The Footscray Bulldogs scored a convincing win to start their season.
Both teams were looking to make a good first impression and start season 2016 off with a win.
Melbourne University were the surprise package of season 2015, making the Grand Final. Changes to both playing and coaching staff could slow their progress in 2016. New head coach Andrew “Sly” Slyfield will look to rebuild for a tilt at the 2017 premiership.
Footscray have seen great stability in their team, with many plays enjoying a number of seasons together. They will look to exploit this stability for the season ahead, with perhaps a shot at finals football.
Both teams started the match with undisciplined play, with both teams conceding a number of penalties. Footscray were first to turn a penalty into points, kicking a penalty goal. Uni replied with their own penalty goal 3 minutes later. After 18 minutes scores were locked at 3 apiece.
The Bulldogs then hit the lead with two Tries, both scored out wide on the right wing. Only one try was converted to make the score 15-3 to the Bulldogs.
After the restart the Dogs found themselves down a man, with hooker Dee Samson receiving a yellow card for a professional foul on the try line. Deep in the Bulldogs 22, Uni soon found the line to score their first try of the match. The try was converted to make the score 15 – 10 to the Bulldogs.
Footscray was quick to adapt to a man down and soon extended their lead. Tries in quick succession to Shane Tuaga and Keisuke Yamada extended the lead against a stunned University side. Both tries were unconverted to make the score 25 – 10 to the Bulldogs at half time.
Yamada playing in 2015
University Coach Slyfield tried to inject new life in his team with three substitutions at the break, but this had little impact on the game. After just four minutes Footscray crossed the line for another Try. The try was unconverted, leaving the score at 30 – 10 to the Bulldogs.
Slyfield then made a further three changes, which had an impact on the scoreboard. After some committed play, University cross the line to narrow the score to 30 – 15.
Soon after the restart, a University player received a yellow card for a professional found on the try line. The Bulldogs exploited their numerical advantage, scoring another three tries and one conversion. Yamada capped of a brilliant day, scoring his third Try on the siren.
Final scores: 47 – 15 to the Bulldogs.
The Wrap Up
The first match of the season can often be misleading, with both teams still working on combinations and execution.
The Bulldogs have a more settled player group and are ahead of the Student in the preparation. Their combination and cohesion between forwards and backs were superior, as well as the will of playing the ball openly. Most notably, the Bulldogs exposed the left side of Melbourne Uni defence, scoring 5 tries on that wing.
The benefit of having a professional player like Culum Retallick in their team was evident, with his experience on show in the forward pack.
Culum Retallick playing for the Blues in Super Rugby 2013
The Students need to work more on both discipline and combinations to avoid being outplayed this season.
The Game Changer
Shane Tuaga‘s try at the end of the first half, with the Bulldogs one man down, was a psychological blow for the Students and turned the score in favour of the home side.
The G&GR MOTM
Daisuke Yamada was a constant danger for the opponents. The speedy scrum-half was able to direct his team very well and celebrated the win with three personal tries.
Footscray number eight Sio Mika had a very solid game as well as first rowers Soan Naufahu and Dee Samasoni. Melbourne University backrower Sefo Rasese and fullback Tom McGain were very good in a losing side.
Score & Scorers
Footscray 47 (25)
Tries: Yamada (3), Petelli, Tugaga, Leota, Mika, Ah Voa
Conversions: M. Naufahu 2
Penalties: M. Naufahu 1
Melbourne Uni 15 (10)
Conversion: McGain 1
Penalties: McGain 1/2
Cards & citings
YCs Footscray: Samasoni, Uni: Sanchez, #19
The Other Matches
In the other three games of the round the Rams, Unicorns and Harlequins scored big victories.
Harlequins – Endeavour Hills 47 – 26
Power House – Melbourne 5 – 45
Moorabbin – Southern Disctrics 53 – 29
Despite the score, the match between Harlequins and Endeavour Hills was a close affair. Endeavour Hills showed they are a vastly improved side from 2015, playing in a tight contest against the reigning premiers. Eventually the Eagles ran out of steam and Harlequins ended up running out 21 point winners in the last quarter of the game.
Although the result was never in doubt, Moorabbin had to push themselves to overcome the Pirates. Despite some flashes of good play, poor discipline cost Southern Districts dearly. The lack of depth may also be an issue for the Pirates who weren’t able to field a thirds team in the first round.