Physical Rebels overpower Warringah to stay out in front

Photos: SPA Images

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Southern Districts have stretched their unbeaten start to the 2010 season to eight games with a 36-21 defeat of Warringah. The game was a war of attrition for the first half hour with the soggy conditions playing a part. But a 15 minute blitz either side of half-time – including a 10 minute hat-trick for winger Nicky Price, saw the Rebels profit from turnover ball four times to soar out to a 29-0 lead. The Rats fought back with three tries of their own but the damage had already been done, and a fifth for the home side from Sitaleki Timani sealed the deal. The Rebels have now won more games than in their entire 2009 season, and hold a seven point lead at the top of the ladder.

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With driving rain pelting Forshaw Park, the opening half hour of the game was full of application and endeavour, but short of many actual clear-cut chances. Both sides missed penalty kicks as Souths highly-favoured scrum looked to dominate their opponents. While the Rats returned serve with their backrow firing up at the breakdown, and returning fullback and Super 14 Rookie of the Year Pat McCabe running the ball back at every opportunity.

On 25 minutes, Rebels winger Nicky Price kicked ahead into the danger zone where covering defender Haig Sare mopped up to McCabe. He made 20 metres before finding Joelin Rapana, who was unceremoniously smashed into the turf as he cleared upfield, leaving him dazed and confused to say the least. These mammoth hits would prove to be a feature of the Rebels play.

Warringah then went close with the lively McCabe almost finding a hole through some stout goal line defence. But Souths forced the turnover, cleared upfield, and won themselves a shot at the posts and the first points of the day from Nathan Sievert. And having waited just over half an hour for the breakthrough, the Rebels quickly drove home the advantage with a converted try before the break.

Another huge tackle turned over possession, and gave former Brumby and recent Reds recruit Radike Samo, a chance to run into space. Bamboozling tacklers with his infamous one-handed grip, he carried for 30 metres, wafting the ball from side-to-side like a giant swatting flies, before shifting it wide at exactly the right moment for an overlapping Josh Tatupu to find the corner. Sievert added the extras, and the hosts had built up a handy 10pt lead as the half-time siren sounded.

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Josh Tatupu was influential in attack for the Rebels – Photos: SPA Images

Despite the deficit, it may have been expected that Warringah would come out and opt for a similar approach after the break. Keep it tight, stay in the arm wrestle, and try to regain parity. But instead they managed to conspire to produce their own downfall, conceding three tries in 10 minute crazy minutes that effectively lost them the game, as the Rebels, and Price in particular, profited from more turnover ball.

Only two minutes had passed when another shuddering hit earned possession on halfway, before a lightning quick counter attack found the Rats sleeping, and allowed Tatupu to feed Price on his outside for the line. And five minutes later, Tatupu was at it again. A Rats attack broke down in the Rebels 22 with a knock-on, and from the ensuing scrum, the Western Force centre set off from just in front of his own posts. Dropping the shoulder he moved through the gears and a porous Rats midfield, drew last man McCabe, and found Price off his shoulder for his second.

The predatory winger’s hat-trick was completed from the restart, when a lone Rat gathered in the high ball only to be isolated and cleaned out by a ball hungry Dan Palmer. Fullback Marshall Milroy said thank you very much, scooping up the pill to take it 20 metres over halfway, and with the Rats at sixes and sevens, the opportunistic Price showed searing pace to streak away to the corner, much to the delight of the vocal Rebels faithful on the hill.

Having forged a commanding 29-0 lead, the home side were perhaps guilty of being a tad complacent when they coughed up a soft try in the 54th minute to give a glimmer of hope to their visitors. Sievert was caught unprotected at the back of a ruck, and his deflected pass found neutral ground and the alert Josh Holmes, who had an empty half all to himself to make it 29-5. Flyhalf Hamish Angus added the extras, and the Rats seemingly had a lifeline. But just five minutes later they threw it away and again, they were their own worst enemy.

A midfield bomb from Souths skipper Josh Gamgee caused some confusion in the Rats defence, before an under pressure Dan Raymond threw a ‘Hail Mary’ pass across his 22 to Angus, who was all alone and with Rebels bearing down on him. The predictable penalty for holding on was awarded, the Rebels tapped and moved it left to Sitaleki Timani, and the giant lock was driven over from a few metres to give Sievert an easy job from in front of the posts.

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Warringah scrumhalf Josh Holmes bagged a double for the Rats – Photos: SPA Images

With 15 minutes left and the game seemingly in the bag, the Rebels gave the impressive Tatupu and the industrious Ita Vaea a rest. And coincidence or not, the changes did instigate Warringah’s most dominant period of play in attack, and two more late tries as a result.

Firstly the Holmes brothers – Luke and Josh – worked in tandem to punch some holes in front of the posts. Luke was held up shy of the line before a short, sharp pass put flanker Beau Robinson over near the upright. And two minutes later they struck again, scrumhalf Holmes again the creator, sniping off a ruck down the line to find Angus, who had Robinson on his inside for his second.

Angus stepped up to convert both tries, and with momentum having clearly shifted the way of the visitor’s, there were a few nervous glances shared amongst the Forshaw crowd. However, despite the Rats having the lion’s share of possession in the closing stages, the Rebels shut up shop and held sway for victory number eight, in what is fast-becoming a memorable season down in the Shire.

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SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 36 (Nicky Price 3, Josh Tatupu, Sitaleki Timani tries; Nathan Sievert 4 cons, pen) defeated WARRINGAH 21 (Beau Robinson 2, Josh Holmes tries; Hamish Angus 3 cons) HT 10-0 at Forshaw Park

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FINAL THOUGHTS…

Southern Districts head coach Darren Bray:

“I thought we played well in the second half in bits and pieces. We played to a plan where we were just going to build ourselves and wear them down a little bit, and I think that came off in the end. I was probably a bit disappointed with our dominance getting penalised a bit – in the scrums especially – and we fell away a bit at the end, but that’s ok. We’re a big side, we know that, and if we can make people make tackles and we can play football, it all comes together usually in about the 60th minute.

“We have a backline with a lot of gas but I think it’s all led by [Josh] Gamgee. He’s been a fantastic purchase for us, he’s really steadied the backline and gets the ball to where it needs to be, so we’re pretty happy with that. It seems to be a bit of an all round team. We’ve got a bit of experience, Josh brings that to us, and we’ve got a lot of kids here with a lot of gas, and that was always the plan anyway.

“We didn’t think we’d go eight from eight, we just wanted to play. The biggest thing I wanted for the team was respect, and then we were just going to chip away at it one game at a time. We know we’ve got potential, and I want to see players go to the next level. We’re working towards that as a group and the more we can push in, the better we’ll be. We know the challenge ahead of us, and we talk about players that could come in for other sides. But we’re a good football team, we’re not leading the comp because we’re mutts. If the boys keep playing to their potential, I don’t have any issues.”

Southern Districts captain Josh Gamgee:

“We knew it was going to be tough against Warringah with the likes of Sam Harris and Pat McCabe coming back, so we knew it was going to be a step up. But we did the job. It was sensational footy today, and it was just fantastic in that first 20 minutes of the second half to come out and do what the boys did.

“All I’ve got to do is catch and pass and let the boys do what they do. We’ve got Josh Tatupu out wide and Nicky Price finishing off, Sisa Waqa had his first game back after a hamstring injury and showed what he can do with his pace, Marshall Milroy at the back there sniping down the short side. It’s just fantastic to actually have the team together now.

“I think Southern Districts won seven games last year, so we’ve already surpassed that and we’ve just got to keep going forward. It’s always tough sitting at the top because everyone wants to beat you so every team grows a leg, especially at the back end of the season when players do get their Super 14 players back. We do get a few back ourselves, and we’ve just got to keep improving with the team we’ve got and that we’ve had for most of the first half of the season. It’d be fantastic if we get Kane Douglas back, not sure if we’ll see Rob Horne though!”

Warringah head coach Ben Manion:

“Their size and power was really the big difference. I thought we started well, defensively we were good in the first half and then fell asleep for five minutes and they scored a length of the field try from a turnover. Then, in the first 15 minutes of the second half, they did the same thing. We had a couple of turnovers and they went 80 metres two or three times. Four turnovers and they really killed us, and all of that came down to their size and power. Samo, Vaea, Sitaleki then Nifo, they just kept hitting us with wave after wave, and they were sucking us in and getting us on the edges because of us having to double and triple-team those big guys.

“We showed very good character in the last 20 minutes to come back. We’re a team that needs to play three phases and beyond and run at teams, which is when we look good. But going from phase to phase – first phase-first phase – we just can’t match the size and power of sides like that.

“I definitely think we can make the finals, we got half our guys back today and we’ll get another few back next week. ‘Sheeno’ [Brett Sheehan] will be back, AJ Whalley comes back from France, and Tom Hockings comes over from the Force, so we’re starting to build. It hasn’t gone to plan, we need more points but we said a couple of weeks ago that if we won three out of the next five, we’d definitely turn around after halfway of the season on the edge of the six. Then it’s up to us in the second half of the year and I think we’ll get a run on. We lost today but we were competitive so we’ve got to beat Easts, Norths and Wests in the next couple of weeks and if we can do that, we’ll be alright.”

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Southern Districts: 1. Tetera Faulkner; 2. John Ulugia; 3. Dan Palmer; 4. Rome Nifo; 5. Sitaleki Timani; 6. Radike Samo; 7. Sean Doyle; 8. Ita Vaea; 9. Nathan Sievert; 10. Josh Gamgee (c); 11. Sisa Waqa; 12. Gareth Morton; 13. Josh Tatupu; 14. Nicky Price; 15. Marshall Milroy

Warringah: 1. Pek Cowan; 2. Luke Holmes; 3. Dan Barnard; 4. Scott Flint; 5. Brent Murphy; 6. Beau Robinson; 7. Michael Lipman (c); 8. Trevor Richardson; 9. Josh Holmes; 10. Hamish Angus; 11. David Feltscheer; 12. Sam Harris; 13. Haig Sare; 14. Joelin Rapana; 15. Pat McCabe

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First published by clubrugby.com.au on June 3rd, 2010

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