’s absent wing space but McGregor overcooked the kick and it went wide.
Still, the referee managed to find a ruck penalty in Pally’s favour and they kicked for touch. The ball came midfield from the ensuing lineout where Palmyra conceded a penalty trying to hoof the ball through the ruck, now outlawed under the 2018 rule changes.
The arm wrestle continued between the 22’s and Joe Claes made a huge bone crunching tackle that sounded clear across the paddock and left Joe clutching his already injured ribs and gasping for breath. However, Joe found his wind and played on.
Pally looked for all money to have scored in the club house corner for a third time after their second row regathered a kick through but Jonah did enough to force the Pally player's foot onto the touch line and play was called back.
From the resulting lineout Kyle kicked deep and Brad Woodford followed putting pressure on the kick return allowing Iron Mike to adopt the classic jackal position and force the turnover penalty 5 metres the Lions' side of half way.
With Joel carrying knee and quadriceps concerns (but still playing) brother Nathan assumed the kicking duties and had one of his best kicking games in recent weeks, always finding his touch and kicking well in field play and perfectly weighting his restarts allowing Fergus and Tomasi to get under them and knock them back for the Lions’ followers to run onto.
Opting to take the shot from 55 out the attempt did him no shame. The line was perfect even if the length faded to slip just under the cross bar.
However, despite being deep in try scoring territory on several occasions the Lions couldn’t cross the line in the first 40 and went into the break 14-0 down in what was a very good first half of rugby.
The Lions came out now playing into the wind and managed to gain some momentum through the forwards driving up the centre field, none making more metres than Jordan Shelford who had a storming run up fat man’s alley. As the piggies committed themselves to the fray the ball inched closer with at last Vaka managing to smuggle the ball over the line himself forced over by Iron Mike and Dean Kingi. Nathan converted to make it 7-14.
However, Pally answered in kind soon after and restored their 14 point lead.
Although the Lions remained in the fight the fight soon went out of several Lions with Dean Kingi leaving the field with a bung shoulder and Jonah cramping badly and unable to unlock his lower leg. Ra Hinder came into the second row moving Fergus to No 8 and Brad Woodford to openside whilst Colt Nathaniel Bond-Williams made his second debut for the day coming on to Jonah’s now vacant wing.
Unfortunately Nathaniel’s first touch in Premier grade was a Keegan Rowley bullet to the short side wing expecting him to make a clearing kick deep in the 22. Not expecting the pass the ball sailed through Nathaniel’s hands into touch.
Tomasi threatened the Pally line in defence and attack and was unfortunate not to come away with an intercept but the wet and bobbling ball escaped even his athletic attempts to regather it.
Captain Brad Fell defended courageously at 12 all day and linked well with brother Kyle until the rigours of tackling Pally’s heavier backs took its toll and he corked a thigh leaving him limping for the rest of the game. Unable to rely on his leg he switched himself out to the wing bringing Ben Carr into inside centre in his stead.
Fergus then led from the front carrying well on more than one occasion in the same passage of play taking proceedings up to the 15 metre line where a Pally player was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock down 15 minutes from full time.
Nathaniel injected himself into the game where he could and exerted good kick pressure from the wing. He made a nice break down the far wing and earned a penalty for a high tackle in what was a strong carry.
As the Lions took the quick tap play swung infield until the ball came back Nathaniel’s way who ran a good support line to Joel Lamatoa. With Nathaniel on the outside Joel however backed himself and took his opposition on going over in the corner. This left brother Nathan with a rather perverse brotherly challenge to convert Joel’s try kicking into the stiff breeze from out wide. Challenge accepted, said Nathan as he judged the kick to perfection. 14-28.
However, despite some good rugby the Lions failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage. With Palmyra’s yellow card returned to the field Ra Hinder was replaced with Ben Hinder coming into rake dropping Joe Claes back to second row whilst Jack Holt came in for Keegan.
Unfortunately Palmyra managed to cross twice more in controversial circumstances with some confusion about when and where offside is at the ruck allowing their far winger to go over and then the Palmyra prop engaging in triple (or possibly quadruple) movement to smuggle the ball over at the death. Palmyra running out winners 42-14.
Coach Brett Fell applauded a gusty effort from the boys after the game.
“Some of these guys have backed up today not once but twice and that shows some real guts. Given the disruption we’ve had they played well and were competitive in large patches of the game”.
“The tries we scored were really well worked and we largely played the plan we wanted to. The bye has come at the right time and we’ll rest up and take it easy this week and have the week off and hit our straps again fresh Tuesday week.”
“We have two more games and they’re now must win games for us to stay in the hunt for finals.”
Captain Brad Fell also spoke positively after the game.
“We played 75 minutes of good rugby and the effort was there throughout the game. We dealt really well with the disruptions we’ve had. It’s not ideal but it is what it is and we came out and gave it our best crack with guys on debut and guys doubling up and did really well with the team that we have”.
And so the Lions have again showed character and blooded more new players. They have persevered with the players available to them.
They continue to pound the rock.
Again the rock won this round but with every blow struck, more of the rock is chipped away and the Lions reveal more and more of the potential, and their character, that lies within.
The Lions now go into their bye round and have a week off to regroup before returning to pound the rock once more, taking on ARKS at the Lions’ Den.