What they said… Qualifying Final: Warringah v Randwick
WARRINGAH 49 (Josh Holmes, Harry Jones, Seb Wileman, Sam Needs, Josh Gillard, Tom Preece tries; Myles Dorrian 5 cons, 3 pens) defeated RANDWICK 13 (Ben Starkey try; Andrew Deegan 2 pens, Andrew Kellaway con) HT 27-6
Warringah came into this Qualifying Final off the back of a pivotal away win at the home of the Premiers, Northern Suburbs, last week, and with the confidence of victory over Randwick at Coogee Oval six weeks ago. The Galloping Greens however, arrived in the finals trying to put two successive losses behind them as they looked to reach their first semi-final since 2011. As it turned out, the form guide ran true with the Rats firmly in control from the off to build a 13-6 lead before two late tries took them to the sheds with a healthy 21pt advantage. With a dominant scrum platform that saw both Wicks props sent to the bin in the second half, the home side put the hammer down with another three tries to run out 49-13 winners with plenty of fuel left in the tank. Behind the Ruck got the post-match reaction from both camps…
Darren Coleman (Warringah head coach):
“It sort of played out how we were hoping because I thought we could get them up front, but I didn’t expect to do so as dominantly as we did in the scrum. That laid the platform and it’s hard to tell how much of an effect it has on everything else, but it was definitely a positive. Probably the only patch where we didn’t perform well was when they got the second yellow card because we went to uncontested scrums. That was when they came back into the game, scored their try and it got a bit loose. But I thought we were good in a lot of areas, we were more physical today, and our lineout was really positive as well. It was the closest to an 80-minute performance that we’ve had.
“We led them relatively comfortably at Coogee a few weeks back, and they came back within a point, and in round five we led Souths by something similar, and didn’t fire a shot in the second half, so my half-time talk was probably more aggressive than normal because I didn’t want any complacency. To me, the turning point was when we came out and scored a penalty goal and then a try immediately after half-time. That eight points really meant the game was pretty much done as a contest.
“Our biggest negative today was our set-piece defence in the backs, and they got us last time there too. Full credit to Randwick, that backline particularly is one of, if not the, best backlines in the comp, with their ball movement and their skill and speed, and I really want to give a plug to Matty Carraro and the guys that coach their backs because their starter play stuff is some of the best in the comp. They cut us open for two tries last game, and while they didn’t get tries off them this week, they put us under pressure and made some clean breaks off first-phase. They just didn’t have any scrum ball to be able to do more with it. I really feel for Shannon [Fraser] and the boys in there. That’s got to be two or three years in a row they’ve dropped their last two games going into play-offs and it’s ended in week one.
“I think we’re a different team to last year. If you look at the Rats season last year, they’d put out a four out of 10 performance, then an eight out of 10, and back to a four and so on. Then they didn’t win a game in the play-off series, they went through to week two on a loss and got smoked by Uni. I think this is a much more complete team now with a system around us in what we do, and if you’ve got a system and you stick to it, your good days and bad days are less, and we’re more consistent.
“I think this year we’ve played between sixes and eights out of 10 every week, and the only really bad game was against Eastwood here at Rat Park in round four, when we were still putting things in place. Although the scoreboard didn’t show it last week against Norths, I thought that and today were our two most dominant performances of the year, maybe against Sydney Uni as well a few weeks ago. It is confidence building and a good feeling to know we’ve played two good games in a row, and that we’re on a roll.”
Nick Ryan (Randwick Director of Rugby):
“First and foremost, Warringah deserve a lot of credit. They played a really good style of finals footy with a good set-piece, they used the ball well off some go-forward stuff, and had some good, physical defence. We invested a lot emotionally in the Southern Districts game last week, and to get as close as we did emptied our tanks a bit, and you could tell today that there wasn’t a lot left. That was a real heartbreaker for the boys, almost more than this week, because they knew how close they were and they knew the consequences of the result and what it meant. But Warringah thoroughly deserved their win, we weren’t even close, and that’s very disappointing.
“There were some technical things there [with the scrum] but the whole psychology of the game changed with our set-piece. When you’re getting dismantled like we were, that obviously has severe repercussions for the general play attack, and we just struggled to gain any continuity or ascendency in the game off the back of the very limited possession that we had, and a lot of that was disrupted. Losing Jock Armstrong to injury, a really good abrasive big lock, was a factor, but definitely from our point of view there are no excuses.
“The last 10 minutes before half-time changed the tone of the game, and changed the mood of the group. We were scrapping and competing with what we had and then it just became a mountain too far, and the first try just after half-time finished us off. That was demoralising for the boys to know they were out of the game with 30 minutes to go, but I thought our middle part of the second half was really courageous. To keep playing footy with very limited ball and very little quality ball, shows there’s a lot of character there. But we just didn’t get the big moments right today and at this time of year, you can’t do that.
“We’ve gone down a deliberate path to build from the bottom up and sometimes, you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. But having said that, don’t they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? So we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about where the improvement is going to come from internally. And if we don’t feel that those questions can be answered satisfactorily, then we have to look outside for maybe some new personnel, particularly around our set-piece stuff.
“It was a pretty ordinary performance and it’s going to take a fair while for the group to get over it, think long and hard about it, put it to bed and hopefully come back bigger and better next year. In many ways, it’s actually a really good test of the club. It’s about owning it – not running away from it – and finding out where we are at, and where we can get better. Standing still is going backwards, and in the last couple of weeks we probably didn’t improve and evolve, and we saw the consequences today.”
Sam Ward (Warringah captain):
“We knew that if our physicality was up there, we wouldn’t get outmuscled, so we wanted to really bring the heat today with a focus on digging in deep and working for the bloke next to you. But we were wary because throughout the game we won at Coogee the other week, we had the rub of the green and the fifty-fifties were going our way, and Randwick came back at us. They’re a pretty fit team and they like to move the ball, so you know you’ve got your work cut out against a team like that.
“We were building a lot of pressure in the first half but we weren’t converting as well, so it was a question of making sure we were making the right decisions with penalties, which I feel we did, and then those two tries before half-time just put a nice little buffer there for us. DC [coach Coleman] did talk for a while at half-time about finishing well after a good start like that, and you can understand the emotion behind it because he puts so much time into it and he obviously remembers ever single thing about every game we play.
“We’ve got six great props at our club, that helps to build a good scrum, and it also helps that the guys who have come in this year are top blokes. Jason Lautolo, who set up Needsie’s [Sam Needs] try, has had a big impact; Tree [Cameron Treloar] coming back; Maclean Jones coming in; Tom Preece, who is a ball of energy and hard to contain – we’ve just had a good injection of energy from guys that want to play. It’s a more experienced pack now as well. If you look at guys like myself, Jack Tomkins, Tom Connor, Rory O’Connor, Luke Holmes and Paula Kaho, we’ve all been there before and we’ve been smashed in scrums, and you learn from those experiences and they shape you over time. Not to mention having Turtle [Damien Cummins] on board as our forwards coach this year, he’s really galvanised us as a group.
“We hadn’t won our 18th round for three or four years and we went into the first week of finals last year and lost, then lost again, so we are battle hardened in that sense. Now, we’ve got to look at next week as a new game, with everyone focusing on doing their roles. We’ve got great drivers in our team with good game experience and game awareness now, and that helps to keep people settled and keep things calm. We’ve got a nice blend of experience and youthful energy, and while Josh Holmes isn’t getting any younger, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and still brings a great amount of energy to our team.
“We just wanted to play for the community today. It’s an amazing club here with amazing supporters, and you can hear them up on the hill. You hear them chipping away at other players and you feed off that, and if the crowd are feeling what you’re feeling, it just gives you extra legs. There’s an amazing vibe at the club at the moment, everyone is working hard for each other, and knowing that we’re dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ every week, is helpful. While we can enjoy a beer tonight, we’ll get straight back into it during the week and work hard again, and we don’t mind who we play or where we play next weekend. We’re good to go.”