Shute Shield 2020: Hot Shots & Pie-Baggers – Post-round eight
Eight rounds down and five to play and things are really starting to hot up in the 2020 Shute Shield competition. For the first half of the shortened comp there was a distinct top six who had all got there largely off the back of beating the bottom seven. But the last fortnight has seen a few of the early-season ‘heavy-hitters’ play off against each other, and a couple of losses for sides that had been travelling along nicely has brought back the pack. Hold onto your seats for a thrilling denouement to the regular season!
But while the jostling for positions between the teams ramps up, who has been lighting it up in the individual points and try-scoring stakes?
Round four saw Gordon’s Rodney Iona and Christian Kagiassis share the spoils in terms of points, with 14 each against Warringah and the Western Sydney Two Blues respectively. David Horwitz (Randwick), James Kane (Sydney Uni), and Rory Garrett (Two Blues) were also in double figures, but performance of the round came from debutant Michael Moloney, who racked up 14pts to help earn his new side Hunter Pirates their first points of the season with a 29-all draw against Manly at the Village Green.
In the try-scoring stakes, there were doubles for the ever-impressive Mahe Vailanu (Gordon) against his old side, as well as James Armstrong and Nick Champion De Crespigny for Sydney Uni as they brushed aside Penrith 41-3. But a week later, the season’s highest round tally of 327 points saw several players excel in finding the chalk. Brandon Quinn went to the top of the pie-bagger charts with a brace for the Highlanders against Manly; James Margan and Nathan Russell shared four tries as Northern Suburbs brought Hunter Pirates back down to earth at Bon Andrews Oval, while Zac Carr (Randwick), Henry Clunies-Ross (Sydney Uni), Dominic McGrath (Souths), and Fabian Goodall (Eastwood) all bagged braces as well.
However, none of them could match the achievements of Woodies run-on debutant and Aussie Sevens star Tim Anstee, who claimed a hat-trick from the no.4 jersey in the win over the Two Blues at Lidcombe Oval. His 15pts were ably assisted by another 12 for rookie flyhalf Tane Edmed in the same game, while David Horwitz (12pts) and James Kane (11pts) maintained their impressive starts to the season. But claiming top spot in round five was the most experienced Shute Shield no.10 running around in Angus Sinclair, who notched 20pts for the Shoremen to keep himself firmly in the mix in the race for the Roscoe Fay Trophy.
A weather-affected round six saw points at a premium, as strong winds buffeted Sydney’s clubland and wreaked havoc with the playmaker’s kicking games. But that didn’t stop promising West Harbour flyhalf Pat Pellegrini, who grabbed 12pts for the Pirates to help them to a first win of the season over Manly at Drummoyne Oval. That tally was matched by Warringah’s Ben Woollett in their win at the foot of the mountains over Penrith, with James Kane (11pts against Eastwood) and Rodney Iona (10pts against Hunter Wildfires) also in double figures.
Woollett’s haul included two tries, with fellow Rats Tyson Davis and Ben Marr also chipping in with doubles against the Emus. And there were braces to be found elsewhere as well, with Kristian Jensen crossing twice in Randwick’s impressive 34-5 win over Souths at Forshaw Park, Tim Clements twice against Eastwood for the Students, and Jack Maguire twice for Gordon up at Newcastle.
Round seven was the most prolific yet in terms of points, with 401 being scored all the way from Newcastle to Coogee to Penrith. And after drawing a rare blank the previous weekend, Souths Christian Kagiassis made it up for it and then some with a stellar 24pts including a hat-trick of tries, as the Rebels claimed a dramatic last-gasp 39-38 win over Warringah at Rat Park. No-one has scored more Shute Shield points than Kagiassis since he made his debut for previous club Sydney Uni back in 2016, and if you want to find out more about the pacy sharp-shooter’s rugby journey from Panania to Camperdown and now the Shire, click here.
Matching his try-scoring exploits up at Rat Park was the blossoming talent of Ben Marr, who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side after his hat-trick for the home side, while the reliable Angus Sinclair was next in line on the points front, with another 10 for the Red and Blacks against the Western Sydney Two Blues at Camden. Norths scrumhalf Nick Duffy bagged a brace in the same game, towering lock Jack Margin claimed two pies for himself in Gordon’s hard-won victory over an improving Wests, while Manly came away with three doubles from their trip to Nepean Rugby Park as James Hilterbrand, Fraser Toohey and Jed Ibbotson all contributed to a 64-22 triumph.
The weekend was rounded off by a superb TV match that saw Eastwood edge Randwick 43-41 thanks to a double from Waratah Mark Nawaqanitawase, with the in-form Dylan Pietsch and Brooklyn Hardaker also finding the Coogee chalk twice.
But if round seven had been a points bonanza, last weekend proved to be an absolute doozy, with 414pts – a whopping 69 per match! – leading to a bevy of individual scoring feats. Top of the tree purely in numbers was Manly no.10 Harley Attwater, who came back to bite his old team mates with a vengeance with a 19pt haul in the Marlins much-needed derby win over a Warringah side that now face an uphill task to make the finals. A brace for winger Esera Chee-Kam was in vain for the visitors.
Not far behind was Eastern Suburbs fullback Dan Donato, who added 17pts of his own to the Beasties surprise 57-19 dismantling of Souths, with brother James and scrumhalf Jack Grant – last year’s leading try-scorer, scoring two tries apiece in the same fixture. Rodney Iona continued his rich vein of form with 12pts as the table-topping Highlanders put Randwick to the sword, with Pat Pellegrini matching that tally in the Pirates loss to Sydney Uni, who had 10pts from Connor O’Shea and a double from Angus Bell – the winger not the prop! – amongst their contributions.
However, if you want to talk about try-scoring props, look no further than Western Sydney Two Blues’ Kalafi Pongi, who incredibly found the line three times to help his side to a first win in 16 months over arch-rivals Penrith under the lights at Lidcombe Oval. Flyhalf Rory Garrett had his best 80 minutes in a Two Blues jersey with a terrific kicking game out of hand and 11pts off the boot to help things along, and that tally was matched by Angus Sinclair as Norths won their first ‘home’ game at Rat Park against Eastwood, the ice-cool flyhalf slotting a match-winning penalty after the bell. Nick Duffy made it four tries in two weeks with another double as his form continues to impress.
All of which leaves us with a fascinating battle on both fronts with just five rounds to go. 2018 winner Christian Kagiassis is leading the way in the Roscoe Fay Trophy stakes, but only by a hair’s breadth from Rodney Iona, with Tane Edmed just another couple of points behind in third, Angus Sinclair fourth, and James Kane – who I believe may miss the chance to defend his shared title from last season as he heads to the UK to take up a professional contract with Rotherham Titans in the Championship – fifth. With 504pts to his name in just two and a half seasons, he can leave with his head held truly high.
On the try-scoring front, it’s neck-and-neck at the top with six players on six tries, and seven players on five tries just behind them. So, who will kick for home to top the pie-bagger’s list in 2020?