From the sheds… Sydney University v Manly

SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 10 (Henry Clunies-Ross try; James Kane con, pen) defeated MANLY 6 (Yool Yool 2 pens) at University Oval No.2 HT 7-6

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Sydney University certainly weren’t at their best last weekend as they maintained their unbeaten start to the 2020 season with a narrow 10-6 victory over Manly at Uni Oval No.2. But given they were below par, particularly at set-piece time – an area where they have traditionally thrived, and were up against a determined Manly side that stayed with them for the full eighty minutes, the positive they can take away is that they still ended up on the winner’s dais. For the Marlins, it was no doubt a disappointing result in the end from a contest in which they had competed so willingly. But they can take much away from a performance that illustrated the character and defensive grit that they are trying to re-instil at the Village Green, and bodes well for the rest of the season. (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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Michael Hodge (Sydney University co-head coach):

Michael Hodge_Sydney Uni coaching_2019

Michael Hodge

“We’ll definitely be watching the game back, that’s going to be really important. An old, wily Manly first grade pack took on a young group of forwards and it wasn’t pretty, but that’s what first grade footy’s about and I think Manly showed their experience there. We want to play fast and we want to play good footy, but those guys went out there and did what they had to do, got under our skin and disrupted us at set-piece, and it put us off our game. I do think though, and I am an optimist, but in the same game last year exactly the same thing happened and they beat us here. So it wasn’t pretty but similar to last week, in those big moments we came through and ground out the win.

“I was really happy with our defence. It was really good, our linespeed was good, and we should be really comfortable with it. But we’re just making it hard for ourselves in attack. When we do get front-foot ball and get around the corner it does look really good, but it’s our set-piece and a few silly mistakes that’s putting us under pressure. I thought if we could have got into the game we’d have got some momentum, but it was penalties and turnovers that kept Manly in the game and they just kept scrapping, and that’s what you’d expect.

“We’ll have to review the scrum. I was pretty confident with it going in and it started really well, but we’ll definitely have to review it. I think both teams struggled and were a bit unsure about the execution, but we won’t hang our whole scrum on one game. Manly showed a lot of experience and we showed a bit of immaturity at times but we still came out with the win.

“I was really confident in the last twenty minutes because I knew we’d done the work and I know we’ve got some really good leaders out there. We probably should have put a few more than four points on, but we did hold them down there and I don’t think Manly looked like scoring in that last ten minutes, although I suppose they could always have got a turnover and run the length. But those ‘championship’ moments are where we back ourselves, and I was really confident in the boys to do that.

“I don’t think the weather was to blame for some of our attacking issues, I just think our set-piece launch wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t that wet but I think it was one of those games where it was hard, it was attritional and it was a scrap. We’re lucky in that we haven’t been perfect in the first two weeks but we’re really happy to come away with two wins. We lost those two games last year – we lost to Warringah away and we lost to Manly at home. So if you’d have told me that we’d have won the Sir Roden Cutler Shield and still be holding after these two weeks I’d have been pretty bloody happy.

“We’ve now got to set the bar really high for the next two weeks with a trip up to Newcastle and then a Penrith team who will be very keen to play at Uni. So I believe the next two weeks for us are going to be the most important. We’ve got to review, we’ve got to get better and make sure we’re executing. We’ve got to get better and we will get better.”

Matt McGoldrick (Manly head coach):

Matt McGoldrick_Manly coaching_2020_Manly

Matt McGoldrick

“We showed a ton of character again but we’ve got to get better because we’re not good enough at the moment with our attack. We just weren’t good enough in the A zone, we made too many errors and our skills are letting us down a little bit. But I can fix skills, I can’t fix ticker, and you can’t coach character. I think we had enough chances to win the game, and more than them to be frank, we just couldn’t do it.

“I thought early on we were just knocking-on in first phase and couldn’t get moving. Then Harry Bergelin went off and Cecil (James Hilterbrand) went off for a while and it took us a little bit of time to get our act together. But we did what we wanted to do. We’ve traditionally come out here and scored four tries but still got our backsides kicked, and I’d rather get a bonus point like that. I understand it’s not brilliant for everyone to watch but at the end of the day this is who we have to become. Uni have been doing this for twenty years, we’ve been doing it for two games. But this is who we have to become.

“At the end of the day, you can’t do a cut pass to your thirteen and it get knocked-on, or work hard for field position and get down there and mess your lineout up. It’s got to be more accurate, particularly against them. We probably blew three or four tries against Parramatta last week but we still scored four – if we’d scored seven it’s a day out. But with these guys we get two chances and we should have scored twice and we didn’t. So it’s a little frustrating, but if we play like that every week we’re going to win more than we lose.

“At the end I was so pleased when they got that lineout and we drove them back twenty metres, and then they got a scrum and we absolutely did their scrum. I saw there was a couple of videos online about our scrum going backwards against Parramatta, and I thought to myself that in that snapshot in time you might say ‘Manly’s scrum isn’t great’. But we’ve absolutely destroyed them today, I don’t care what the ref’s said. A couple of things didn’t go for us and Uni would probably say the same thing, but I know that we’re bringing a big stick now. There’s some tough hombres in that pack no matter how old they are, they’re tough boys and so’s the captain. I’ve always thought your team becomes your captain’s personality and Jimmy (Ohmsen) is a competitor and he’s tough, and that’s what we’ve become. We’ve just got to get more skilful but we can do that.

“We came here with a plan. We didn’t want to play too much in our own half, we didn’t want to get into a game of touch with them, and we wanted to turn it into a slog because I feel that our pack is our strength now. Our backs did what they needed to do and they defended unbelievably well today – Hutana Coffin was awesome at twelve. But we wanted to come here and not get sucked into the usual thing that we do, which is ‘Let’s run it from our C zone or our D zone’ and then you lose by thirty. We told them to keep kicking it back to them and they made mistakes, everyone does. Field position is a funny thing.

“It was greasy out there and there wasn’t a lot of oxygen in the game I can tell you that. I said to ‘Hux’ (Julian Huxley) with twenty minutes to go, ‘Geez, this is a bit of a grind!’ But we’ve not played these games, so when you get to finals you try and play touch football and it doesn’t work – we’ve shown it doesn’t work. We got a point out of it and we’re happy enough and we don’t have any injuries, so we’ll dust ourselves off and get into Norths next week. In a game where there wasn’t much footy played I felt like in the exchanges we were really physical. I felt we were as physical as them and that hasn’t happened for a long time. So we’re finding our identity and I like it, but we’ve just got to get a little better.”

Rohan O’Regan (Sydney University captain):

Rohan O'Regan_Sydney Uni v Warringah_2020_AJF

Rohan O’Regan – Photo: AJF Photography

“I think that even out there at the end of the game we knew it wasn’t a pretty affair and that no team really had a roll on. The scrum was an absolute nightmare going both ways and they probably got the ascendancy on us, and the lineout was pretty similar. So neither team really got nice clean ball, and when you can’t strike first-phase that doesn’t help the flow of the game at all. I thought we kicked really well, but neither side made many line breaks or played any spectacular rugby, and that’s footy sometimes.

“Something we looked at was that we knew they would get to an edge and then try and go back to the other edge. Last week we were probably a bit tight on ‘d’ and we were getting skinned out wide, so we were pretty happy with how we defended that today. We were good without being spectacular and we’ve got pretty lofty expectations of how we defend. There were just a few key moments there where we would have good first-phase in nice attacking territory twenty metres out or even five metres out, where we didn’t execute. I’d say that was more down to sloppy attack than anything else, because the conditions weren’t horrible,

“They’re a wily bunch and they’ve all been playing footy for a while now – even ‘Hoggers’ (Michael Hodge) has played against a few of them! But they know what they’re doing and they know how to win games of footy. Last year we went up and played an older Warringah team and bottled it at the end, and the same thing when we played an older Manly team a few weeks later. So we’re pretty happy – not in the performance – but in getting a result in spite of all the flaws and inconsistencies in some of the areas that we’re not happy with. We managed to get it done, which is all that matters at the end.

“As a group, we’re always focused on getting better. Was there an improvement on last week? Yes in some areas but in others, no. But then you can focus on some things some weeks and others take a bit of a backward step. We’ll go pretty hard at each other during the week and then try and be better up at Newcastle.

“Pre-Christmas all the training we were doing was under ‘Hoggers’, so the lads were pretty familiar with his voice and comfortable with his messages, and I think that was prep for him to step into the role at some point or another. We’ve been together as a group since the end of 2017, and the messages that Rob (Taylor) and Joe (Horn-Smith) have instilled in us are pretty solidified after two and a half years. So although it was pretty disappointing to see Rob leave, we were stoked for him because he’s an unbelievable coach and was completely deserving of being with a professional team.

“The challenge since then has been how good we can get as a playing group by leading it ourselves, and ‘Hoggers’ has been pretty firm on that and letting us take the reins a bit more. Rob was a huge fan of player leadership but he had such a definitive way of how he saw the game being played, you could just soak up his knowledge. It’s been a big change but rugby’s a pretty simple game so it doesn’t change that much. What’s good is what’s good.”

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