From the sheds… Western Sydney Two Blues v Randwick

RANDWICK 42 (Dylan Pietsch 2, Maurice Longbottom 2, Fred Dorrough, Triston Reilly tries; Fred Dorrough 5 cons, Lachlan Miller con) defeated WESTERN SYDNEY TWO BLUES 0 at Lidcombe Oval – HT 0-0

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With the match scoreless at half-time, the boilover of the season loomed last Saturday at Lidcombe Oval. But the Western Sydney Two Blues couldn’t go on with their fine efforts after the break, and were eventually overrun by a Randwick side chock-full of attacking threats that racked up seven tries and a third win of the 2020 season – their best start since 2016. (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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Ben McCormack (Randwick head coach):

Ben McCormack_Randwick training_2020

Ben McCormack – Photo: Ric McLallen

“I thought the Two Blues really set the pace in the first half. They were really willing and gave it to us in the physical contest. We so clearly wanted to find space and run around them but didn’t want to do the hard work to get there. But full credit to the Two Blues, they were definitely up for it and the nil-all half-time score line probably flattered us a little.

“We had identified some space and opportunity to attack in the wider channels. But I think the boys took it too literally and it looked like we were trying to play touch footy because we didn’t want to go into contact at all, which was disappointing. We made some adjustments at half-time and came good in the end but it was definitely a very frustrating first half.

“I was trying to control myself a little bit at half-time because I was pretty furious. But I think the main thing for Gaz (assistant Garrick Cowley) and I as coaches was to accept our part in the potential tactical error, and make the detail adjustments on our points of attack in the first few phases before we could then give some firm encouragement to alter the attitude towards the physical contest. In hindsight, after the weekend we’d just had against the Rats, we had some pretty sore bodies so we had a bit of a lighter week at training and then going into the game with a wider more expansive attack focus probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world from us.

“After we’d given them a bit of a rev about their attitude towards the contact zone we challenged the boys to respond and they quickly did, which is pleasing. The second half was about sticking to what started to work for us, and that’s where you started to see Kristian Jensen squaring us up nicely at twelve and getting us on the front-foot before we then played to the edges, not trying to just go to the edges straight away. He started to come into his own there, because he’s more of an up and down style twelve and was really cutting them through the middle towards the end.

“Dylan Pietsch was a standout for us. He got a couple of tries, but he wasn’t as much a standout from what he was doing with the ball but what he was doing without it. He provides so much energy and that’s two weeks in a row that he’s done that in defence, put on a couple of really good shots which the other boys have fed off and followed up from. Being able to give your side energy, particularly from a winger in a defensive role, that’s great. He was crucial last week and even more so this week.

“The boys coming off the bench did a really good job too, which is probably a bit of a strength of ours at the moment, the quality we can bring off the bench. Maurice Longbottom, one on one with a bit of space, he’s pretty tough to handle and I felt for their winger at the end there. Hugo Camp went well and Benny Houston, making his first grade debut today, he came on and made a real difference and added some good mobility. We had another debut in Blaise Barnes, who came on at ten for those last ten minutes and I didn’t think he looked out of place. So it was great to see these young guys coming on and making an impact.

“It’s important that we keep accumulating those points, but also that we find the small things that we need to improve on week-to-week. We found a few from week one to week two, and obviously today we’ll take plenty to work on out of that such as our approach during the week and a few little tactical things, and the mindset of some of the boys wasn’t right coming into the game so that will take some adjustment.

“We’ve only conceded two tries in three weeks, four weeks if you go back through the trials, so you’ve got to be reasonably happy with that. But there’s plenty still to learn and we’ll need to be better again for next week because West Harbour have got plenty of talent. From one to fifteen there’s plenty there and whilst they haven’t fired yet at some stage you’d think they’re going to start to click, so we’ll have to make sure we’re on the ball and better than we were today.”

Joel Rivers (Western Sydney Two Blues head coach):

Shute Shield season launch

Joel Rivers – Photo: Stu Walmsley

“Our key words in the build-up were execution and effort. The execution in the first half, especially in the attacking twenty-two, was poor. Other than that, the effort across the board was really good, they were getting back into the line in defence and no-one was walking. The first half was very positive for us and they were in really high spirits when they came into the changing rooms at half time. Everybody was up and positive. We spoke about our next job, which was to stick with them for eighty minutes, and executing our game plan, which is what we haven’t done in any game so far. But it was positive, and we felt like it was ours for the taking if we executed and kept up the effort.

“However, we played with fourteen men for thirty minutes of the second half, and you can’t do that against a side like Randwick where their back three are amazingly quick with amazing footwork – and they put (Maurice) Longbottom on in the second half at nine, that was their bench player! You can’t put yourself under that kind of pressure and expect to get away with it. As expected, the Wicks counter-attacked off our poor decisions and made us pay dearly. One of the tries we threw it to them, just popped it up in the air to their player, and for another I think one of their players just ran through the tackles of five people to score. Each one of those should have been a solid tackle, but he just bounced off them. That just comes back to effort in contact.

“We talk about the depth we have here but you can’t blame a loss like that on depth. After two tries you’re still in the game but after that third try went in so quickly I thought it was done and the score ran away at the end, which is disappointing because that’s what people see, they don’t see the improvements in shape, aggression and effort etc. I think we should have had a couple of tries ourselves also, which would have looked better. We were a little bit hard done by at times with some of the decisions, like when we were on a roll near the Randwick try-line and play was called back to give a warning to them. Just let us play! But at the same time you’ve got to take it out of the ref’s hands.

“We had plenty of opportunities, we had lineouts in the opposition twenty-two and we were camped on their line for a couple. But again, it’s just executing those opportunities. Looking at it today, I need to ensure our players understand what they need to do fifteen metres out. We’ve got big boys and you need them to run at people because they’re good in contact. They’ve got good hands but unless you’re winning the contact battle there’s no point passing, and they’re the biggest boys in the comp so just run over them! I think our understanding and our decision-making needs a lot of work in that attacking aspect.

“At the moment I think the team looks most composed when they’re on their own line and working out, because they know they can stand up and make a hit. But when we get up the other end we don’t even have white line fever, we’ve got no-line fever! They all want to run the ball and they all know how to run the ball, but it’s about having that patience to go with it. They’re throwing it side-to-side and looking for a hole but it’s about building the phases until a hole opens and then sucking them in. The opportunities were there to score a couple of tries and put them under pressure. Would we have won – who knows? I’m not saying we would have but there was a really good opportunity for at least ten points coming into half-time and we missed them.

“It’s embarrassing to say we’ve worked on our attack, as we’ve only scored five points in three games. It was the same at Manly. We got over the try-line plenty of times but it came back for a penalty or a knock-on. Take the Gordon game out of it, they were really good and we were really poor and we’ve had to write that game off because what can you do with it? If anything they learned that if you turn up in the wrong frame of mind that’s what happens, and they got wiped off the park because there was a lack of effort.

“But if I look at today and that Manly game, are we better than last year? I believe we are. It’s hard because people will look at it and say ‘How can you be, look at the scorelines’. But yeah, I really do think they’re better. I think the team we had last year wouldn’t have held that Randwick side to a half at nil-all. But they’re just not an overly confident team yet, but they will get there. They know how to play football but you’ve just got to get some wins to build up that confidence, and it’s hard to lose together because negativity creeps in as well if you’re not winning.

“The goal was six wins. That is still achievable if we just put a couple of things together. Their effort has been tremendous over the last nine months of an extended pre-season. I just worry that if they don’t start getting some results for their hard work, what happens as we go on? And then you fall back into the same old ‘There you go, that’s Western Sydney or that’s Parramatta, if you just run around them in the first twenty minutes then you’ll be fine.’ But that’s not us, that’s not who they are.

“Souths is our next opportunity and I think we traditionally play well down there and we still remember what happened last year. Not that that guarantees you anything but it shows that it is possible, and if we just keep going anything is possible.”

Nathan Den Hoedt (Randwick captain):

Nathan Den Hoedt_Randwick v Two Blues_2020_RM

Nathan Den Hoedt – Photo: Ric McLallen

“Potentially we came out a bit mellow after last week, and you know they’re going to give it to us so you have to put it to the back of your mind. But it was really tough and obviously, that first half was a bit of a slog and we went into half-time pretty annoyed with the way things were going. We came out with a bit of a game plan in the second half and managed to execute it and get ourselves out of a hole, which was the main thing. So the second half was pretty solid but the first was very disappointing.

“I think we were forcing the pass a bit in the first half when it wasn’t on, and just getting a bit excited more than anything. Benny called us in at half-time and we took a breath and went from there. We were a bit tired but we got a game plan together and we were good to go after that, we just needed to execute it. We knew if we scored an early try that we were going to be on top and then needed to keep going on with that. We got one early, which we’d planned on, and then kept the momentum going.

“Our bench is always good and we know when they come on they’ll make an impact, and they did that massively today. Sam Croke was pretty big grabbing a couple of pilfers, and Maurice (Longbottom) is a pretty dangerous player. You know when he goes he’s going to be stepping a few people and you’ve just got to stick with him, the hard part is trying to find out where he’s going next!

“We’re building slowly. Last week against Warringah playing with fourteen men, that was just desperation footy and a good sign to come away with wins like that. Obviously, the first half today wasn’t ideal but we dug ourselves out and I think we showed in the second half what we can do. We just need to keep the momentum going and keep improving each week.

“We are a young side and there are a few new boys in there with the Sevens boys coming back too, so we’re still trying to gel. But I think once everything clicks and comes together, there’s a few phases and a few tries out there that showed what we can do when we get it right. Once we get that continuity as a team we’ll go really well.

“You see what happens when you come out here and you’re not up for it straight away, you know that you’re going to get whacked – I’m definitely feeling it now! And West Harbour next week will be another hard, physical game. There’s a few Randwick old boys who have gone over there to play as well so it’s always fun to play against your former team mates. We’re really looking forward to it.”

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