Sheehan stars in unfamiliar role as Rats smash sorry Beasts

Photos: SPA Images

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Warringah have finally clicked into gear to take apart an under-par, and comparatively under strength Eastern Suburbs, 49-13 at Rat Park.

Fielding what must be pretty close to their strongest XV with the combined Super 14 talents of Josh Holmes, Brett Sheehan – in the unfamiliar no.10 shirt – and Sam Harris in tandem, they sent out a warning message to the rest of the competition with a dominant six tries to one victory that was never really in doubt, despite Easts taking a narrow lead to the sheds at half-time. That scoreline flattered them, and it was no surprise when the Rats stepped up a gear to put them to the sword with a 37-0 second half barrage, with Dylan Smouha and Trevor Richardson both bagging doubles, and Sheehan adding 19pts off the boot.

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The template for the afternoon was set in the first 15 minutes. The enterprise across the park and willingness to get across the gain line from the Rats, was countered by a more measured approach from Easts, using the kicking nous of Brendan McKibbin and Gavin DeBartolo to get field position and take what they could from every opportunity.

That approach was reflected on the scoreboard with Sheehan converting a try to Irish flanker Richardson to open the scoring. While McKibbin – returning from a three week lay-off and celebrating the signing of a new two year Waratah contract this week – slotted two penalties in reply.

The home side continued to probe, and Josh Holmes could have had a clear run to the line after good work from Beau Robinson, but he spilled the ball as he was ankle-tapped en route. Minutes later, the atmosphere at Rat Park was decidedly subdued as Western Force flyer Haig Sare was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg, forcing Pat McCabe to move from fullback into the vacant no.13 role. Best wishes to Haig for a speedy recovery.

Both sides had chances to add to their tally with both McKibbin and Sheehan missing the uprights with penalty attempts, before try number two arrived for the Rats. Sam Harris was looking good with ball in hand, and he was twice involved in a multi-phase attack on the Beasts’ line. After Josh Holmes and Robinson couldn’t make headway on the right, it came back through the hands of the big centre on the left, and he put McCabe through a gap with Smouha on hand to touch down in the corner.

Sheehan couldn’t convert the extras from the touchline, but Warringah were seemingly in control of the match and hungry for more points. It was somewhat of a surprise therefore, when Easts snagged their own five-pointer a few minutes before half-time to grab an undeserved lead at the break.

McKibbin, Brendan scores 120610D-7198.JPG

Brendan McKibbin goes in for Easts’ only try – Photos: SPA Images

Having earned a line-out five metres from the Rats line, the visitor’s recycled possession until the wily McKibbin sniped off the back of a ruck and stretched for the chalk. The talented young scrum-half converted his own good work to send the boys from Woollahra to the sheds with a 13-12 advantage, although the home side must have been scratching their heads as to exactly how.

Determined to turn their ascendancy into points, the Rats came back out with an increased intensity and pinned their opponents inside their 22, with Holmes providing quick, clean ball and Sheehan calling the plays and stepping into gaps to create opportunities for his outside backs. One such step through the line put Robinson over in the corner, before the touch judge ruled him out before he’d grounded.

But they were knocking loudly on the door, and from the next play the ball was swung wide to the opposite touchline, stretching the Easts defence and forcing them to scramble well to shut down an overlap. Warringah changed tack and kept it in tight, and after a couple of pick and drives, Richardson found the line for his second and the Rats’ third. Sheehan’s boot was starting to do damage, and after converting the try, he slotted another penalty in the 52nd minute to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Easts were struggling to get any territory or go forward ball, and were merely trying to stem the tide that was constantly raging towards them. They stoutly defended their line for the next 15 minutes, but the constant pressure was telling and the penalty count mounting, as did Sheehan’s opportunity to punish the indiscretions. Back-to-back penalties took the score out to 28-13, and it was beginning to look like a long way back for the Beasts.

They really weren’t helping themselves with poor discipline and decision-making gifting points to their opponents. Winger Petero Satogo was the next culprit, setting off on a solo charge from his own goal line but with no support runners, and inevitably pinged for not releasing under a pile of hungry Rats forwards. A quick tap found McCabe, who crashed through two tacklers to score under the posts.

Warringah were now dominant enough to allow a few flicks and reverse passes into their play, as the confidence visibly returned to a side that hasn’t had much to cheer so far this year. And with ten minutes left and Easts uncharacteristically falling off tackles, the Rats put down the hammer with two more tries to truly blow out the scoreline.

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Trevor Richardson dives home for one of his two tries – Photos: SPA Images

The first was scored by Smouha, the ball taken wide with repeat phases sucking in defenders, before play was spun to the opposite flank for the alert McCabe to draw the last man and send the winger over for his double.

Then Josh Holmes – who’d promoted the Rats attacking mindset consistently throughout the game by enabling his side to play with greater speed – got a well deserved score himself after some neat hands and a tap-and-go, ducking over to seal the rout. Sheehan complemented both tries with conversions, the first a terrific effort from the touchline, to rub salt into the Beasties’ wound.

Shortly before the end, Easts got inside their hosts 22 for what was the first time in the half. But with a good attacking platform from which to strike and restore some pride, they put in at the scrum and duly knocked on. It was the story of their day.

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WARRINGAH 49 (Trevor Richardson 2, Dylan Smouha 2, Josh Holmes, Pat McCabe tries; Brett Sheehan 5 cons, 3 pens) defeated EASTERN SUBURBS 13 (Brendan McKibbin try, con, 2 pens) at Pittwater Rugby Park HT 12-13

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POST-MATCH ANALYSIS

Warringah head coach Ben Manion:

“We had two main focus areas. The first one was just to hit the corners and keep them down there, because we knew they didn’t have the cattle to score eighty-metre tries against us. So if we kept them in that twenty-two and put pressure on them, we’d convert that pressure into points. We also talked about making sure that our breakdown work was good and to stay disciplined, and we didn’t give them anything to feed off.

“We’re getting the artillery there, now it’s just a case of keeping them together. Brett Sheehan, for having never played 10, did a great job because he just controls things. And because of that organisation and talk, players are in position that second or two quicker, which allows us to play with a tempo and guys get set earlier because they know where they’re going. It’s almost thoughtless rugby. You just get into position, do what you’re told and you run off it.

“I thought we played at a level certainly above anything else that’s been seen so far from us this year, but also from most of the sides we’ve played. I thought we played with width and with speed, and our skill level was really high. There’s still a lot of combination work to be done, but I thought for our first hit-out together, it was impressive.”

Eastern Suburbs head coach Lachlan Fear:

“We’re just not up to speed at the moment. That team the Rats pumped out was a good team to be able to play at the back end of the competition, let alone now. And at the moment – and I’m definitely not pointing the fingers anywhere specifically – we just don’t have enough talent to compete with a team like that unfortunately.

“There wasn’t much to say to the boys after because I was at risk of saying too many negatives. But I’ve never seen such a poor game in a second half as I just have, and I’ve been doing first grade footy now for six or seven years. We’re massively down on personnel, we’ve got a lot of injuries and lost a lot of top players. They were more up for it and in the last three games, we’ve been beaten by a team that wants to win more than us.”

Warringah captain Michael Lipman:

“It was a good win. I didn’t think we did anything special, we just did the simple things right and that’s what we’ve been working on. The week before last when we played Souths, we couldn’t get past one or two phases, so the fact that we actually did that today and kept the ball and didn’t lose it, enabled us to build a bit of momentum and score some tries. I think Easts’ heads began to drop after we put 20pts on them, so their work rate probably wasn’t as high as it should have been and we exploited that.

“Full credit to the boys, I think Brett Sheehan made a massive difference at 10, someone that can talk and direct the forwards around, it was so helpful. The boys that were in there before were a little bit young and have got a good future ahead of them, but Brett just stood up and took charge and Sammy Harris was exceptional as well. When you’ve got those two bossing the forwards around and directing the play it makes things a lot easier, so we’re happy that those boys are back. We take every game as it comes but we obviously need to start climbing back up the ladder now. We’ve got our team and we’ll look to do that over the next few weeks for sure.”

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Warringah: 1. Dan Raymond; 2. Luke Holmes; 3. Dan Barnard; 4. Brent Murphy; 5. Tom Hockings; 6. Beau Robinson; 7. Michael Lipman (c); 8. Trevor Richardson; 9. Josh Holmes; 10. Brett Sheehan; 11. Dave Feltscheer; 12. Sam Harris; 13. Haig Sare; 14. Dylan Smouha; 15. Pat McCabe

Eastern Suburbs: 1. Ofa Fainga’anuku; 2. Jessie Davidson; 3. Guy Shepherdson; 4. Phil Mathers; 5. Matt McGann; 6. Ed Brenac; 7. Andrew Shaw; 8. Jordan Brown; 9. Brendan McKibbin; 10. Lloyd Jones; 11. Petero Satogo; 12. Tim Corcoran; 13. Anton LaVin; 14. Gavin DeBartolo; 15. Pat Dellit

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First published by clubrugby.com.au on June 14th, 2010

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