What they said… Sydney University v Warringah

SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 50 (Penalty Try, Guy Porter 2, Wayne Borsak, Tom Horton, Banjo Travers, Jay Spencer, Nathaniel Tamwoy tries; James Kane 4 cons) defeated WARRINGAH 0 at University Oval No. 2. HT 24-0

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Reigning Premiers Sydney University put on a powerhouse display in front of their own supporters on Good Friday, racking up the half-century and leaving a stunned Rats outfit scoreless in the process. Check out the in-depth match report here.

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

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Robert Taylor (Sydney University head coach):

“I told the club members at their lunch before kick-off to look out today, because we’d trained really well and there was a really good feeling amongst the group. It did feel like a great week, and to start the game like that was probably only going to add to that feeling. We probably left a couple of tries out there but that performance is what we’ve been working towards in the off-season and pre-season, and it felt a bit like picking up from the grand final last year because there was some similar stuff – brutal defence, turning defence into attack, keeping the ball moving, and if you watched those two games back-to-back you’d be saying ‘Let’s just keep going off this’.

“I’m mostly happy with the defence because to keep Warringah to zero, that can’t have happened for a long, long time. You look at your off-season and pre-season and wonder what it has accumulated to, and then you get to round one and leak 49pts against Easts. So that was a kick up the arse, and reminded this group that they’re not untouchable. It enabled us to fix up a few things, and it’s probably been the best thing for us.

“We’ve put a lot of work into it, and we know we’ve got a big defensive game coming up against Eastwood next week, so we wanted to be physical and front up here and build a platform to take into that game as well. You can’t leak lots of points against the Rats and then go and play Eastwood, you have to front up. So today is a boost of confidence in that the hard work is paying off. To keep Western Sydney and Warringah to 3pts between them in the last two matches shows that. If we keep repeating that, it should be hard for teams to break us down. But there’s a long way to go.

“We didn’t even think or talk about the final last year as a rematch. There were only eight guys that started from the grand final team that started today, so you’re starting all over again. But it’s nice to see a new group get to that level against a quality team, so that’s probably the highlight, to put in a performance like that in round three. Now the challenge is to keep striving for something higher, and higher, and higher.

“We had five debuts in the forward pack alone against Easts, three against Western Sydney last week, and we had one guy make his debut today in Jay Spencer, so it’s still a little bit of a feeling out period, but great to see those guys go on. That was one thing we talked about in the changing rooms, that I felt the bench added another level as well when they came on. I think it’s a great sign for the club that we’re developing guys from within that are able to step up.”

Mark Gerrard (Warringah head coach):

“We wanted, not to consolidate, but play tactically smart today. But at 12-0 down it felt like we were already chasing our tails, and we had only played 20 minutes of footy. I’ve been at the club for 21 years, and I’ve never seen 1st Grade not score a point, never. We’ve had some dire scores and plenty of points against us, but not that. So I want to use today as motivation, and you can guarantee that when it comes to the review, the first slide they’ll see is that score, followed by the question ‘How does that make you feel?’

“We’ve talked heavily about understanding how the game works, and the key moments of a game that we can control. But I thought at times when we were on the backfoot we needed to consolidate and play a bit more territory, and we just didn’t have our game sense. That was our main priority this week, being game smart and controlling our own space in attack to make sure that we play in the right areas of the field, but we were well off. Also, you can’t win a game of footy without lineout ball, and I don’t know the count exactly but I think we only won four or five out of about 16, so there’s a rocket coming this week for those boys.

“We’ve also tried to pride ourselves more on our defence this year, and on our attacking shapes and policies in how we want to play. But it’s very hard to play the brand of football you want to without any set-piece, and it’s very hard to play any brand of football when you don’t have it. So, to know how we want to play and defend how we want to defend but produce that out there, is disappointing, because that’s not the fabric of how we want to be this year.

“In all facets of the game we were really poor and Uni were really good. We were ineffective in our clean-outs, ill effective in our carries, and ill effective in our one-on-one tackles, and I believe the small parts of the game do create a bigger picture. Overall it’s an attitude thing. I personally believe, and I said it to them in the sheds after the game, that you can be a great player, but the difference between a good player and a great player is your attitude. I can’t teach that.

“Half-time was a stern talking to, but I was just frustrated with the reflection of what we had been doing all week and how we wanted to play against Uni and knowing what they are like defensively, and knowing what they like to do in attack. By them taking our time and space away, yes, it nullified our attack, but we’ve been teaching them this stuff – this is what Uni are going to do, this is what Eastwood are going to do, and you can guarantee Gordon will be the same next week, they’ll mirror the defence Uni put on us today – so how do we combat that? We’ve been teaching them all year how to do it.

“It’s an old cliche, but one week of footy is not going to determine how you’re going to go the following week, but it’s just frustrating. I’m frustrated because we just didn’t turn up but I don’t know where to finger point, and the inconsistencies in what we’re doing at the moment aren’t going to win this competition. From the first round to the second and then the third, the way we’re going I’m hoping for a really good performance next week!

“I’ll blame myself for how we turned up today, maybe we’re trying to achieve a little bit too much at times. But the difference between a good performance and a bad performance is always one week. However, it’s not going to get any easier. Every game this year is going to be a good test of our character and where we are, so we need to find consistency in our game, and pretty bloody quickly. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, we’ve just got to get the boys up for it again next week.”

Guy Porter (Sydney University captain):

“I think we knew we weren’t too far off two weeks ago, it just didn’t translate onto the field. So it was good to fix a few things that were off against Easts, particularly at home. Personnel-wise, having Tom Horton and Lachie Swinton back on board – Tom having gone off injured really early in that first game – really gave us a lot of energy, and everyone rose off that. But that was the performance we have been aspiring to, so it was really positive. The challenge now is to maintain that week-in, week-out,

“We started well against Easts and obviously really dipped off in that last 30 minutes, so that had to be an area of improvement today. But our intensity was up, not so much because it was a grand final rematch, it’s more that we’ve had a couple of really good fixtures against Warringah over the last year. Obviously, we went down to them at Rat Park last season, so we were pretty clear about the sort of intensity the game would be played at based on our recent history. We had to come out at that level, otherwise we would have been in an arm wrestle we didn’t want to be in.

“The challenge was to keep it at a really high intensity, but when we’re having fun out there that’s far easier to do. It’s definitely fun standing in the backs and then watching our forwards go to work, and then having really good opportunities off the back of that. That’s a really good relationship for the backs to profit from, and the forwards have their own fun getting stuck into those levels of contact.

“If we reflect on where we were 12 months ago, it’s been really beneficial to have that experience together as a backline. We know what we’re doing in games and we know what we’re doing week to week, but it’s also been awesome to see guys stepping in to that environment when needed as well. I guess the mould is there, it’s now about pushing it even further every week.

“We want to be continuously improving, and you’ve got an 18 round regular season to do that in. So the better we perform each week, the higher the bar we’re hoping for the week after. To put a performance out like this, is now a challenge for us to back it up against Eastwood.

“I’m enjoying the captaincy role, it’s something I haven’t really done before but it’s good fun. Rohan O’Regan was probably the best captain I’ve ever played under, and we’re still reaping the benefits of the way he led us around last year. But we’ve got some really good senior guys like Stuey Dunbar or Dave McDuling around the group, so there’s not the same pressure on me in that sense. I’m just trying to add something a little bit different on top.

“I think the big takeaway from today was that we went down to Easts two weeks ago, then the Rats got over them pretty convincingly last week, and now we’ve turned the tables on them. So it shows that you have to come out and perform each week. The experience we had last year was some of the best of our lives, so there’s definitely the ambition there to repeat that and even go better, putting out the performances we’re capable of in every game. That’s the big carrot at the end of it, and we’re incredibly driven to get there again.”

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