Ten-try Gordon put poor Parra away in style
Photo: SPA Images
If I said that the best thing about this game from a weekend journalist’s perspective was meeting Tatafu Polota-Nau on the sideline, it might give you some indication as to its quality. Take nothing away from a polished performance by Gordon but as the scoreline suggests, this was anything but a contest.
My eagerness to start the new season with a double-header had one problem – the traffic jam they call Parramatta Road. I rushed from the final whistle at Concord Oval to try and make the 5pm kick-off at Granville Park, but arrived with 15 minutes already showing on the clock.
Gordon were already in the ascendancy thanks to an unconverted try to Kingsley Seale but unfortunately for Parramatta I wouldn’t have to wait too long for another. A sharp passage of play through the middle found Highlanders openside Craig Thomas, who burst through a couple of missed tackles to find the line. Last season’s joint Ken Catchpole Medal winner Dave Harvey notched his first points of the season and the visitor’s were off and running at 12-0.
One thing of note was the length of the grass, particularly on the wings. If it was a tactical ploy to slow the Gordon backline down it wasn’t paying any dividends, the Highlanders had a real purpose about them and were running the ball at every opportunity.
In contrast, Parramatta were struggling to get out of their own half. They were pushing the pass too often and there was plenty of dropped ball. In fairness, the Two Blues have suffered some major losses from last season in coach Gary Ella and some key strike players from their backline, and it’s obviously going to take some time for the new combinations to come together.
Kicking from hand was also a problem for the home side. They just weren’t getting enough distance to gain decent field position or build any pressure, and Gordon were more than happy to keep running it back at them with interest.
For all their possession though, it took Gordon until two minutes before half-time to add to their tally. A looping run by Harvey drew in three defenders to one flank, and quick hands from right to left created an overlap for Josh Whittaker to cross in the left corner. Even Harvey couldn’t quite master the angle for the conversion but the Highlanders still went to the sheds with a comfortable 17-0 lead.
Parramatta needed to score first in the second half to get a foothold in this match. They started brightly and had the lion’s share of possession for the first five minutes, but again just didn’t have the invention from their backline to make a breakthrough.
Gordon didn’t need an invitation to turn the screw. Harvey, playing at fullback instead of his accustomed no.10 position, was warming to the task. His long kicks were forcing the Two Blues to turnaround, and the effective kick-chase that followed was applying severe pressure on the fragile mindset of the home side.
The game was effectively over when Wise Gavidi, short of options and with a Gordon cavalry rushing towards him, threw a hesitant pass across the backline. Backrower Thomas had read the indecision, stepped in to intercept and trotted to the line for his second of the day. Harvey converted and with half an hour still to go, it was going to be a tough ask for the hosts to come back.
Gordon opened up and their exciting backs started to execute with precision. It was like watching a training drill as time and again they broke the advantage line, moved the ball wide and used Harvey to place the ball to perfection in either corner. One such move through the hands saw Mark Preston in space on the left flank, and with a clear run to the line the skipper didn’t disappoint.
Five minutes later and the forwards got in on the act. A succession of pick and drives through the middle got the Highlanders inside the twenty-two. Parramatta looked to have thwarted danger when they forced a terrific turnover, but then undid all their good work by losing possession again right in front of the posts. Hooker Tobias Gukibau picked up the loose ball and gleefully ran under the posts to make it 38-0.
Harvey was having a field day with his conversions and earned the right for another opportunity himself after crossing for try number seven. A great break from former Two Blue Dave Alo saw him angle in from the left, give a quick exchange of passes and feed the ball back inside to Harvey, who ran to the posts.
Gordon were now hammering the exposed left wing and another textbook ‘through the hands’ routine released replacement Chris Tuatara for another five-pointer. Parramatta had now gone to pieces, and another mix-up in front of the posts gifted another try to Viliame Ratu.
Minutes later and the ubiquitous Harvey was involved again with another slick backline move putting in replacement Matt McDougall, who touched down in the corner. At least the point-scoring machine had a little work to do this time for the extras. But he made it, the final scoreline 66-0, and I doubt he will have six easier kicks in the rest of his career as he did in that second half.
The visitors were clinical and didn’t take their foot of the throat when the game was obviously over as a contest. A ruthless streak is a necessity if they want to win this competition, however, it’s hard to judge them accurately given the quality of the opposition on the day.
I’m not quite sure what to say about Parramatta. They got within five metres of the Gordon line only once in the last 40 minutes, and on this evidence they are a pale shadow of last years side which gained some notable scalps – particularly at home. They have a few players to come back and one would hope that their execution will improve over time, but this could be a very tough season for the Two Blues.
GORDON 66 (Craig Thomas 2, Tobias Gukibau, Kingsley Seale, Viliame Ratu, Josh Whittaker, Mark Preston, Dave Harvey, Chris Tuatara, Matt McDougall tries; Dave Harvey 8 cons) defeated PARAMATTA 0 at Granville Park. HT: 17-0
First published by www.clubrugby.com.au on March 29th 2009