What they said… Sydney Uni v Eastern Suburbs

EASTERN SUBURBS 49 (Henry Paterson 2, Mack Mason, Dan Donato, Dylan Woods, Will Harris tries; Mack Mason 5 cons, 3 pens) defeated SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 28 (Guy Porter 2, Harry Potter, Jack Sherratt tries; James Kane 4 cons) at University Oval No.2. HT 16-14

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There’s been of plenty of chat around the title credentials of Eastern Suburbs in the off-season, and the Beasties gave plenty of credence to those opinions with an incredible 49-28 defeat of reigning Premiers Sydney University in round one last Saturday. Waratahs discard Mack Mason stole the show, with a 22pt haul and a masterclass off the boot to remind his critics that form is temporary, but class is permanent.

Behind the Ruck headed to the sheds for some post-match reaction from both camps…

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Pauli Taumoepeau (Eastern Suburbs head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Photo: Stu Walmsley

“Mack led it, but I thought our backs really kept us in that game, and you’re never satisfied. We’re happy with the win, definitely, but we weren’t perfect. We weren’t perfect at all, there’s so much not to be happy about. But we’re happy with the win, and happy that 2nd Grade won as well because it’s a hard place to come to and do that. 

“We got dominated at the breakdown in our trial against Gordon, and it didn’t allow us to do anything. The boys were looking elsewhere, they were looking at where we were running to, and so much is about the breakdown and getting that right. We want to play quick ball, so they just think it’s about the 9 getting to the breakdown and passing, but it’s actually about the efficiency and the clean-out and the ball carrier. We won that trial but it was so ugly, we just felt we lost. So we sort of stripped it back after we got taught a lesson.

“We spoke about that breakdown pressure, and I was really happy that we were able to lay a platform starting with our breakdown today. I give wraps to Mack there as well because he was able to kick off that platform, but the breakdown is such a turning point. You could make line break, ad line, ad line, ad line, and then miss a clean-out on one and it’s a turnover, so it’s definitely something we practiced throughout the week. Even though we seemed under pressure, especially territorially, our breakdown was good.

“Away from Mack not being with us, it’s something that we talk about, that ability to adapt. I’m hoping that I’m coaching a principled style game and setting a base. But if they’re standing back let’s play through them, if they’re rushing up, let’s play in behind them. When you start to exploit their weaknesses, then they start to shift and change what they’re good at. So that was an adjustment that Mack made on his own, but I’m hoping that if it wasn’t Mack, someone else in there would have made the same decision.

“Heads-up rugby is an overused term, I just think it’s about principles. If you’re here, and then you go to this point, you should do that because it makes sense. There’s a bit of maths about it too. If you go here and this player tackles you, that player is not going to be at the next breakdown. So it’s just about trying to get players to understand that, and that it makes sense to them, but you’ve got to look at the players you’ve got.

“If that doesn’t make sense to them then you’ve got to revert back to something else. But there’s a smart group of guys here, and we’re happy to play that style. They make their own decisions out there. It was Mack’s decision to go for all those penalty kicks to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and it’s their decision to go for a lineout. I’d like to think I put up a blueprint and select the team, and then they go out and actually do it. That’s why I feel awkward when people come up and shake my hand to say ‘Well done’!

“This might be a dumb analogy. But I find that as a leader, the boys are sitting in a dark room and they’re only going to look to where I point the light. So if I point the light to internal things, and only talk about that, then that’s what they’re going to be thinking about. So we just don’t talk about what’s happening in the paper or online – you’re obviously going to read about it but you’re not going to talk about it. And if I’m telling them not to listen to people, I need to do that as well.

“I love my parents, and I love my wife – they’re my biggest supporters. But my Dad watches every game, and if he tells me that we’re going to win the Shute Shield, he’s external. So you say ‘Love you Dad, thank you’, and get in your car or whatever, because he doesn’t know what we’re doing at training, he doesn’t know the opposition, and he doesn’t know the lay of the land, so it’s external. My wife will say ‘Good luck, you’re going to win’, but you don’t know that! Whilst it’s nice, it’s all got to be internally driven.”

Robert Taylor (Sydney University head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Photo: Stu Walmsley

“With all due respect, I think it could have gone either way today, but Easts gave us a lesson in execution. It was very much a case of blowing away the cobwebs out there and I think we had four or five guys making their 1st Grade debut. But hats off to Easts, they just took their opportunities. They’ve got a lot of Super Rugby players to come back later in the year, and they’ve certainly got the favourite tag from here on in after today.

“That’s a lot of points to concede and we’ll certainly be looking at what happened there in the defence and where the space was, and we’ll really have to go to work there. We felt we had the dominance and momentum in the first half, but then Mack Mason stepped up and was finding every bit of space off the boot, and obviously they also had guys out there to catch as well, and it hurt us a lot.

“The penalties in the first half got them into some momentum and kept the scoreboard ticking over, and Mack kicked all his goals today. He kicked really well. He was choosing the right moment to run it short and then go open, and we probably got the backlash of his dropping from the Tahs. But good on him for responding like that, that’s probably given them something to think about.

“They scored from a turnover ball, which we had possession of in our 22, and they kicked those penalties and we went in behind at half-time, but we should have gone in about 14-0 ahead. We got a breakaway try and then another try in the second half, and then it was just about executing. But we gave up possession too easily and they hurt us down the right hand side, and then we missed a lineout down there as well, and that was probably a big momentum swing. We gave up the ball too much and put ourselves under the pump a bit. But Easts took their chances, any kind of opportunity they capitalised on it.

“We’re in a similar position to last year in that we’ve got a young group in that changing room, a very young group, and we’ve just got to rebuild again. They’ve got a little bit of an adjustment to make coming from colts or lower grade, but we’ll give them time to get used to 1st Grade and we’ll come through better for it.

“Last year we got an opportunity to build into things a bit more with Parra and Penrith in the first two rounds and then West Harbour in round three, and we also had Tolu Latu, Paddy Ryan, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Lachie Swinton and Chris Talakai, so we’re rebuilding that forward pack. The profile of your team completely changes, so we’ve just got to adjust a bit.

“Also, while everyone always wants to beat Uni, there’s a little bit of an extra tag on there this year and we’ve got to expect a grand final every week. We’re probably finding our way a little bit still, but I’ve no doubt that we’ll only get better and better as the season goes on. We’ll respond from this really well. It’s just a hard lesson in round one.”

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