There can be only one. Now only Newington remains undefeated. Unless… Only Shore and Riverview stand between Newington and glory in 2012.
Shore 22 – Scots 36
Crowd: 2,000. Sunny and 20 degrees.
Photos courtesy of Alan Frost
On a beautiful, sunny day in Northbridge the crowds came to witness schoolboy rugby at its finest. Amid the gloom surrounding the national team and the sourness evident throughout the rugby community, here was something sparkling – rugby at its best and most exuberant.
The liniment in the air crinkled the nose like wasabi as Shore kicked off. Naturally, David Horwitz ran it from inside the 22: ah, glorious running rugby from the off. The safer option was to kick it out, because a ruck penalty cost Scots three points, penalty kicked by Shore 12, Steane Davies. Would caution or enterprise win the day?
From the first Shore lineout, the ball is spun across the field: Result: Lineout to Scots at the same position on the opposite side of the field. Lesson: You have to earn the right to go wide. Meanwhile, the Shore and Scots boys sang as in days of yore.
After a steal at the breakdown, Scots surge left and punch holes in Shore’s scrambling defense. Quick use of turnover ball, a la Crusaders, puts 13 Jim Stewart over in the corner. Kellaway converts with a beauty from the sideline: 7-3 to Scots.
Shore responded with its best period of controlled possession, the piggies advancing downfield over more than ten phases. Shore’s 10 Jack Clancy turned defenders around with a clever grubber kick, resulting in a 5m scrum. A well-constructed midfield set-piece move off the scrum put straight-running 15 Nic Clancy over near the posts. Conversion missed, but Shore is back in front, 8-7.
After a Kellaway penalty put Scots back up to 10-7, it looked very even, with each side feeling out the other for weaknesses. Scots then found space on the fringes, using strong winger Dylan Holmes to make big yards. The first big opportunity went begging with a poor final pass, then Holmes and Ben Starkey punched more holes. Ten phases of powerful rugby resulted in a Starkey try, converted by Horwitz. 17-8 to Scots.
With the host crowd silent, Scots executed a brilliant midfield scrum move, with multiple lines of dummy runners putting Holmes away again down the left for a 30 metre sprint, shrugging off three tacklers, before he found Andrew Kellaway on his inside for a superb converted try under the posts. Soon after, Kellaway broke out again but the ball spilled loose over the line. The players went to the sheds at 24-8 to Scots.
The second half was both very similar and very different to the last ten minutes of the first. Similar in that Scots ran the ball at every opportunity, with winger Seamus Frost carving them up in the 22 jersey. Scots scored two more delightful tries, including one to replacement prop Isileli Fa, and another to Jim Stewart to give him a double. At 31-8 the match teetered on the precipice of a thrashing.
However, the gods intervened in the form of the referee and the tenacity of the Shore boys. Somehow – and you tell me – the penalty count was 10-0 to Shore in the second half, and 14-3 overall. I’ve never seen a game where one team infringes ten times in a row and the other doesn’t infringe once.
Shore scored 14 points in the second half, and Scots scored 12 despite a 10-0 penalty count against them. How did Scots do it? Immensely effective counter-rucking led to turnover ball about six times, repulsing all but one of Shore’s raids. Watch the video if you want to see a good counter-ruck (the putative video).
The referee warned Scots about repeated infringements and then sent two Scots to the bin with yellow cards. An intercept try to Shore was lucky, and Shore’s final try against 13 defenders made the score more respectable for Shore at 36-22: a very bizarre ending to a gripping game of running rugby.
Scots – 36
Shore – 22
1st Half: 4-3 (Shore-Scots)
2nd Half: 10-0 (Shore-Scots)
Total: 14-3 (the guy sitting near me had the penalty count as 18-2, so if you know the referee, please ask him to verify)
Standouts for Shore
11 Matt Buchanan-Reeks was sparkling, and 15 Nic Clancy was very classy with many penetrating runs. 10 Jack Clancy tried hard with creative play behind a well-beaten pack.
22 Seamus Frost’s speed and swerve proved irresistible, alongside the barnstorming, rampaging Dylan Holmes in 11. It’s good to see a pair of wingers dominating a rugby game, evidence of the width in Scots’ game plan. David Horwitz again demonstrated his class.
The real star of the day was the pack, putting on a clinic of counter-rucking and breakdown theft, demonstrating immense discipline despite gross provocation from the referee.