From the sheds… Warringah v West Harbour
WARRINGAH 28 (Tyson Davis, Mungo Mason, Wes Thomas, Charlie McKill tries; Tom Halse 4 cons) defeated WEST HARBOUR 14 (James Turner, Tavite Gadeisuva tries; Pat Pellegrini 2 cons) at Pittwater Rugby Park HT 7-7
Coming in off the back of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Gordon the previous weekend, a proud Warringah outfit were perhaps guilty of trying too hard to rectify matters in the first half last Saturday, against a battling West Harbour side who were themselves trying to ignite their stuttering season.
Under the pump at scrum time, the Rats struggled to break through a determined Pirates rearguard, and when both sides went to the sheds at 7-all it looked as if the visitors had a genuine sniff of their first win of the campaign. But the home team returned after a dressing down from coach Michael Ruthven, stuck to performing the basics well, and took their chances to largely dominate the second stanza and rack up the bonus point before a late consolation for Wests after the bell.
Behind the Ruck headed to the sheds for some post-match reaction from both camps…
Michael Ruthven (Warringah head coach):
“It was far from perfect but overall, we needed a bonus point win and we got it, we’ll take it, and we’ll press on. There were some issues around set-piece that were glaringly obvious, but I thought we got a pretty good response in the second half and we tidied that area up, which gave us the platform to play footy. But it was definitely far from perfect and we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“I don’t think the boys ever feel a huge amount of pressure playing at home, playing here is sheer enjoyment for them. But the psychological battle around the set-piece is definitely impacting on how we’re performing at the moment, so we need to keep working hard there to make sure we’re getting a solid platform from the start of the game. That’s Needsy’s [Sam Needs] domain and he’ll analyse that and we’ll be better for it next week.
“We had a focus to be really disciplined around our footy, and I think the frustration around not having that solid platform got us a little bit frantic, and there was some Harlem Globetrotter-style footy going on, which wasn’t part of our plan. But we asked for a response at half-time and I think we tidied that up and bore the fruits of being a bit more clinical and disciplined. Our plan was to play territory, pin them down their end and pressure their exit, and our maul was a part of that. We were hoping to get penalties, kick for good position inside the 22 and use that to our advantage, but we just didn’t get enough of those opportunities.
“Sustained consistency has been a key message for us, and from round one we’ve shown in different periods of games that we’ve been very, very good. But we just haven’t been able to – at this point – string it together for long periods. I’m confident that when that happens we’re going to be hard to stop, and that consistency is something that we’ve spoken about, worked on in our training sessions, and are searching for in our performances. Hopefully when it clicks the boys will really enjoy it, and that’ll snowball us onto a bit of a roll.
“There’s no question around the tough start that we’ve had to the season but that’s definitely not an excuse for where we sit now. We stuck with Sydney Uni and had our chances to win that game, and we should have won the Randwick game but just weren’t good enough. So yes it’s been a tough start but we should be one or two wins better then we are.
“We come into a patch now with Penrith, Souths and the derby coming up and then a bye. So whilst we’ve had that tough start it doesn’t necessarily get any easier for us. It’s crucial that we get on a roll now and start stringing some wins together, to build some momentum but also to get some consistency and fluency into our game so that confidence begins to snowball. Hopefully that puts us in good stead for a tough finish to the back half of the comp.”
Mark Gudmunson (West Harbour head coach):
“This was a game that we earmarked and honestly thought was going to be an opportunity for us. But it’s probably been our biggest let-down, our ability to finish what we create. Last week against Randwick we created eighteen line breaks and didn’t score, and today we had scrum dominance and opportunities again.
“There was one play where we should have scored a try but we were too lateral and we should have had some people coming hard underneath. And we had a starter play right in the middle of the field with holes left and right of the guy who was meant to get the ball, and the pass goes to ground. We’re creating but not scoring, and that’s just not West Harbour.
“We talked about the scrum and the fact that we probably would get some dominance off it and we did, but you’d probably flip it on the other side and say that we won eleven scrum penalties but didn’t get any pay in terms of cards. That changes their whole attitude, and they scored two of their tries of almost forty-metre mauls and if they’re a man down, they’re not going to the rolling maul. Whereas, we had three offside penalties and were warned that the next one is a yellow. It’s just frustrating.
“We missed that penalty goal right at the end of the first half, and if we have that time again I probably would have liked to have a scrum and have a crack at it, because we were seven-all at half-time but I had a real worry because we probably should have been up twenty-one-seven. Most coaches will go and look at our reviews and think that the scorelines don’t justify the performance, which is frustrating. Last year we were always the competitive team, now we’re probably the team that doesn’t finish off our chances.
“I was still walking back up the hill when I turned around and saw that rolling maul at the start of the second half, and I was wondering how that had happened. But I got a message onto the field to say that these guys have more energy than us in the first ten, and that we had to stop it and do our own stuff. We spoke about that in the last two minutes of the game – why does it take us until we’re twenty-eight-seven down and the game is over and nothing’s on the line, to actually start playing? That’s probably going to be our video focus that last two minutes, because it was effort on effort, guys getting up off the ground, guys hitting rucks and carrying. Why does it take the game to be gone for us to start doing that?
“We went away from what we’d talked about in the second half and what had got us in the game. We had a focus on making them throw to the back of the lineout but we stopped putting blokes up to make them do that, whereas I don’t think they hit a proper lineout in the first half, the ball was bobbling all over the place or going over the back. I suppose when Dion Spice goes off after sixty minutes we maybe lacked a little bit of leadership, but he was on limited minutes after just coming back from a hamstring injury.
“For us I just think it’s taken a bit more time than we thought it would to get up to speed as a team. We had a couple of guys that have obviously come in from the Sevens and bring a different mix to what we play, and a couple of guys from different clubs come over, and pre and post-Christmas we were working really well. But we kind of lost our way a little bit with Covid and all that comes with it, and lost a bit of connection with everyone.
“Unfortunately, Rod Davies is out with a busted hand, Josh Coward tweaked his hammy at training, there’s been a bit of a delay with Sam Wykes who has a foot injury and is still a couple of weeks off, and Jack Debreczeni had to fly back out to Japan today, even though he probably won’t get to play over there until next year. Having those changes throughout the week makes it hard in terms of continuity, and those kind of guys and the leadership that they provide is something that we’d planned on and just haven’t had available.
“We roll into Manly at home next week and then the fortress of Gordon and Uni, so we have had a really hard start to the season. But that’s no excuse and we’ve had our opportunities in these games. There’s still definitely a lot of positives to take out of today The Rats were one and three going in but they’re no mugs, they’re a good team and they’ll continue to get better. They just seized the moments when they were on offer and we didn’t. It’s not massive fixes it’s basic skills, and we simply need to start converting when we’re in these zones.”
Sam Ward (Warringah captain):
“Literally a cliche, it was a game of two halves. At the start our set-piece was under pressure and we were trying to do too much and pushing things because of it, and that put us on the back-foot. Wests love counter-attack and that open field stuff, and we knew that if we could try and keep it structured that would be better for us. But we obviously didn’t do that in the first half and got a reaming at half-time, and when we went back out it was a different picture – for most of the half anyway.
“It was a very emotional week. Coming in off the back of something like that Gordon result and then one of our good blokes leaving the club in Harley [Attwater], that’s a lot to take in. I think we came here with every intention to put our best foot forward and we were just a bit frantic trying to make it happen too quickly rather than earning the right. That definitely showed in the first half, and then we got told what we needed to do at half-time and we did that for the most part.
“It’s hard when you lose ‘Needsy’ [Sam Needs] early on with a calf injury, and I don’t know that we’d scrummed that many without him, plus I’m new into that second row and I need to get a feel for it as well. But I think we did well to correct it a few times. It’s really hard when you’re on the backfoot in the scrum to try and reverse the ref’s perception on what’s happening, and I definitely feel that he had his opinion on what was happening there. Ultimately I thought it was a really good fight from the boys – Faavae [Sila], [Wayne] Borsak, Teki [Latu] and Wes [Thomas] – to play as many minutes as they did, and start to get some dominance towards the end of the game. Yes, we maybe weren’t rewarded with it but we kept fighting.
“There’s no better way for the forwards to get some confidence than with a good rolling maul and it felt like we were running, which was a nice feeling and a weird feeling at the same time! But it was definitely a great way to start the second half and get some confidence. I know West Harbour haven’t had the greatest start to the season but they’re good, they play well and you can’t give them a sniff because they’ll score four tries on you. So we knew we weren’t home and hosed whatsoever and for me, the fight and the belief in the team showed in that last play after the whistle. We could have just kicked it out but we coughed it up and they put a try on us, but I love that. That’s what the youth brings to the team, they keep wanting to have a crack, which is good.
“We’re building slowly and getting across our detail better. We’ve got a fair few new players in the team so we’ve got to try and understand that and get used to guys. We’ve got a different guy in ‘Halsey’ [Tom Halse] guiding the team around now after having ‘Hamo’ [Hamish Angus] for the last twelve years, so we’re learning on our feet and finding out who our leaders are and what our place is in the team. We’re only going to get better each week.
“It’s not without its challenges. It’s Rivo’s first year at the helm and it’s my first year captaining without ‘Hamo’ and we’re learning as we go, and it’s been the year from hell so far so I feel sorry for him in a way being handed the reins and trying to deal with it all. It’s completely different and there’s no clear path around it but he’s doing well. He knows the boys well and he’s been around them for three or four years and he’s definitely got a long career ahead of him in coaching.
“The one thing you’ve got to do after a loss like that last week is change and reverse it, so we definitely wanted that to kick-start our season and it’s good to get the win. Now we want to keep building from here and keep that roll on. Penrith at Penrith is always a tough place to travel, but the boys will be on it next week and will go there with more confidence so we’re looking forward to it.
“I can’t believe there’s ten weeks to go. It’s a tough slog and usually at this time of the year you’re geeing up for the grand final but now we’re only in round five and the slog is just beginning. So it’s a real mental challenge for the boys just keeping everyone up, but I have no doubt it’s the same for every club. From all the guys I’ve spoken to everyone is feeling the pinch so it’s going to be a challenge, but I think the boys are up for it. We’ve got good youth and they’re hungry, plenty of boys are keen to rip in, and we’re well coached, so hopefully it’s a case of onwards and upwards.”