For anyone interested:
Match report Trinity v Cranbrook
It isn't often that a team gets to play a return match against a school it's beaten 81-8, and Cranbrook will have approached this game full of confidence. Its motivation was to take another step towards a first Plume Shield in 20 years; Trinity, on the other hand, its shallow resources exposed by injuries, was playing for pride. A dismal wet morning cleared into a lovely, mild and sunny afternoon.
Play was very even for the first eight minutes or so, Trinity holding possession and sustaining good pressure in Cranbrook's quarter. But, throughout the game, the breakdown generated as many penalties as second-phase balls, and a player not releasing allowed Cranbrook a relieving penalty. 11 Studdy stood up his marker and made a good run for Cranbrook, beating two tacklers, before a Cranbrook knock-on in Trinity's quarter. A penalty for offside gave 10 Renton his first shot for goal, in front on the quarter-line, and he made no mistake: 3-0 Cranbrook.
From the kick-off, Renton split the defence, ran 50 metres, and gave a clever scissors pass to 15 Wilson, who ran in the try. Renton converted: 10-0 Cranbrook.
Cranbrook broke out from the next kick-off as well, 1 Hill bursting out on a 40 metre run. A penalty at the breakdown gave Renton another shot from 30 metres: 13-0 Cranbrook. At least Trinity prevented another breakout from the next kick-off, but only because of a high tackle by 1 McLennan on 7 Szangolies which earned Cranbrook yet another penalty. McLennan redeemed himself with a surging counter-attacking run, which might have produced a better result but for a piece of offside play by Cranbrook so cynical that a different referee might have reached for a yellow card. Trinity chose the scrum over the shot for goal, an odd decision given that the score was only 13-0. Attacking pressure was sustained for a few phases before a knock-on turned over possession to Cranbrook.
Renton slotted his third penalty from another whistle at the breakdown: Cranbrook 16-0. Trinity might have dropped their heads at this point, but fought back well. They dominated Cranbrook at the line-out, with 5 Rasch in great form, and competed furiously in the loose. Again they earned a penalty in Cranbrook's quarter, again opted for a scrum and again spilled possession a few phases later, allowing 3 Rathie to make a strong run out of defence. Finally, from a breakdown penalty, 15 Fish kicked for goal to put Trinity on the board: it was 16-3 at half time.
Wilson didn't take the field for the second half, with Studdy moving to full-back for Cranbrook. Cranbrook was first to score, predictably through Renton's boot, predictably from a breakdown penalty (for failing to release): 19-3 Cranbrook. But 6 Summerhayes made a rare error, allowing the kick-off to bounce into touch. Gathering a loosetap from a lineout, 2 Nguyen charged 25 metres down the blind side, running over the top of the replacement winger, to score for Trinity: 19-8 when the kick was missed. Trinity was encouraged and produced some fine sustained attack, with 13 Saofia making one huge run. After two scrums close to the Cranbrook line, 6 Filipo rolled over from short range, and Fish converted: 19-15 and for a moment the upset seemed possible.
But not for long. Cranbrook worked the ball into Trinity's quarter, the defence was stretched, and Renton gave 14 Edelstein a clear run to the corner. Renton - read this closely - missed the conversion: 24-15 Cranbrook.
Moments later, Cranbrook's favourite attacking move worked to perfection. From a lineout, 8 Makas stood outside the centres and charged through a gap. He surged past a few reluctant defenders and scored under the posts after a spectacular 50 metre run. Renton's goal made it 31-15.
Still, Trinity didn't give up. 10 Siteine cleverly put Fish through a gap, and he scored after a weaving run: 31-20. A ridiculously pedantic offside penalty gave Renton one last shot, from about 28 metres: 34-20. Trinity had one last fling, and nearly scored from a clever grubber kick only for the touch judge to rule that the ball had been lost forward. And so it ended 34-20, three tries each.
It was a fiercely contested game, and there was no doubt that the better team won. Trinity outplayed Cranbrook in the line-out, and matched it in the loose; Cranbrook had the stronger scrum. Trinity was rather one-dimensional in attack, charging bravely at the defensive line, but usually with high body height, so they were picked off by Cranbrook defenders who are good one-on-one tacklers and are well-organized. Cranbrook's backs aren't very penetrative either, but they had the one player on the field who had the ability to break a set defensive line (Renton) and great finishing speed out wide.
Best for Cranbrook were:
1 Hill, colossal in the scrums, and a strong runner; 4 Stenmark, a busy all-round game; 6 Summerhayes, who was everywhere, and gave Cranbrook most of its line-out ball; 8 Makas, always a danger with ball in hand; 10 Renton, who kicked 7 from 8 and gave attacking spark to the backs; while 14 Edelstein and 15 Wilson took their attacking chances well.
1 McLennan was a strong presence; 2 Nguyen was busy and aggressive; 4 Ryan was an absolute standout, tireless and aggressive, the only Trinity player who understood how to run hard and low; 5 Rasch dominated the line-out; 6 Filipo was tough and busy; 8 Corias was busy in the loose and showed some deft touches in attack.
You wouldn't bet on it, unless you live near Wahroonga, but mathematically, Cranbrook could yet fail to win the Plume Shield. If Knox wins twice, Cranbrook loses twice, and Knox builds a better for-and-against - well, it isn't impossible. The clash between Knox and Cranbrook next week will be a massive one.