From the sheds… Southern Districts v Eastwood

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 34 (Harry McLennan 2, James Wayland, Christian Kagiassis, Liam Dwyer tries; Christian Kagiassis 3 cons, pen) defeated EASTWOOD 19 (Lachlan Shelley, Enoka Muliufi, Matt Gonzalez tries; Tane Edmed 2 cons) at Forshaw Park HT 14-12

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Club rugby made it’s long-awaited return to the grounds of Sydney last weekend, and nowhere was more pleased to see it back than a fervent – albeit Covid-19 restricted – crowd down in the Shire at Forshaw Park, as Southern Districts hosted Eastwood. Having missed out on the finals in the last two seasons, and with new head coach Todd Louden at the helm, the Rebels were keen to get off to a positive start in 2020, and they did just that to down the Woodies 34-19 in a four-tries-to three victory. (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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Todd Louden (Southern Districts head coach):

Southern Districts head coach, Todd Louden with the 1st grade coaches.

Todd Louden – Photo: Malcolm Chuck

“I’m happy with the character today, and I’m pleased in that, some of the hard work that we’ve been doing you could see out there. We were ready physically and from a conditioning perspective. Obviously, some of our execution was a little bit poor, but I think both sides suffered from that with it being the first game. But that was a physical game and both sides knew they were in it in terms of that contact, and I could hear it.

“I’m really pleased with how we’ve pulled up, but bitterly devastated and worried about ‘Boner’ (Marcus Carbone) because it looks like he’s done his ACL again, which is a tragedy for him and he’s the spine of that team. But I was also proud of the way the guys just got on with it, that was a positive, and I thought Jake (Douglas) really stepped up as captain too. So I’m proud of them but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“We knew that defending we’d be ok without the ball for long periods, just because of the work that we’ve done and the trial last week against Manly indicated that as well. But we knew when we got the ball that we’d be right to go again, so it kind of went the way we thought it would go in some ways. We took the fight to them a little bit and then opened up into a different type of game plan, but you’ve got to do the hard work first up.

“We’d been working on that lineout play that Harry McLennan scored off for a while, and when they come off it’s gold. We had them bunched there and looking at all the wrong places, so it’s a hard one to defend and very much out of the Tim Davidson playbook who I used to coach. He scored a lot of tries that way too. I’ll have to have a word with my eighty percent goal-kicker because he wasn’t at eighty percent today! But I think the way that we are playing it’s not necessarily about the scoreboard, it’s about sticking to our systems and what we’ve been working on, and knowing that we have to put in the hard yards before we can open up.

“We’d obviously had a look at Eastwood and you know you’re in for a hard game against them, but they don’t change their game plan too much. So we knew that even if we left one short, we could make that ground up because they’re kind of going deep. That was the defensive plan this week, and we were kind of uncomfortable, but comfortable with that, if that makes sense? We wanted to invite them to go wide in some ways because then their forwards have to get to it.

“They’ve traditionally scrummed for penalties, so we had a big focus on that and I think Jay (Tregonning) has done a wonderful job with our forwards, and I think ‘Blackie’ (Michael Black) – with a young backline – has done really well too. But I still expect they will be in the finals, they’ve got too much talent across the broad not to. I think they’ll be there or thereabouts and I think they’re one of the top two teams. They’ve got some strike power, and if their forwards up front get it together they’re going to be tough.

“I’m in two minds about the bye next week. I’d like to keep going, but it also gives us a good ten days to work on the things that we’ve discovered that we need to work on, like our exits. The other thing is that we’ve got a very different attacking system to most teams, it’s very awkward because it’s hard to really track who’s doing what. I’m happy with that but I still think it needs a lot of work because it’s quite different.”

Ben Batger (Eastwood head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Ben Batger – Photo: Stu Walmsley

“When we held the ball, on the two or three times that we actually did, we scored some points. But in terms of combinations, we were really lacking out there. Souths had the smart game plan by keeping it really simple, they didn’t do anything special. They held the ball, we didn’t, and they scored more points than us.

“It was a pretty standard footy game, in the opening fifteen or twenty minutes the defence is always going to be tough and you can’t expect to just break teams open. We came away with seven and I was reasonably happy with that, but we just didn’t build any pressure after that first fifteen minutes. We didn’t spend any time in their A and B zone over three phases, which gives them a chance to relax and makes defence a hell of a lot easier.

“I think I remember their first two tries, one was off an error at the lineout and the second was from us giving away a stupid penalty and they got into our A zone twice. They then did that pick-and-go move where they run fifteen metres, which we showed the boys on tape this morning so that was disappointing, and I think they did that three or four times in the game.

“We’ve got to be smarter. We didn’t hold onto the ball – that’s not very smart. Losing your own lineout – that’s not very smart. Losing first-phase turnovers as backs – that’s not very smart. Letting them score off a first-phase starter – that’s not very smart. So you get the picture, we played some pretty dumb football today.

“We realised at half-time that they were very strong in the middle part of the field, that twenty-thirty channel. So we tried to spin it but our boys just didn’t hold depth, and that didn’t give guys like ‘Fabs’ (Fabian Goodall) enough chances. Lachie Shelley made some good runs on his debut down the left touchline, but they were pretty narrow and there was opportunities there but we weren’t good enough to take them.

“We put ‘Belly’ (Chris Bell) on because we needed to use the ball and he’s a ten, so that was a tactical move for us and it did reap a few benefits. His yellow card I don’t think was a yellow card, he was going for an intercept and he had a three-on-two, but it didn’t have that much effect on the game. I can’t remember what the other one was for but our discipline wasn’t good, I’m not sure what the penalty count was but I’m sure it was against us. That’s what happens when you play without the ball, you put yourself under pressure, which means you’re either going to leak points, which we did, or you’re going to leak penalties, which we did.

“Every loss hurts, and of course you want to start off on a good foot with a win because it gives you a nice happy feeling. But in reality, you’re going to lose one game throughout the season at some stage, whether it’s in the first, fifth or tenth round, it’s going to happen. As long as you can learn from it and bounce back, that’ll be the key.”

Jake Douglas (Southern Districts vice-captain):

Jake Douglas_Souths v Eastwood_2020_MC

Stand-in skipper Jake Douglas gives the post-match speech – Photo: Malcolm Chuck

“Definitely pleased with the performance. Todd put it on us in the last couple of weeks that when we hit that field, even if it’s at training, we need to be on from the moment we cross the line. That was a big factor today, and I’m proud of the boys for showing that attitude. A couple of yellow cards helps, although, I thought they defended quite well with fourteen on the field. But we put a hell of a lot of effort into doing the nitty gritty stuff and getting in those dark places together, living there temporarily, and then coming back out of it and being on top.

“Fitness-wise we’ve been massive, and what we took away from the trial last week against Manly was our last defensive effort on our line for ten minutes. So it was big on us this week to rip in with our ‘d’, and we said we wanted to play in their half because we knew we could score points when we got in their forty. Once we were down there our backs picked their moments, and we were lucky to get a few tries out wide. We’ve also been doing a little bit of maul stuff and we want to use that as a weapon, so it was awesome to score that try that way in the corner at the end too.

“Physicality has been big for us in the off-season. Usually, contact is something that starts around February but we were on it from our first session back in October and trained with fifteen-on-fifteen contact. It was modified, it wasn’t necessarily a full game or for a long period of time, but it’s been different and it’s been fun. Every session there is some form of us whacking each other, so it’s ingrained in what we do. We’ve had blow-ups at training between players from first grade and second grade, so we love that contact and that showed out on the field today. 

“We’ve been lucky with Harry (McLennan). He loved playing down here but he wanted to try something different, so he was going to play rugby league for Newtown this year but that competition got canned, so he came back. He is the energiser bunny. He could play a game of footy and then another game of footy, so it’s great to have him back and he’s on fire. It’s also his birthday today so he’s had a good day!

“Eastwood are a very good notch to have on your belt. Coming into this week we were a bit of an unknown off the back of some poor performances the last two years. So we really wanted to come out and stick it to a side who – I’m not saying they’re title contenders – but they’re up there. They’re a very good side that has a proven track record, so to get a win against them at home first up is very nice. It’ll be interesting to have the bye in round two, especially in this comp where it is such a sprint. But I think we will manage this week and go into Penrith in two weeks time looking pretty good.”

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