What they said: Jack Scott Cup Final – Sydney Uni v Warringah
WARRINGAH 21 (Chloe Leaupepe 2, Mardi Watts tries; Chloe Leaupepe 3 cons) defeated SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 17 (Brittany Le’auanae, Tasmin Sheppard, Iliseva Batibasaga tries; Lope Leitaua con)
A fantastic day of women’s rugby at Boronia Park, Hunters Hill last Saturday, was capped off with a battle befitting the two best teams in the Sydney Women’s Rugby competition as Sydney University and Warringah competed for the Jack Scott Cup. Uni came into the decider as rightful favourites off the back of an unbeaten season, and the fact they were the reigning two-time Premiers. But injuries to three key players in the week leading up to the grand final did leave a few question marks hanging in the air, and undoubtedly impacted both the level and manner of their performance on the day.
Warringah’s Ratettes sniffed blood in the water as a result, and keen to reverse the two defeats at the hands of the Students in the regular season, they kicked-off with a point to prove. They started like a house on fire and got out to a decent 21-10 lead in the third quarter, before hanging on with grim determination in the closing stages as Uni mustered a final assault to try and steal it, eventually holding out 21-17 to reclaim the trophy they last held in 2013. [Read the full match report here] Behind the Ruck caught up with both camps at the final whistle…
Warringah head coach Erin Morton:
“They were definitely missing Ash Hewson, Sera Naqaima and Kimberley Davey – some big names. But Uni have got some class players even with those girls out, and I thought Ili Batibasaga was huge for them today, Taz Sheppard played really well in the front row and Gracie [Hamilton] is such a good footy player. But at the end of the day you’ve got to play who’s on the field and we played some really good footy in patches, kept our discipline mostly, which was one of the things we’ve been concentrating on, and we did enough. That’s what grand finals are about, you’ve got to play who’s out there and do enough, and we did enough today.
“The only disappointment I had was that we spoke about scoring and then going off the boil, but we did that a bit and they scored soon after we’d scored a couple of times. But even when they pushed hard towards the end, I was confident that we’d get there. Some of those Uni girls are capable of moments of brilliance, like the quick-tap from Ili, so they are always a chance. But even if they’d scored again, I was confident that we could go up the other end and do the same. We’ve got some Ferraris out there in the backline that are capable of anything, even though sometimes they get carried away with how much skill they’ve got. Every now and then I’m like ‘Let’s run hard and straight girls and get over the ‘A’ line, and then we’ll do the fancy stuff!’
“But I asked them to hunt, and to fight, and that’s what they did, they fought hard. I was proud of that, so I couldn’t ask for more from them today. The best thing about this year is that I had a squad of 30 for the season and a lot of new girls, and a lot of juggling of players. But they all felt like they were part of it today and that’s the most important thing.”
Sydney University captain Gracie Hamilton:
“Obviously you learn a lot from a loss, and we just hadn’t had one, and I think we just needed that bit more heart going into this one. We needed to want it more and that’s what they had, they wanted it more than us.
“We had three injury blows in a week, so it was really tough leading into today, but I couldn’t be more proud of the girls that came in and replaced those positions. The first 20 minutes we had no ball, but the girls fought hard and we’ll learn a lot from that.
“Some of the girls in that Warringah team are my best mates, so they knew exactly what they were up against, and they just executed it well when it mattered. Hopefully, we’ll come back next year and be in the same position – but we’ll be winning!”
Sydney University flanker/outside centre Emily Chancellor:
“I think going into a grand final knowing as a team you have won every game this season, you go in with confidence in your teammates, and a confidence that you know how to get the job done. But of course, after losing two girls last week in the semi, and Ash [Hewson] the week before, we definitely went in with a bit of doubt somewhere in the back of the mind. Everyone in rugby understands how painful a stellar boot can be in an opposition and for the Rats, that’s Ash. She can kick a penalty from anywhere across the park, allowing us to capitalise on any ill-discipline from the opposition, and I think her absence definitely helped them and gave them extra hope.
“They are a sharp team. They have a star studded line-up with many rep players, and more than two players who have more than 200 caps for the club. They did come out firing and it took us too long to settle into the game but that’s how they can play when they turn up. Facing them only three weeks ago showed both teams we had a game on our hands, and it could have been anyone’s today with a similar four-point game but Uni taking the win.
“I think we went into half-time frazzled and stressed, but [head coach Stephen Bennie] Stevie calmed us down and reminded us we can do it. The message was to stay calm, keep working together and stay positive. We were still in the battle, we just needed to get our hands on the ball and build some phases, work in pods and secure possession. We did get that momentum after the break and we did have the comeback rolling in. But I think we left it too late, and we made it hard for ourselves by losing the ball a few too many times with loose carries or isolated runners.
“We’re devastated. I’ve played for Uni for three years and in the last two we have won the title, so it almost felt like a right of passage for us to win. But we didn’t. The desire was there, that is unquestionable, and I think the emotion at the end showed that. As a team I still believe we could have got the job done, it just wasn’t our day.
“But the best moment for me was standing in a circle just now and having Steve smile and say how proud he was of us, and then Ili [Batibasaga] reminding us that as a team we have so much to be proud of, and so much more to the season that makes us successful. So I think as a club, SUWRC can definitely hold our heads up high and be proud of the year we have had. The best part is, the girls are hungry for next year already. The Jack Scott Cup is coming back home next year, so Ratettes, enjoy the glory of 2017 because in 2018 there will be a different final chapter!”
Warringah captain Emily Robinson:
“We knew it was going to be hard and it was – I’m absolutely wrecked! But I’d do it all over again, it was awesome. We saved the best til last, I think we just built throughout the year and we didn’t give up. That’s what we do at the Rats, and I think the girls really played for each other today. To be honest, we really didn’t think about them before the game. I saw their team list but they’ve played a few tricks on us a few times, so I actually thought Ash [Hewson] and Sera [Naiqama] would play. But we just focused on ourselves, on the 23 girls in our team and who could win it for us.
“We probably should have capitalised a bit more in the first half and I thought we could have gone up by another try. But obviously it’s a grand final, it’s a different game, and emotion comes into play, and it’s those little moments that win or lose you games. We weren’t able to get away from them by too much, but you’re never going to against a quality team like Uni, and I thought we just composed ourselves really well and got away with the win.
“The penalty count was starting to rack up in the second half and I think that was probably down to the girls getting a bit frazzled and just wanting to win. Sometimes that ‘want’ leads to one step offside, or being one centimetre too high, but that just shows the girls’ keenness. We had to pull that together and luckily, we forced a few errors and got home.
“We’re one club at Warringah, we don’t have a 1st grade, a women’s team and a 4th grade – we’re all Rats. The boys were super-happy that we were here today, I got heaps of messages this morning and they were all excited. So hopefully, they can take some energy out of what we’ve done and keep going well in the Shute Shield.”