What a day for rugby in in Perth today, a huge u11 & u12 7s tournament being played at Guildford Grammar School with 30 odd teams playing on the day, Golden Oldies Carnivals being held all on the same day and roughly same times as the Perth Spirit match and still 2000 plus people cheering the home team on.
A beautiful cloudless afternoon!
Rugby was on.
Late announcements with withdrawals from both teams with Jed Holloway out with a hamstring and Peter Grant with illness, but with the Rams bringing 2 wins from 2 and topping the table into the game and the Road Safety & Property Powerhouse Perth Spirit feeling that they had let themselves down last week against the Vikings, a bit of apprehensive tension was filling the mood in anticipation of a great game.
The score line paints the picture, the Spirit simply dominated all facets of play across the park today.
The first minutes of the game were fairly loose – an over eagerness of both times perhaps – pushing passes and dropping the ball got us straight into a couple of set pieces to get things underway. Nothing was really happening outside of a bit of backwards and forwards in the middle of the field with the home team looking to get the initial ascendancy in the set pieces.
Isi was off on an early run and the crowd warming to the “GOOOooo IIISsssiiiII!!!” shout when he starts to wind up.
The Greater Sydney Rams pushed the ball toward the touchline for a line out on their feed, which was duly collected on the top, and swung wide for the blindside wing – John Grant – to score the first of his 2 for the day with a lovely sweeping line, that straightened up to cut between 2 players to stretch his stride from the around the 22 yard line to opening the scoring. Converted to make it 7-0 with almost 15mins gone.
The reply was quick in coming with the Spirit quick in reply, surging up field and Jono Lance going over – the decision required the TMO to give his opinion and it was eventually given, Jono kicked the extras 7-7.
From there…well I’ve been accused of being possibly a touch bias before, but it was all Perth Spirit.
The word “dramastic” was used be a near rugby fan nearby – going for dramatic, thinking drastic. We have added to the English language, once again Rugby Union on the cutting edge.
The Spirit forwards took over Matt Philip, Richie Arnold, Kane Koteka, Pek Cowan, Isi, and Anaru went berserk allowing the backs to run line after line and ball handling and movement that had to be seen to be believed.
2 more quick tries were scored by the Spirit in Cowan and Meakes. With the Spirit Locks involved in the thick of things galloping away, eating meters, absorbing contact to set runners away. 21-7
Getting towards 10mins to half time the Rams got the ball back and spent some time pushing the at the line, but the Spirit defence was dominant there as well, repelling wave after wave away until an error gave possession back to the Spirit, with a short ball from Lance to Meakes who stepped on the power and went for a precision run up field, steeping to stand up the last line of defence before offloading to Kane Koteka who ran for the open line and scoring. Jono again with the extras from a long kick making it 28-7 at the half.
The half time break saw the Rams head behind the goal posts to the shade of some nearby trees – reminding everyone that although this is an elite competition there is still solid contact with the club roots of rugby and a lack of pretentiousness.
The 2nd half started with a quick breakaway try to 6 Katoni Ale…until Mack Mason was stopped in his attempt to convert and another lengthy conversion with the TMO ruled a double knock on in play and a scrum. Things reverting back to a little scrappy for a couple minutes, but the Rams starting to work to gain the ball and the meters, pushing up field moving from side to side, couple of line outs, but another big defensive effort keeping the Rams at bay, until the Spirit got their hands on the ball, and looked to swing and run to get out of their 22 was halted when a long pass was judged to have gone forward, putting the Rams in a good spot.
Couple of substitutions and we carry on.
The Rams were pushed back and began to lose their grip on territory, with a surge and kick to the corner the Spirit were attacking off a line out with Billy Meakes scoring from a jinxing run up the guts. Ian Prior with the conversion and its 35-7 with 23mins left in the game.
The kick off and the Spirit forwards once again go on the gallop, driving the Rams backwards allowing the Spirit players to flick the ball about, with everyone getting positive touches in leading to another try by Kane Koteka – converted again by Prior who was on for Lance at flyhalf.
Spirit starting to pick holes at will now and playing a brilliant quick ball game setting Curtis up to score. The conversion wasn’t successful on this attempt but the score blowing out to 47-7 with 17mins left.
Another couple of drives and the Spirit are in again, but the referee looking at the grounding of the ball eventually awarding the try to James Verity-Amm and the extras making it 54-7 with 15mins on the clock.
A couple more substitutions for both sides and play slowed for a couple minutes, allowing for the crowd to start discussing that the Ram’s players were largely missing today and that if Jed Holloway being absent had such an effect on the Rams then he needs to called up to higher honours immediately.
Another smart break by the Spirit and try to the Associates player and PG Hampshire cup (best and fairest player in the local Pindan Perth Premier grade) Brendan Owen who had been called into the squad as a late replacement, combined with a sweet strike from Prior again making it 61-7 with less than 10 to go in the match and the Spirit switched off – that doesn’t take anything away from the Rams next try, with the ball being moved up the left side of the field for it to be brought back across with quick breakdown work to a long ball out to John Grant to collect his second for the day in the right hand corner, giving Mack Mason a job too much for the extras. 61-12.
Restart and Rams with all the play, the ball moving through hands, direct and at pace – largely non-existent during the game, but now in full display and it looks good – and Mack Mason over for the Ram’s 3rd try of the afternoon and the end of the game.
Final Score 61-17
This can be painted any which way, but the Rams weren’t in the match – they played and put pressure on, but didn’t come away with points when they most needed to and got dominated across the park until late in the game, by which stage it was long over.
Some nice touches with both teams clapping each other off the field and the Spirit lining up to thank the crowd – the Rams players applauding that as well.
HIGHLIGHT POSITIONAL BATTLE:
Spirit 14 – Clay Uyen V Rams 11 – Taqele Naiyaravoro
The Monster Rams 11, capped Wallaby Taqele Naiyaravoro looked strong ball in hand, making meters and swapping players, but everytime he was brought down by his opposite number Clay Uyen from the UWA club in Perth.
Absolutely enthralling battle – size a huge initial factor, clearly both players fast, but after being pushed off early, a lightning fast rebound and immediate tackle set the outline for the rest of the game – ultimately won by Clay, by getting his man every time.
Worth watching the game just for this alone.
The Game Changer
The Rams first try.
This set the Spirit alight – like a fighter getting a wake-up jab to the chin – the Spirit set about dismantling the Rams from this point.
The G&GR MOTM
Billy Meakes – was immense in the mid field, ran beautifully off Jono Lance, defended his channel got stuck into rucks and scored a brace. Went off before in the second half, but was instrumental in the Spirit standing up and thumping the Rams.
Oz BaaBaa Watch?
Both Wingers today
Clay Uyen – A wing with pace and the defensive heart of a bull terrier.
John Grant, finished with 2 tries for crossing the line after a strong run early in the match and finishing off late in the second half.
ROAD SAFETY PERTH SPIRIT 61 (Tries: Meakes 2, Koteka 2, Lance, Vui, Malolo, Verity-Amm, Owen; Cons: Lance 4/4, Prior 4/5
GREATER SYDNEY RAMS 17 (Tries: Grant 2, Mason; Cons: Mason 1/3)
Photo Credit: Delphy