Seventh heaven for Highlanders as Emus hit reverse
Photos: SPA Images
Gordon have claimed their third win of the season in emphatic style, downing fellow strugglers Penrith, 47-20 at a muddy Chatswood Oval.
The Emus’ first win of the season over Norths last weekend had relegated the Highlanders to the bottom of the ladder before kick-off. And with Gordon having failed to score a point in their last match, it was the visitors who went in as slight favourites. However, a slow start from the home side went unpunished, and as they gradually grew into the game, Penrith’s belief seemed to dwindle by contrast, and they found themselves three tries down by the break.
A yellow card and a penalty try before half-time certainly didn’t help their cause. But an early score after the restart from Gordon’s Jonno Broome meant they were always playing catch-up rugby from that point on, and the Highlanders went on to cross three more times in a seven tries to three victory that more than doubled their biggest tally of the season.
A cagey opening 10 minutes saw Penrith in the ascendancy. Patient phase play and dominant clean-out’s at the breakdown were enabling them to make plenty of inroads into the opposition half, all that was missing were the points to show for their approach.
A Robbie Mate penalty eventually gave them a worthy lead. But their failure to cross while Gordon were still finding their feet ultimately cost them, and having barely been over the halfway line, the Highlanders suddenly fashioned two golden opportunities to open their account, with the Emus defence just about holding firm.
However, Gordon’s tails were now up with Penrith on the backfoot, and it wasn’t long before prop Nick Fraser bagged the first five-pointer, driving over from a couple of metres to give his captain Terry Preston, a rudimentary conversion.
They struck again on 28 minutes, more pressure sucking in Penrith defenders before a wide pass to Brandon Quinn gave the winger the chance to step inside and run around to the posts.
The visitors had visibly retreated into their shells, a muddy centre-field quelling their running game and allowing Gordon to step forward and cut off the supply line to their speedsters out wide. The game wasn’t going according to plan, and the Emus cut a frustrated outfit as a result, a mood which wasn’t helped by the yellow card shown to Sione Fifita five minutes before the break.
If the Emus were bemused by that decision, the penalty try awarded to Gordon from the next scrum left them apoplectic. The Highlanders pack had grown in dominance as the half wore on, and they were certainly gaining the upper hand at scrum time. But the sight of the referee running under the posts to signal a penalty try after Penrith had ‘wheeled’, seemed a tad harsh considering there were no prior cards or penalties as a warning.
21-3 at the break then, and while Gordon were now firmly in their pomp, the Emus were stuck in a rut. They needed a spark from somewhere, or a moment of fortune to reignite their cause. But still being a man down for the opening minutes of the second half cost them dearly ,as Gordon put their foot on the throat up front with another dominant scrum laying the platform for Jonno Broome to go over and open up a 25pt gap.
The visitor’s finally got on the board in the 48th minute with a move akin to the attacking style they’ve displayed all season, centre KJ MacKenzie running at the defensive line before grubbering for himself to regather and cross in the corner. But another contentious decision 10 minutes later appeared to cruel any hopes of a recovery.
As Penrith built a move on the other side of the field, one player from each side was caught up in an altercation on the floor in backplay. It looked very much like a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other, but when it came to the handing down of any punishment, only the Emus Pita Tipou went to the bin.
Despite the setback, Penrith regrouped and got themselves back in the hunt when KJ MacKenzie pounced on halfway to race home for his second. Robbie Mate’s conversion was successful, and with 20 minutes remaining Gordon’s advantage had been reduced to 26-15.
Given their paucity of wins in 2014, the fight back from their opponents may well have led to some nerves in the home ranks. But any thoughts of an uncomfortable closing quarter were banished with their fifth try. Fittingly it went to their standout performer, Tom Matthews, the burly centre crashing through the line off a short ball to slide his way under the posts for the match sealer.
A second penalty try – hard to argue this time – turned the screw for Gordon as their pack enjoyed total dominance, and with a beaten Penrith now falling off tackles, a superb solo effort from Quinn earned him a double, and put the icing on the cake.
There was still time for a late consolation for the Emus, Jarome MacKenzie gaining a fortuitous ricochet off his knee to dive home in the closing minute. But the damage had already been done.
In the process of victory, Gordon more than doubled their highest points tally of the year – previously 23 – and showed that they do have the strike power to cause a few more teams problems before the year is out. That theory will be firmly tested as they take on an improving Eastwood next weekend while for Penrith, it’s a case of back to the drawing board as they prepare to face Southern Districts.
GORDON 47 (Two Penalty tries, Brandon Quinn 2, Nick Fraser, Jonno Broome, Tom Matthews tries; Terry Preston 6 cons) defeated PENRITH 20 (KJ MacKenzie 2, Jarome MacKenzie tries; Robbie Mate con, pen)
Gordon: 1. Tobias Gukibau; 2. Ron Hobden; 3. Nick Fraser; 4. Ruairidh Wilson; 5. Luke Heavey; 6. Jack Maguire; 7. Mitch Greenway; 8. Johnno Broome; 9. Terry Preston (c); 10. Henry Carmichael; 11. Brandon Quinn; 12. Tom Matthews; 13. Matt McDougall; 14. Sione Ala; 15. Xavier McCoy
Penrith: 1. Daniel Arona; 2. Ethan Robinson-Mate; 3. Sione Matangi; 4. Sione Pusi’aki Fifita; 5. Dave Reopoama; 6. Senio Toleafoa; 7. John Waititi; 8. Andrew Pelasio; 9. Notise Tauafao; 10. Robbie Mate; 11. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak; 12. Michael Mate; 13. KJ McKenzie; 14. Peni Nairube; 15. Jarome McKenzie
First published by Rugby News on: June 15th, 2014