Pirates complete double over Wicks in Coogee boilover

Photo: SPA Images

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West Harbour pulled off the shock of Round 19, putting in their best performance of the season to down Randwick 43-18 at a stunned Coogee Oval.

The Pirates had just four victories to their name prior to kick-off. But one of those was over the Wicks at Concord back in May, and they played like a team confident of repeating that earlier success. And repeat it they did and then some, running in six tries to two against a beleaguered and unusually stilted home side, with returning Waratah Rory Sidey causing havoc and striding through for a hat-trick of tries.

The Wicks sped out to a 10-0 lead but never looked totally convincing. And having spurned a few points-scoring opportunities in the first half, the Pirates were simply devastating in the second, putting their more favoured opponents to the sword and finally looking like the West Harbour we’d been expecting to see all year.

Things had started well for Randwick, with former England Sevens player Tom Tombleson on the end of an incisive move down the right flank in the 12th minute to open the scoring. Danny Kroll’s conversion, and then a penalty five minutes later after referee Steve Walsh had marched the Pirates 10 metres for backchat, gave the home side a 10pt buffer, and it seemed like they would go away with the game.

But Wests had other ideas, and with an increasing amount of possession they started to apply pressure to their hosts. Their work at the breakdown was a vast improvement on recent weeks, and their cause was helped no end by their greater appreciation of the interpretations Walsh was employing at the contact area. He wanted quick, clean ball, and for the attacking side to be allowed to recycle at speed, and woe betide anyone who attempted to stifle that. His issuing of two yellow cards in the early stages – one for each side – set the tone. But only one team appeared to learn their lesson.

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Sam Latunipulu busts the line for the Pirates – Photo: SPA Images

The Pirates had been knocking on the door for a while before they finally broke through. A mixture of spilt ball, forced passes, and the wasting of penalty opportunities through failed kicks to touch or poor lineout retention, was costing them dear. But to the credit of what was a relatively young side, they backed themselves to get the job done and eventually succeeded.

Bustling centre Rory Sidey, out for the last five weeks with a knee injury, showed exactly what they’d been missing in the 36th minute when, following a succession of pick and drives, he was on the end of a two-man overlap to cross at the Dolphin Street end of the ground.

Buoyed by their achievement, the Pirates ramped up the ante and went in search of another, and the timing of the second strike was crucial to the mental complexion of the match. A penalty on the half-time buzzer was kicked to touch, the lineout held, and play spread wide, before a short pass from Lester Salanoa put the eager Sidey through a gap once more to give the visitors a 2pt lead at the break. Welcome back indeed.

The second half began with anticipation in the air of the expected Wicks fightback, but it hadn’t even started before the visitors concocted the try of the match. Tito Mua cut across the defensive line from the left flank before the ball was hit up by Sam Latunipulu, and went through another two pairs of hands at speed before a beautiful flick pass released captain Campese Ma’afu to the line.

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Tom Tombleson celebrates one of his two tries – Photo: SPA Images

Danny Kroll returned fire with a penalty to reduce the gap to 19-13. But Wests were on a roll now, and the returning boost of confidence that their three tries had injected was clearly visible. Latunipulu – finally starting to look like the player who was so damaging at Norths last year – orchestrated the next score with a magnificent turnover at the ruck, giving Mua the chance to run through a gaping hole and outpace a chasing Tombleson for the corner.

Brent Kelly came on to try and give the Galloping Greens some much needed direction behind the pack. But they were in disarray in the 65th minute as quick hands and even quicker vision put a rampaging Sidey through to the posts for his hat-trick. Exhibiting his strong, direct running style, he palmed off one, carried two with him over the line, and emphatically planted the ball to effectively seal the match.

Impressive young flyhalf Ben Volavola, in only his second start in 1st Grade, slotted the conversion with aplomb. And when he made it 36-13 with a penalty moments later, the party could well and truly begin for the Pirates.

There was still enough time for two more scores, good work from Mua setting up Sione Tau for the icing on the cake for the visitor’s, before the prolific Tombleson crossed in the corner for a consolation after the buzzer. But it couldn’t dampen the well-deserved celebrations from those in black, white and red.

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WEST HARBOUR 43 (Rory Sidey 3, Campese Ma’afu, Tito Mua, Sione Tau tries; Ben Volavola 5 cons, pen) defeated RANDWICK 18 (Tom Tombleson 2 tries; Danny Kroll con, 2 pens) at Coogee Oval. HT 12-10

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West Harbour head coach Stu Woodhouse:

“It’s a funny ground. We’ve won well here and we’ve won some good battles here, and I guess maybe they had some self-doubt. They’d obviously lost [Mark] Chisholm and [Nick] Cummins during the week, and Josh Valentine late on, so they were probably very similar to us in that you look behind and lack a little bit of confidence in the backline. It’s nice to have a win and these boys will wake up better for it tomorrow. I saw some good stuff and some positives but in saying that, if we’d been playing Uni today, we wouldn’t have won because there were too many mistakes in the first half.

“Steve Walsh didn’t give any penalties against the attacking team, it was all with the defensive team. So we just said that if we keep the ball and retain possession, he’ll find ways to penalise the opposition, that was just his style today. In the first half we gave away too many defensive penalties, so we worked on rolling away, cleaning up the ruck for us in defence and giving them nothing. Then in attack, flaunting the laws, securing the ball and forcing them to come offside.

“These boys can be exciting when they play, and unlike the few wins we’ve had this year – including some good ones against Uni and Randwick in the first round – today was the first day they actually played the West Harbour style. They really attacked with depth, and maybe we just took the shackles off and said ‘just play’ while not allowing them to have any composure or any rhythm today. We’ve been plugging away and the game can be cruel. We’ve been working hard and not getting results, so it’s nice when something goes your way.

“However, this win doesn’t gloss over the fact that we’ve been poor for the last seven weeks. It maybe shows us what might have been and it rejuvenates you I suppose, because you start to question your coaching style and philosophy etc. We’re still missing a few boys, but when we get a half decent side out there it shows that we can at least be competitive. 

“I’m very emotional, some coaches are calm but I’m very emotional and I’ve always been like that, even when I played. When I say emotional, it’s more so for the players, it’s not about me. I was a West Harbour player, I’m a West Harbour boy and my emotions go into the club winning and I’m just happy for the gang. It was a good training week with short, sharp sessions, we had a dinner on Thursday night and it’s all those little things that are important. You get so serious about all the technical stuff, but having a dinner as a team with first and second grade and having a laugh, it builds team spirit, and that’s what really was the difference today.”

Randwick head coach Mark Giacheri:

“We’re pretty disappointed with the day, and I think we’re finding in games that we’re our own worst enemy. We’re starting well and we put teams under pressure, but our error rate’s pretty high and teams are able to capitalise. For example today, West Harbour – after a positive start from us – they’ve capitalised on a few of our errors and got their tails up and next thing you know, we’re under pressure and we’re just not coping with pressure too well.

“I was thinking at one stage that if we got another try then maybe it would finish them off, but today our discipline was pretty poor. It hasn’t been all year but the referee was pretty clear early doors that he wanted the breakdown nice and policed, and the ball coming back to the attacking team. That was clear early on and we didn’t adapt. We lost it today on turnover ball, and whether it was our own errors or at the breakdown, Wests were able to capitalise and get turnovers. Our discipline right throughout that first half was pretty poor, and it gave them the opportunity to get the try before half-time. We’ve got to be smarter than that.

“We lost a couple of guys to South Africa in Nick Cummins and Mark Chisholm, and we’ve been battling a huge injury toll so we’re using certain players like Bevu Tuqiri and Brent Kelly as well. It’s a good opportunity for some of our second graders to step up, and they showed some positive things early on. But at the end of the day we’ve got to give some credit to West Harbour. They came here to try and finish off their season on a high note, and we knew that they were going to come and try to ambush us so to speak. We were well aware of it but they played well.

“We’ve normally got a fairly good fightback in us. But today it didn’t happen, and after speaking to a few of the boys after the game, they dropped their heads after some errors and tries and they were a bit shellshocked at different points. That’s a bit disappointing and surprising and I’m sure we’ll address that. At this stage of the season a loss hurts more, a win was crucial. We need to keep winning in order to make the play-offs.

“We’ll regroup. It’s still in our hands and we’re still in control of our own results and making the play-offs, as opposed to preying on other teams results. So we’ve got nothing else but to fight back and try to finish with wins in the next three games. This has been the most even comp for a lot of years and it’ll be interesting to see the results over the next three weeks. My own personal opinion is that Eastwood, Easts, Uni and us – if we can get our act together – are probably the stronger chances. But in saying that, Souths and Manly are two tough teams to beat as well.”

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Sidey celebrates with Liam Windon and Tito Mua – Photo: SPA Images

West Harbour winger Rory Sidey:

“It was a big focus of ours to turn the season around this week. There’s no pressure on us really because we’re out of the finals race, so we just said to ourselves ‘Let’s go out there and enjoy it’ and get back to the way we know we can play. There’s been some poor performances and the teams been chopping and changing a bit – especially in the fly-half position. But Ben Volavola had his first game last week, got a bit of experience, and was really leading us around today. He’s an exciting young player. We’ve got some good players and we’re getting confidence in ourselves again.

“We did a lot of work on offloads during the week and Steve Walsh was looking for an attacking game. You could see that from the start with him penalising the defending team, and it was good that he gave the two cards early to set the tone. The game became a little freer after that and points got on the scoreboard. I’m guessing it was good to watch but it was definitely good to play.

“We were pretty lucky to get a try right on the bell to get us ahead and we did take confidence from the first half even though we didn’t get that many points, because we saw how well we were playing. When we held the ball we were making inroads, and it was just our own mistakes and our own discipline that was letting us down. We knew that if we kept playing like that and kept the ball that we were going to score points, and that’s what we did in the second half almost from the kick-off.

“We were using little pop passes and going through the hands, not just one out hit-up’s and that’s when we play our best. Hopefully we can learn from this and keep doing it for the rest of the season. We spoke about really finishing off on a high so we can move into next year and keep that same sort of attitude and confidence.

“We wanted to restore some pride in our name because people did have tickets on us at the start of the season and we knew that. They were looking at us as a dark horse because we did have some good signings, but it was just about getting them playing consistently. We’ve had a lot of injuries and we can’t really use that as an excuse, but it’s thrown us around a bit and we’re just trying to find our feet. It obviously hasn’t been a perfect season but we’ve kind of found ourselves now, and we just want to show everyone that although it didn’t really go our way this year, we still are a solid club able to produce great performances.”

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Randwick: 1. Sekope Kepu; 2. Anthony Savovski; 3. Lotu Taukeiaho; 4. Dave Parsons; 5. Steve Brennan; 6. Seilala Lam; 7. Tim McGann; 8. Ben Mowen; 9. Tony Luxford; 10. Toby Browne; 11. John Tamanika; 12. Bevu Tuqiri; 13. Gene Fairbanks; 14. Tom Tombleson; 15. Danny Kroll

West Harbour: 1. Rodney Blake; 2. Todd Pearce; 3. Campese Ma’afu; 4. Tom Hikila; 5. Sam Wykes; 6. Steve Mafi; 7. Sam Latunipulu; 8. Sione Tau; 9. Shannin Proctor; 10. Ben Volavola; 11. Tito Mua; 12. Lester Salanoa; 13. Rory Sidey; 14. Maquire Tatola; 15. Liam Windon

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First published by clubrugby.com.au on August 23rd, 2010

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