What they said… Gordon v Southern Districts

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 31 (Penalty Try, Curtis Rona, De Wet Roos, Will Thomas, Blake Schoupp tries; Christian Kagiassis 2 cons) defeated GORDON 27 (Tautalatasi Tasi, Jordan Goddard, Sean Kearns tries; Sean Kearns 3 cons, 2 pens) HT 17-13 at Chatswood Oval

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Anyone who wondered if incoming head coach Darren Coleman would be able to turn the ship around at Gordon in just six months, can happily read the positives in a narrow 31-27 loss to Southern Districts in their first hit-out of the season on Saturday. (Check out the in-depth match report here)

As it was, a dogged display that saw them do just enough to get out of dodge with the spoils, saw Souths join Eastwood at the top of the tree as the only sides with two wins from two. But they were breathing pretty big sighs of relief at full-time. Behind the Ruck headed to the sheds for some post-match reaction from both camps…

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Don Mackinnon (Southern Districts head coach):

“Obviously Gordon have recruited really well through the pre-season, and with DC having done very well at Warringah and won a Premiership it was never going to be an easy game to start with, but it was a lot harder than we expected. For us, we just needed to make sure that we defended well and put the ball in front of the forwards. We did that in a lot of parts but still gave away too many silly penalties. In saying that, the boys stuck in at the back end there and six months of pre-season shows in that 88th minute.

“I think the biggest part of that was the patience, and we said that right at the start of the game, that we were only going to win this game on patience, composure, and territory. At 13-0 down it still didn’t feel like we were in danger too much, and we ground it out, put the ball in front, won our set-piece, and went through and found ourselves some targets. I think that showed in the back end of that first half.

“We went away from what our strength is in that third quarter. We were trying to move the ball too quickly without going forward, and that showed because we were getting turned over quite a bit, which allowed them back into the game. So we asked for more attitude and more from the senior players, and when Denny [Godinet] started making some hits and Apo [Latunipulu] started making some hits, all of a sudden the young guys started to make their dominant hits too. That rattled some bones but also sends a message as well.

“It swung back our way a little bit off the lineouts, we felt that if we targeted their hooker and their throws we would get some pay, and we stole a few. We gave away a few too, but really off the back of that we regained our composure going into that last extended part of the game.

“Matt Barr has set some wonderful standards for the club, and they are big shoes to fill. But our leadership group was the main focus for me, and ensuring that when they played they were bringing along the new guys, and teaching them about respecting the position they had been given because somebody else can easily take it off them. They played like that today.

“After the 18 rounds last year in Colts we came 2nd, and we then took 30 away on tour to the UK in the off-season. 27 of those colts are coming back into grade this year, and getting some of them involved was a key element of my approach this year. I trust them, and as they showed out there today, they’ve got the talents and the game experience to go well. Also, guys like Marcus Carbone feel rejuvenated because of the youth in the team. 

“It’s only two rounds in so there’s a long way to go, and if I’m honest, if we get to the finals this year given the levels of opposition, we’ve succeeded. But from the finals on, anything can happen. It’s about keeping a lid on it, making sure the boys look after themselves, and focus on game by game. We’ve got a bye in another two weeks, and we need to go into that unscathed.”

Darren Coleman (Gordon head coach):

“I’m obviously disappointed not to win. We’d built up a lot and trained for five months and you only have your eye on game one to begin with really, so I was disappointed not to get the result. But the boys were courageous and they kept in it right til the end. There were a couple of times where Souths skipped out to leads and got a run of points where we could have chucked it in, and Gordon last year would have chucked it in. But we came back and hung in there, and if you only lose by three or four you can come away and say that we could have won or should have won.

“We’ve been working on that. We’ve had a whole theme and mantra through pre-season around ‘no quit’, and when Souths went 11-up and got that pushover try that was the pivotal moment. Do we chuck it in or do we not quit, and we didn’t quit, we came back and scored and completely dominated that last 10 minutes. Full credit to Souths, they defended pretty firmly there at the end and we couldn’t get over.

“The scrum battle see-sawed. We had it early, then we changed our tighthead tactically but they probably got the ascendancy. Then they lost [Shambeckler] Vui and we definitely had it in the last 20. But you don’t have to be Einstein to know that we must have missed about 15 lineout throws today. That messes with your head, and you start doing taps and scrums where you should be going for field position and lineout.

“I always say to the captain ‘Make the calls’ but then I get a bit excited and I start making them! But I agreed with the decision not to go to touch at the end, I backed the strategy. We hadn’t won a lineout for the last six, and you don’t want to lose a game going to a five-metre lineout and then not get the ball and a fire a shot. The other beauty of it is that it worked out perfectly, because we’d get scrum, penalty advantage, and then we’d get to play for 10 phases and come back for the penalty. So tactically I was in agreeance with what we did there.

“I really wanted to play last week because we thought we had a good trial season. But we had a week off to get over the bumps and bruises, so there’s no excuses for not having played round one. However, that battle-hardness you can only get from a comp game because in trials you’re taking people on and off, using reserves and giving people a go. But it is what it is, and there’s definitely good signs. That’s the good thing about the comp, there’s no respite, but we got a couple of injuries today, which will test our depth.

“The most pleasing thing is that I came to this ground as the Warringah coach in round 14 last year, and the place was dead and broken. We didn’t have post-match speeches, and it was horrible to be honest. But today we had spirit and the field was alive. We won all the lower grades, the club song got sung three times, we had speeches and then a boat race – it was all positive. We’re definitely heading in the right direction. I sometimes get a little impatient about how long it’s going to take to get there, but we are heading in the right direction.

“The health of the club and success on the field go hand-in-hand. If 1st grade’s winning the club is generally healthy. I said to the boys that it was a disappointing result and there were some things we could have done better, but don’t let that detract from what a good club day it was. There’s a lot of guys happy and smiling, and a lot of long-time supporters that haven’t had much to cheer of late. There’s a lot of old boys that were here that had the boys’ backs when they came off and were proud to be a Gordon supporter, and that bodes well. We’ve just got to stay on task, work hard and push each other to get better, and a win will be around the corner.”

Marcus Carbone (Southern Districts co-captain):

“Last week was a good win for us, and we were pretty confident after that for a first hit out. But going into this week, we obviously knew that Gordon were going to be a more formidable opposition. We hadn’t seen much of them, they’re a much different side to last year, and they have Darren Coleman coaching them. So we knew they were going to be good, and they definitely put it to us today and it went down to the 88th minute.

“We knew they were going to be well drilled, and they had new structures and were obviously very comfortable spreading the ball out wide. They were also very enthusiastic in defence, and we knew they were going to be fit because in the three grade games played before us, every one went to 80 minutes, so we knew they were firing.

“We had a few opportunities early on to take the points. But when we were down there I felt we needed to come away with a try and hopefully seven points, or otherwise they were going to punish us when they got back down to our end of the field. Our discipline was a massive thing for us today, I think that we gave away way too many penalties and really let them into the game. If we minimise our ill discipline, that game wouldn’t have been so tight.

“We’ve only got two of our starting forwards from last year and the rest are either new or have come up from colts, so we have a very young pack. They’re still fighting their nerves in 1st grade and finding their feet, but that will come in time. Each game they’re going to be much more confident with how they play, much more confident at this level, and they are only going to get better and better every week.

“I think a bit of over-eagerness got the best of us down near their 10-metre line at times. We wanted to play too early and we didn’t keep our composure and patience, and as I said, that’s going to come with time. We’re still a very young team with blokes that just want to play, and they’ll begin to understand that you’ve got to work hard for 80 minutes and wear down your opposition before you go out wide or try the little tip-ons. It’s a great 88-minute performance from our team, and I think we can take a lot of confidence out of that.

“Next week we’ve got Randwick, who have just been beaten by West Harbour. But it’s early days in the season and teams are still finding their feet, so I’m not going to take anything from that result. They’ll come out looking for a win against us next weekend, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and work out how to close out games when we do get that lead.”

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