Wicks make a statement against disjointed Souths
Photo: Ric McLallen
Randwick continued their fine start to the 2020 Shute Shield last Saturday with a dominant 34-5 victory over the previously unbeaten Southern Districts at Forshaw Park, taking the Sir Roden Cutler Shield back to Coogee with them in the process.
On what was a testing afternoon under the power lines with a stiff and swirling breeze making life difficult for the kickers in particular, the Galloping Greens came out firing to build a 22-0 lead, thanks in part to the fleet-footed talents of Maurice Longbottom. Hampered by a couple of key injuries the Rebels regrouped to get one back before the break, but a brace of tries to the impressive Kristian Jensen after half-time cemented the win, a sixth in a row for the visitors.
The burgeoning gusts around Forshaw were apparent from the kick-off, David Horwitz’s up’n’under only just making the requisite 10 metres as it was buffeted backwards. But the former Waratah and Rebel adjusted superbly inside 30 seconds, firing off a sublime touchfinder into the corner to pin the home side less than 10 metres from their own line.
The Rebels forwards exited with aplomb but the problems facing the playmakers on both sides were writ large by the punitive metres gained by Christian Kagiassis off the boot, despite a healthy connection. That gave the Wicks the opportunity to set up a potent driving maul that got them back inside the 22, before quick hands sent it wide and into the arms of Maurice Longbottom.
The Sevens speedster was making his first start in the Shute Shield at fullback, having come off the bench to good effect in the opening rounds at scrumhalf. And the extra space to pick his moment paid immediate dividends, with a jinking run back across field that bemused his teammates let alone the several Rebels he left in his wake, and finished with a killer pass for Dylan Pietsch to put the visitors ahead inside three minutes.
Randwick’s joy was mitigated somewhat by the sight of Waratahs prop Tiaan Tauakipulu helped from the field with a nasty looking knee injury, as Horwitz’s gallant conversion fell just shy of the uprights. But the Greens were here to Gallop, a quick tap from hooker David Vea carrying the fight back to their hosts after the restart, before a cheeky little nudge from Horwitz almost released Pietsch down the sideline for a second.
Souths simply couldn’t get their hands on the ball, the hosts forced to try and withstand the wave of Wicks attacks and kick downfield as far as possible to ease the pressure. Their task wasn’t made any easier when scrumhalf Sam Harris got his head on the wrong side of a tackle on Horwitz and was out before he hit the floor, a lengthy delay thankfully ending with the no.9 walking from the field but out of the game with Kyle Brown on in his place.
The Rebels have pinned their flag to the mast around their extra aggression and combativeness this season, and the early rounds have given evidence that the mantra imbued by coach Todd Louden has been taken on board. But the lack of bite in the tackle and the number that were being missed by the home side in the opening quarter was in stark contrast to previous weeks. Yes, Randwick were presenting a difficult challenge with ball in hand and the pace and guile in their attack, but it was a job being made that much easier by the benign nature of Souths’ efforts in contact.
Another accurate grubber in-behind from Horwitz almost sent Triston Reilly through for a second score in the 16th minute. But the referee was playing a penalty advantage, and the Wicks no.10 duly edged them 8-0 in front off the tee.
An overthrow at the lineout backed up by a high tackle gifted the visitors another attacking opportunity from a decent position soon after, as Souths continued to struggle for a foothold in the contest. And they were punished for it, Randwick making a meal of the ensuing lineout but regathering possession for Christian Poidevin to scamper through a gap and offload for Kristian Jensen, and he had centre partner Simon Kennewell in support for a run to the line through a splintered defence.
If the second score was a bitter blow for the home side, what happened next was a genuine punch in the guts. The kick-off from Liam Moseley was patted back in orbit by Jake Douglas but almost too well, as the ball fell loose in behind several candy stripe jerseys. And if there’s a player you don’t want stray pill to fall to in this competition right now, it’s Maurice Longbottom, the alert points-machine pouncing to put on the afterburners for try number three.
A terrific sideline conversion from Horwitz had the visitors ticking along at around a point a minute, and firmly in control of a contest in which Souths were yet to lay a glove on their buoyant opponents.
A rare penalty gave them an opportunity to create something off a set-piece, only for Moseley’s kick to catch the gale blowing in from Gwawley Bay and fail to find touch. And when a kick for position from Kaggiasis went out on the full a minute later, you wondered if it just wasn’t going to be their day.
That sentiment wasn’t swayed by the disappearance of injured lock Isoa Nasilasila down the tunnel soon after, as the Rebels’ strength in depth continued to be examined. But a strong carry from Vili Latu finally got them inside the 22, and asking some questions of Randwick’s defence through some pick and drives.
They huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow the opposition house down, such was the Wicks’ impressive goal line mettle. But successive penalties kept them in the hunt, and five minutes before half-time they got the break they needed, a lineout drive finished off by Waratahs hooker Joe Cotton.
Reinvigorated by the score, the Rebels decided to keep it in tight and look for further points before oranges. But they were forced to go metre by metre as Randwick continued to fight fire with fire, skipper Nathan Den Hoedt setting the example with several key interventions as Souths tried to build up a head of steam. And the home side’s first half was summed up when another penalty kick after the bell failed to find touch.
With the breeze somewhat at their backs at the start of the second stanza you still felt that an early score for the Rebels could make things interesting, and the early signs were encouraging. An effective carry from Kagiassis got them over the gain line from the off, and a Moseley kick to the sideline mirrored the template used so successfully by Horwitz and co. in the opening forty.
But the flyhalf’s next significant involvement was not on the menu, an inadvertent head clash with his own team mate – blindside Phil Potgieter – leaving the former Queensland Country star on the floor, and coach Louden bemoaning his luck as he saw his third starting player leave the field.
The only trouble with wind is that it has a propensity to change, and just as soon as Souths had looked to use it to their advantage, it shifted it’s focal point to seemingly favour the visitors. So it was that a clearing kick from Jensen on 44 minutes went long, while the return from Deon Evans-Ao could only find the waiting arms of Wicks scrumhalf Tyzac Jordan instead of the sideline.
The livewire no.9 ran it back with interest, stepping Cotton, Evans-Ao and Douglas before being brought to ground 15 metres out. In came Longbottom to play halfback, and a lovely one-two play from Reilly back inside to Jensen sent the inside centre crashing through down the blindside for what already looked like the match-deciding score.
Just to make sure, they rubber-stamped it from the restart as Souths imploded. A garryowen from Moseley ended with a Rebel pinged for offside when it fell to earth, and the eager David Vea took the tap and carried over halfway to set the wheels in motion. With the home defence at sixes and sevens, a couple of passes wide sent flanker Kyle Harris away, and he had that man Jensen off his shoulder to grab a quickfire double for a seemingly unassailable 34-5 lead.
When Souths replacement James Finch was forced into an early exit for a head knock and hooker Cotton was shifted to flanker, Todd Louden must have been wondering if he’d inadvertently stepped under a ladder that morning. But he would have been pleased with his side’s response to adversity, Kagiassis pumping the legs to get them inside the red zone for the forwards to take over, only for a pinpoint crossfield kick from Moseley to somehow escape the grasp of Daniel Bell for a certain five-pointer.
When the flyhalf repeated the trick a couple of minutes later with a perfect cut-out pass for Lawson, and the normally error-free centre dropped it cold with the line begging, it really was time for the Rebels faithful to pack up and call it a night. If there was ever a moment for DJ Smuggler to spin his traditional Rebel-rouser – ‘Emotional Rescue’ by the Stones – this was it.
Having survived the brief Rebels onslaught intact, the gap on the scoreboard played heavily into Randwick’s hands, and in Ken Catchpole Medal winner David Horwitz they had the right man in the right place at the right time to control proceedings. Time and again he found grass with a probing kick that turned Souths around and asked them to concoct something from deep, while his enthusiastic chasers ensured little yardage was made from any enforced returns off the boot.
The home crowd were given something to cheer when Kyle Harris went to the bin in the 63rd minute for a sneaky pull-back on Lawson as the Rebels looked to counter. But they were frustrated once again when a rolling maul was held up over the line by Randwick’s desperate defence, the reasons why they have only conceded three tries in six games of footy in 2020 becoming ever more apparent.
Souths inability to create much in the way of tangible chances whilst they had the man advantage, will be of concern to a side that were averaging 33pts per match coming into this clash. But again, the failings of one team should not detract from the performance of the other, a youthful Wicks side showing their street smarts by keeping the ball at the other end of the field as they ran down the clock.
That game nous was added to in spades by the arrival of Adam Freier to the fray for the closing minutes, the veteran hooker having made his debut for the Wallabies while many of his team mates were still in kindergarten. But his mission was merely one of containment, the inevitable result sucking any remaining fizz from proceedings as momentum was curtailed by scrum resets and handling errors.
Six wins from six, top of the ladder, and their best start in over a decade – are this Randwick side the real deal? They have a few more Sydney Uni, Eastwood and Gordon et al-shaped mountains to climb just yet before that mantle can be bestowed upon them. But this win will have plenty sitting up and taking notice, and rightly so.
RANDWICK 34 (Kristian Jensen 2, Dylan Pietsch, Simon Kennewell, Maurice Longbottom tries; David Horwitz 3 cons, pen) defeated SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 5 (Joe Cotton try) HT 22-5 at Forshaw Park
SOUTHERN DISTRICTS: 1. Laurence Tominiko; 2. Joe Cotton; 3. Tim Metcher (c); 4. Isoa Nasilasila; 5. Jake Douglas; 6. Phil Potgieter; 7. Dominic McGrath; 8. Nick Brown; 9. Sam Harris; 10. Liam Moseley; 11. Apaola Tea Lama; 12. Viliami Latu; 13. Nathan Lawson; 14. Deon Evans-Ao; 15. Christian Kagiassis – Replacements: Ryan Connolly; James Finch; Clayton Clinch; Kyle Brown; Matt Teki; Daniel Bell
RANDWICK: 1. George Hendry; 2. David Vea; 3. Tiaan Tauakipulu; 4. Tom Piroddi; 5. Nathan Den Hoedt (c); 6. Kyle Harris; 7. Joseph Feltis; 8. Christian Poidevin; 9. Tyzac Jordan; 10. David Horwitz; 11. Dylan Pietsch; 12. Kristian Jensen; 13. Simon Kennewell; 14. Triston Reilly; 15. Maurice Longbottom – Replacements: Adam Freier, Jake Turnbull; Fiu Gibson; Ben Houston; Ryan Powter; Fred Dorrough; Zac Carr