2011 Flashback: Hat-trick Harvey snatches last gasp win

Photo: SPA Images

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Parramatta have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after going down 29-25 at home to Gordon, having led 25-8 with only 10 minutes remaining. In a pulsating last quarter, ill discipline cost the Two Blues as prop Sione Taula was sent off for fighting and replacement scrum half Lua Vailoaloa went to the bin for spoiling, to leave the final decisive minutes pitching fifteen against thirteen.

The Highlanders took full advantage, running in three converted tries with Dave Harvey’s winner – for his hat-trick – coming after the siren. It was a much needed tonic for the visitors with the win only their second in ten games. But despite their reward for staying the distance, this has to go down as one that got away for the hosts.

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It had all started so well, with a three tries to one half-time advantage for the Two Blues a reflection of their all round game, although Gordon were guilty of bombing a few good opportunities through a lack of patience. Harvey was a key player in the match from the off, knocking over the opening points from a penalty and scoring his side’s first try off the back of a rolling maul. In between those scores, Parra conjured up their own five pointer when Iese Leota and Dan Yakopo combined to release Toese Lealemanua to the line.

The home side were having the better of it at scrum time whilst also finding some joy with plenty of open field running. But it was a couple of Gordon errors that really got them on the front foot. Firstly, winger Wise Cakau decided to run the ball from his own in-goal, was chased down by one Parra player and smashed by a second, and the spilt ball was run in with glee by Ryan Aniseko. Almost immediately from the restart an up’n’under from fullback Tom Woods failed to be met by a Gordon challenge, Damien Fakafanua tapped it back to his captain Andrew Cox, who drew the tackle and offloaded back to his winger who had too much pace for the cover defence.

The only downside for the Two Blues was Woods’ failure to convert any of the tries – an extra six points would have been handy. But as far as Dave Harvey was concerned, a 15-8 half-time deficit was more than enough for the Highlanders to take a long, hard look at themselves during the break.

“I think it was down to who wanted that loose ball more, we were working ourselves hard to get around the corner and didn’t really attack that ball on the ground,” he reflected. “We were toeing ahead and trying silly little flick passes and things like that, but we tightened up in the second half and it was pretty good.”

Pretty good it was, but before they came home with a wet sail they had to endure further punishment at the hands of Parra’s Sevens-style counter attack. Woods had finally found his radar in the 43rd minute to extend the lead, when a quick tap off the back of a scrum penalty led to an interchange between Lealemanua and Yakopo, who fed Fakafanua down the line for his second.

Fakafanua, Damien runs 180812D-2089.JPG

Damien Fakafanua grabbed a double in vain for the Two Blues – Photo: SPA Images

The conversion from Woods made it 25-8 and Parramatta seemed to be heading for their fifth win of the year when it all started to unravel. The exact circumstances of the initial incident and its aftermath are nigh on impossible to retell without the benefit of a video replay. But it appeared as though Gordon winger Eric Maroni took exception to a team mate being rucked, Parra prop Sione Taula took exception to Maroni’s protestations, verbals turned into handbags which turned into punches and before you knew it, a melee ensued involving practically every player from both sides.

Once calm had been restored, Taula saw red for a few choice uppercuts while Maroni saw yellow, seemingly for leaving his head in the way of them. But there would have been more than a few players who could consider themselves lucky not to be singled out for their roles in the altercation as well.

The dye was cast and despite sharing the initial manpower handicap, Taula’s absence from the scrum gave Gordon great heart and would prove pivotal to the outcome. It took until Maroni’s reappearance before the Highlanders could turn their increasing dominance into points, scrumhalf Terry Preston falling short with a tap and go near the line. But Aisea Nomoa was on hand to drive over and Harvey’s conversion made it a ten point ball game.

The Two Blues’ last stand wasn’t helped when replacement no.9 Lua Vailoaloa was sent to the bin in the 74th minute for laying over the ball, and Gordon had a two man advantage with which to chase a previously unlikely victory. Preston fed Harvey off the ensuing scrum and he dummied infield before slicing through the line for his second. The conversion made it 25-22 and Parra’s thirteen men were now sitting ducks.

Even then the home side still had it within their grasp, having the put-in at a scrum as full-time sounded and needing only to hold firm and kick the ball dead for victory. However, their de-powered pack was penalised again and Harvey kicked to touch and went for the jugular. Parra counter-rucked the ensuing lineout drive to a standstill. But when fullback Sai Vakarau made a charge for the posts and drew the attention of a handful of defenders, there weren’t enough bodies left to prevent the ever-alert Harvey from taking the offload and darting over for the match winner against his former side.

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GORDON 29 (Dave Harvey 3, Aisea Nomoa tries; Dave Harvey 3 cons, pen) defeated PARRAMATTA 25 (Damien Fakafanua 2, Toese Lealemanua, Ryan Aniseko tries; Tom Woods con, pen) at Merrylands RSL Park

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FINAL THOUGHTS…

Gordon head coach John Briggs:

“We only had six guys today that started the first game of the year against Manly, that’s a big turnover of players. The winger that went on at the end started in fourth grade and two of the backs started in third grade, so it’s just been one of those years. We’ve got thirty-two players out at the minute, and given the turnover from last season in the summer and then a bad injury run we’re really stretched. So today is a famous win for us. No-one would like to think it because it’s just Parramatta at Granville but for me, it was outstanding.

“I came out here in my first year of coaching at Warringah and we were leading the comp and Parramatta were coming last, and we lost to them. This park has it’s ups and downs and today was just a real good day, particularly in the back half. I wasn’t convinced in the first half and only they could change it, but we addressed it fairly sternly at half-time. You can only talk and request for so long but at the end of the day it’s got to come from within the person, and I’m very proud of them.

“It’s fair to say both teams were pretty impatient in that opening stanza. We were keen but very fifty-fifty with our passes and trying to do impossible stuff, and if you compare that last fifteen with that opening thirty minute period, we probably butchered two, possibly three, definite chances by not being patient. We had young offenders and older offenders so there were blokes that should know better and we addressed it at half-time, hopeful that it would improve. You’ve got to have belief in yourself and I know they can do it and they’re a young group.

“To Parramatta’s credit, their on-line defence was good and they had to do a lot of it, they withstood us for quite a bit and we didn’t score and often that will turn a game. Fortunately in our case it didn’t, because we kept going and that second half was quite easily our best forty minutes this year by a long stretch. It was pretty muddy down that end and we were down there quite a bit, so it was pretty smart play using pick and go’s and being patient. With a bit of better execution at times, we could probably have got my blood pressure down in that last ten minutes!

“Given our second halves this year, we’ve lacked that killer desire, that ruthlessness even when we’ve been in front and we’re falling away. It’s not fitness, I’ll back them being fitter than anyone, it’s belief. So it was an absolute contradiction of the first thirty minutes, maybe even thirty-five, compared to the last fifteen or twenty.

“Ultimately, discipline cost them. That brawl was started because there was a guy rucking the football and we objected to it, and fair enough because the referee did nothing about it. I’ve got a little winger there that’s eighty kilos and the props belting the s**t out of him and he gets a yellow card. He saw him coming and put his hands up to protect himself and the guy just kept swinging. He didn’t throw one punch, he’s not that sort of person. I’m not happy with that and I’ll watch the tape because I’ve got to protect my players.”

Parramatta head coach Glen Christini:

“We were under control and had the field covered defensively, and we were taking the moments quite well when we had them, so I was pretty comfortable that we were going to go on with it at 25-8. I thought we had it nailed at that point but the sending off turned the game. It took off one of our best forwards and the whole game swung, all the set-pieces swung on the dial right there, that was the moment.

“We’ve been really disciplined this year and that’s why it’s disappointing. I mentioned that at half-time because I knew that’s the way it would go, I knew Gordon were getting frustrated and the niggle was starting and I told the boys to stay out of it and just be aware and stay with the plan. We didn’t do that and then the inconsistencies come and it just got hard to hold onto. We’ve just got to be a lot smarter and stay out of that stuff, especially when you’ve got a lead like that and the game was as good as won and we let ourselves down. We got frustrated with the referee and consistencies and we let it go.

“They’ve had words with themselves afterwards and rightly so. They know they’ve let themselves down and that’s a lesson they’ve got to learn, you just can’t do that to yourselves. They’re bitterly disappointed and so they should be. We had it in the bag so it’s gotta hurt and it will hurt and it should hurt, but we’ll bounce back from it.

“We had a tough run which was away to Souths – which we managed to pick up – away to Uni, away to Randwick and Manly at home. They’re all in good form and we copped a fair load of injuries in the middle there as well, but we’re always pretty happy with ourselves that if we made the effort it would come right and it has, we just let it go today. Today would have been win number five and should have been. But we didn’t have wins as targets, it’s about performance, and we felt like we were on top of this game and really expected ourselves to back up from last week. That’s going to hurt us mentally but we’ll be right.”

Gordon flyhalf Dave Harvey:

“With the results we’ve had in the last few weeks, I think this could be season turning and get us on a roll. We got touched up last week, touched up the week before and it could have gone the other way, we could have got touched up again this week. But the boys dug deep and it could be a pivotal point in our season. We went into the start of the year very optimistic and with a good attitude. We went away a little bit from that and when your attitude’s down, you’ve got to build on structure and technique and work hard, and I think we’re starting to pick that up. The back end of the game against Norths showed that and then the second half today, we’ve just got to put it together for eighty minutes and I think we’ll get on a little bit of a roll.

“I think it was down to who wanted that loose ball more. They chipped and chased and got the bounce and put up a little bomb and got the bounce, so there’s a fair bit of luck there. But you’ve got to work hard off the ball to make your own luck and that’s what they were doing and what we weren’t. We were working ourselves hard to get around the corner and didn’t really attack that ball on the ground, we were toeing ahead and trying silly little flick passes and things like that. But we tightened up in the second half and it was pretty good.

“We’re missing people like Dion Berryman and Lawrence Marsh, which are huge losses. But we’ve spoken about it all year, we control the ball, we’ve got the game plan, we’ve got the players to do it and we’ve got a set structure. When we move away from that structure like we did in the first half it showed and we bombed tries. If we keep that structure, we’re good enough to score points against any team.

“Just before that scrum packed down, we got a few of the boys together and said ‘Look, this could be the scrum of the season’ and they showed it and put it in. Parra tried to play a few mind games, a few props went down and the time was stopped. But our boys really put in well and it worked in our favour, we got the ball and scored the try.

“I always want to get the winner against Parramatta, and I tend to find the try line most times I play against them for some reason. I played two years of first grade here and every time I come back I cop an earful, like most grounds actually! It’s six years ago now so it’s not like it’s last season or anything but it’s good to come here, get the victory and get out really. We’re still within touching distance of the top six so I wouldn’t rule us out yet. I’m at Gordon to play finals footy and all these boys want to do that as well, so we’ll keep working hard up until Round 22.”

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PARRAMATTA: 1. Sione Taula; 2. Trent Hoscher; 3. Lemarn Ma’a; 4. Ryan Aniseko; 5. Josh Kron; 6. Andrew Cox (c); 7. Nick Boland; 8. Maile Latukefu; 9. Kaleb Rech; 10. Tom Woods; 11. Oleni Ngungutau; 12. Toese Laelamanua; 13. Damien Fakafanua; 14. Iese Leota; 15. Tyler Stevens

GORDON: 1. James Atwill; 2. Tobias Gukibau (c); 3. Travis Church; 4. Bas Murphy; 5. David Tome; 6. Adam Ashcroft; 7. Mitch Greenway; 8. Mark Johnson; 9. James King; 10. Dave Harvey; 11. Nick Walker; 12. Tom Hill; 13. Tom Matthews; 14. Wise Cakau; 15. Sai Vakarau

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Original version published by clubrugby.com.au on 11th August, 2011

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