There were only four matches remaining in the NSW GPS after the mid-season break and three teams were contending for the chocolates.
At the other end of the scale Shore were desperate to get their first win of the season especially after their agonising loss on the bell to Scots last time out. Joeys and Newington had only two wins each but could at least aim for the bronze by beating Shore and Riverview respectively.
Riverview wasn’t going to lie down though, after having their own heartbreak before the holidays in one of the games of the year, against Joeys.
A sparkling July afternoon, a big crowd at Bellevue Hill, and two schoolboy teams ready to give their all in a top of the table clash. What more could you want?
Did I mention the wind?!
With injury-replacements at flyhalf (Jake Styles, Yr 11) and No.8 (Will Harris, Yr 10), Scots had to man-up hosting a settled Kings’ outfit.
The opening skirmishes reflected what you’d expect from joint-ladder leaders in swirling, breezy conditions.
Tight forward exchanges with evenly matched packs. Multiple-phase pick-and-drive play. Almost ‘vanilla’ backline manoeuvrings, feeling the other out; probing for weakness in watertight defensive lines. A nil-all arm-wrestle for the first 20 minutes, without signs of undue urgency.
Only the odd ‘lost ahead’ call, some artful-dodger pilfering at a breakdown, or the misadventure of a too-long, looped, cut-out pass, looked capable of providing either of: the sniff of a turnover, or better field position and a subsequent point-scoring opportunity.
It was Scots’ left-wing Billy Smith, making it back into the starting side from the Rehab Unit, who touched down out wide to open the game’s scoring when he finished off some controlled phase-ball play from Scots’ piggies.
Almost from the restart Smith featured again when he squeezed through Kings’ mid-field D and kicked ahead for flying blindside flanker George Miller to win the footrace to the ball and the stripe. #15 Will Simpson slotted the extras, and almost surprisingly, given the tightness of the opening, Scots held a 12-0 lead.
Half-time score: Scots 12 – Kings 0
After oranges, Kings came out of their own territory, thanks to the booming left foot of fullback Luke Osborne, and looked to set up base camp inside Scots’ half, with significant periods spent inside Scots’ 22.
With just 15 minutes left, Scots’ D finally cracked. Silky backline passes went out to Kings’ right wing, Ben Duckworth, who dotted down out wide. Although the conversion attempt was a “”poster”, Kings were behind now by a converted try only, and the game had come alive for those packed in the visitors’ stands.
Osborne broke upfield through the middle, and fed left this time to #11 William Douglass, who showed a clean pair of heels to touch down out wide. The near-impossible conversion attempt from the eastern touchline into the stiff westerly, fell well short, and it was ‘game on’ with Scots clinging to a 12-10 lead and the Kingsmen supporters in full voice.
Atmospherics had gotten ‘tense’, and Scots re-set from the kickoff, committed to spending the remaining time and effort inside Kings’ territory.
With minutes to go the ball was spread wide after sustained work from the Scots’ forward pack, and #14 Tom Yassmin added to his season’s tally by touching down just inside the corner post. On the conversion attempt, the wind did the Kings’ chasers’ job, knocking the ball from the kicking-tee, and Scots held at 17-10 with much interest now focused on the game clock.
Kings pressed Scots’ tryline right to the end, but their second-half fightback was finally put to the sword with a high-tackle penalty call and a swift Scots’ kick into touch.
Full time: Scots 17 – Kings 10
#6 George Miller – Had a whale of a game. In everything; tackled like a man possessed; cleaned-out; a leader by example, and scored a telling try.
#9 Ben Miller – Contended with both a new no.8 and a new flyhalf. Gave accurate and swift sevce, and when he had to, played as a back-up loose forward at the breakdown.
#15 Will Simpson – A fine game at the back; kicked well in difficult conditions for kickers.
#4 Nick Brown – Go-to man in Kings’ lineout; a real handful on the charge.
#12 Matt Orpen – A rock in the three-quarters; led his team with distinction.
#8 Dylan Pietsch – Threatened all day, asking questions with ball in hand through the heavy middle. A key defender and fossicker in rucks and mauls.
After this gut-clenching Round 7 thriller, Scots breathe ‘rarified’ air as this season’s first sole ladder-leader. But that’s only assured until next week’s away game at Stanmore against rejuvenated Newington. Kings head to Joeys next week looking to repeat their at-home success in Round 3.
Scots 17 ( W. Smith, G. Miller, T. Yasmin tries; W. Simpson con.) def. Kings (D. Duckworth, W. Douglass tries.)
2nd XV: Scots 10 – Kings 8
by Lee Grant
One felt this game could go to the team that handled the strong south-westerly better.
Joeys had lost all three of their home games and Shore hadn’t won anywhere; so players from one team would get some satisfaction.
Joeys broke Shore open early and after going right first they scored on the left when 15 McTaggart went over in the arms of two tacklers. Then the Joeys’ backs went through them again like locusts and winger Day went over, and converted his own try.
Five minutes in Joeys led Shore12-0 although playing against a strong wind. This was not the Shore side that fought tooth and nail and nearly upset Scots before the holidays.
Worse was to follow when Aussie Schoolboy lock selection, Suttor of Shore, got carded for an alleged lifting tackle. Somehow Shore settled for ten minutes but it was too good to last and after 13 Jaffer-Williams wrestled his way forward, and a few straight pick and goes later, McTaggart got his second.
It was a dreadful portent for Shore being 0-17 down with the wind at their backs and 14 minutes remaining in the half, but strangely they began to play their best rugby of the day.
Joeys helped them by trying cocky, too-long passes in the wind and dropping the ball; so after a rare long effective kick with the breeze, and a penalty chaser, Shore LHP Edwards scored from a driving lineout maul. Soon after rested team mate Suttor picked the ball out of a ruck and dove over..
Half-time score: Joeys 17- Shore 10.
After the break SJC had another quick start when Shore stuffed up the kick-off and 10 Wilkinson took off from the scrum. He attracted too many defenders and 12 Reilly scored with a regulation in-and-away. Joeys 22-10.
It might have been a deluge after that but there was not much of note for a while except for a handbag contest (a draw), and McTaggart collecting a corner post attempting his treble.
McTaggart did get his third, under the crossbar, when Wilkinson over-committed too many Shore defenders again and backhanded a pass to him. Joeys were on fire at 29-10 with 15 minutes left—and then nearly got another with razzle-dazzle, but for a forward pass.
Joeys’ blindside flanker Ashhurst capped a notable game when he grabbed Shore ball and hared off between the sticks a long way away.
It was time for Shore to give up but they didn’t, and hammered the SJC line instead—but LHP Holley made a key play for the home team and they cleared. Down at the other end now, Ashhurst nearly got his second but it wasn’t to be. Forward.
Full-time score: Joeys 36 – Shore 10
Shore didn’t look dangerous but their lineout drives and occasional spontaneous mauls were first rate; however Joeys got turnovers from their scrums.
They didn’t kick to the north-east corner well enough using the wind in the first half, and Joeys schooled them in the second. Nor did they have the game breakers that Joeys had: the absence of fullback Luke Rixon was telling.
Joeys – their forwards played their most potent game of the season albeit not against big boppers. Their pick and goes were admirable and relays of piggies kept drives going because they got up off the ground quickly enough.
As usual their strength was in their backline, and some of their interplay was eye-catching.
3 points – Scrummie Will Haskins made several runs around the rucks and also created chances with diagonal runs.
2 points -. Lock Rory Suttor played his usual follow-me game but not enough did so.
1 point – No.8 Robin Allen had a remarkable jack-of-all-trades first half.
3 points – Fullback Matthew McTaggart continued his superb support play shown at the nationals, and converted three breaks into tries.
2 points – Blindsider James Ashhurst had his best game of the season with his hard-loose play; got a try and nearly another.
1 point – Nicholas Wilkinson – the Aussie Schools flyhalf may not be a brilliant game manager but his runs set up tries and his on-field bossing was influential.
Joeys 36 (M. McTaggart 3, L. Day, T. Reilly, J. Ashhurst; Day 3 cons.) def. Shore 10 (L. Edward, R. Suttor tries.)
2nd XV: Joeys 14 – Shore 12
16As: Joeys 24 – Shore 17
by “Short Ball”
Newington looked strong out of the gate, forcing View into an early penalty on their own 22 but Bayley Kuenzle (10) missed the goal. First blood however did come to Newington 15 minutes in with a try under the posts. Newington up 7-0 after the conversion.
Newington struck again soon following a high tackle by Riverview halfback Will Grant. The penalty set up a lineout deep inside the Iggie’s 22 and a crash ball try by Hamish Duvall (12) had Newington up 14-0 with the extras.
With Riverview looking to score before the game got out of hand, Tom Lenehan (10) executed a nifty kick off a scrum, recovered by William Terry (13) who crashed over to secure View’s first bit of meat. Sideline conversion successful by View’s newly-appointed fullback and goal kicker Oliver Clarke (15).
After the restart not going 10, and a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, momentum swung Riverview’s way courtesy of poor Newington discipline.
Some strong forward play and hard-running metres by Riverview loosies Michael Fenn (8) and Charlie Rorke (6), let Terry pick up his second, in the corner, and the Iggie’s faithful chanted “on fire”—but the conversion missed:
Half- time score: Newington 14 – Riverview 12.
Riverview continued their momentum after the break and struck early with Oliver Smeallie (14) scoring in the corner after a string of Newington penalties. The conversion missed but View led for the first time 17-14.
Newington was not going to let the game slip away, and forced a penalty just inside Riverview’s ten-metre line. Easy pickings for Kuenzle – 17-17. But Riverview struck back with a penalty goal of their own following a strong run by 2nd XV call-up Malu Nona (11). View again by 3.
Momentum started to swing back to Newington after a yellow card to Riverview’s Jaxon Petterson (4) for collapsing a maul. Newington capitalised, with some dominant hit-ups by THP Opeti Helu and Nathan Lawson (8) setting up a penalty try. The conversion was a formality, and Newington led again, 24-20.
Newington soon had the tough task of defending their lead with 14 men, after Opeti Helu was sat down for ten minutes for a high tackle and they quickly gave away a crucial penalty inside their own 22. This gave Riverview a golden opportunity to clinch the win, but they let Newington off the hook with a forward pass close to full-time.
But the game was far from over, and with Riverview’s season on the line Chris Scott (7) secured a turnover to give them one last crack. This ended with another Newington escape, from a knock on, and after a handful of forward hit-ups from View, a poor clearance kick prompted the final whistle.
Newington had secured their biggest win of the season so far.
Final score: Newington 24 – Riverview 20.
Unforced errors and a lack of discipline spelt the end for Riverview and also the wet track from recent rain neutered their deadly outside backs, to an extent. They will be looking to get back on the horse next week against Shore and redress three losses on the trot.
Newington probably played their best game of the year and took advantage some cheap mistakes from Riverview. They host Scots next week and will give them a run for their money, without a doubt.
3 points: William Terry (13) – Played well, as though with a chip on his shoulder after missing out on Australian selection. Scored two tries and made a number of solid runs.
2 points: Michael Fenn (8) – Made some big carries when View needed it.
1 point: Thomas Lenehan (10) – Did well facilitating ball movement and took the right options.
3 points: Hamish Duvall (12) – Scored a try and challenged the Riverview backline on many occasions.
2 points: Opeti Helu (3) – Used his size well in the loose with some dominant hit-ups and rucking.
1 point: Bayley Kuenzle (10) – Managed Newington’s backline and offensive structure well.
Newington 24 (H. Duvall, A. Nother tries, penalty try; B. Kuenzle 3 cons, pen.) def. Riverview 20 ( W. Terry 2, O. Smealie tries; O. Clarke con, pen.)
Round 7 Wrap-up
As mentioned above: Scots has emerged from the round as outright leaders.
This must be pleasing for their fans who have seen the them nudge to the top with some narrow scrapes, without having the bevy of stars they have had for the last few years. Three players chosen for the nationals was a meagre selection tally for the school. Well done them in the GPS.
Kings remains the most likely team to get level with them in the next three rounds, with some help from other teams, and Riverview is a roughie, especially because they have lost three in a row.
There are fanciful calculations how others can be joint Champions but only the trainspotters believe them.
Ladder: Scots 12, Kings 10, Riverview 8, Joeys 6, Newington 6, Shore 0 .
GPS 3rd XV Competition Round 6
There were no surprises in the results from Round 6 of the 3rd XV competition, which is an official Championship of the GPS because it is the highest level that Sydney Boys High, Sydney Grammar School and the Armidale School (GPS Schools all), can play at.
Grammar vs Kings
Grammar were dominant from the first whistle in their encounter against Kings at Weigall. Despite their limited possession, Grammar showcased their unrivalled flair and skill, executing their pattern and making the most of attacking opportunities throughout the game.
SGS winger Oscar Halbmeyer produced the highlight play of the day, brushing off several defenders over 70 meters to set up a try for captain Josh Smith.
Final Score: SGS 28 – TKS 0
Scots vs High
Scots bamboozled a lacklustre High side with their slick ball movement and strong offloading. Whilst High showed glimpses of their potential, they have struggled all season from the lack of a reliable playmaker as well as their poor transition defence.
Scots #3 Mitchell Smith was hard to contain, crossing the line several times.
Final Score: TSC 33 – SHS 0
TAS vs Shore
Shore made the dreaded 8-hour trip up to Armidale, only to act as a minor speed bump on TAS’s road to their second 3rd XV Championship.
Final Score: TAS 41 – Shore 0
Riverview vs Newington
Riverview are making a late season surge, scoring their second win in consecutive weeks to lift them off the bottom of the table.
Credit must go to Newington however, who scored their first try of the season.
Final Score: SIC 24 – NC 5
Armidale: 12*, Joeys: 8, Grammar: 8*, Kings: 6, Scots: 6, Riverview: 4, Shore: 2, Newington: 2, High: 0*
* Have had extra game
The Joeys Third XV had an enjoyable bye-week match against the visiting Merchant Taylors’ School, which is situated in Northwood, near Watford, England.
The visitors were in their under 17 Year (which started on 1 September 2015), and had some Under 16s, but they performed admirably against the older locals, who won 33-21.
According to their masters the boys had a great trip and enjoyed their time playing in Queensland and NSW.
Photos of Joeys v Shore and Third XV Friendly by Lee Grant.