The Rogues Rant #225

Welcome to The Rogues Rant, an occasional look at all things Rugby

There was a touching moment at Ocean Park last Sunday following the First Grade Minor Semi Final. The match won by Shamrocks ended the season for the University Bulls. The match was also significant as it proved to be the final game in the career of University Fullback, the very well respected Donovan Nepia. The University squad conducted their usual squad gathering at the end of the match, at the end of which several of the clubs New Zealanders launched into a traditional Haka in honor of Nepia. It was an emotional moment for the affable Nepia an honor and a gesture very well deserved. I think I speak for many when I congratulate Donnie for a wonderful career in Illawarra Rugby and thank you for the entertainment and contribution you have made to not only your club but to Illawarra Rugby as a whole.

The NRC got away last week with some outrageous score-lines. The Country Eagles had a big win over Sydney way out west in Dubbo but not before a huge fright. The Eagles raced out to a 26 – 0 lead after just seventeen minutes having scored four tries. Captain Ned Hannigan spent ten minutes in the bin early in the second half where he had to sit and watch as Sydney scored twice to complete a fighting comeback equaling the score at 26 all. Fortunately the Eagles got the next two tries including a thrilling match defining runaway try to Jack Grant for a 38 – 26 lead.  Sydney scored with less than two minutes left and were attacking strongly again when a knock on ended the match for a relieved Eagles side. The Eagles are off to Melbourne this week before they play the Fijian Drua as part of our Grand Final Day at WIN Stadium.

Speaking of Grand Final day, it is going to be a long day with the match starting times now confirmed. Third Grade will kick the day off at 12.00 Noon, Second Grade will be at 2.00PM, before the NRC teams take the field at 4.00PM. The First Grade Grand Final is set for 6.00PM under lights. I understand that the main western Grandstand will be open on the day to cater for what should be a larger than usual Grand Final Day crowd for what will be a great promotion for Illawarra Rugby. Tickets can be pre purchased through WIN Stadium or from the Stadium Box Office on the day.

Things have become a bit messy in Newcastle with their final series delayed one week because of the torrential rain in the area last week. The scheduled Qualifying Finals last week were washed out with no alternate grounds available. The Newcastle Board decided to put the whole series back one week which has created problems for several clubs with players not available to be involved in the Grand Final which is now set for 28th September. The whole situation is causing plenty of angst up north and will add some spice to the next three weeks events. Let’s hope the weather holds for us, we don’t want any problems for our big day next week.  

The IDRU Junior Grand Finals are on this Sunday at Camden Rugby Park with the Under 10’s kicking off at 9.20AM. There will be five games culminating with the 2nd Fifteen decider between Campbelltown and Shamrocks at 2.00PM. It’s great to see that Tech Waratahs have qualified for two of the Grand Finals after going through a very lean time recently. Good luck to everyone on Sunday.

Four matches in our finals series this week at Vikings Oval on Saturday with an early start for Thirds at 10.30AM. Bowral have all their three teams on the program looking to make Grand Final Day a huge one for the club. But can they make it through in all grades? I don’t think they can but would be quite happy to be proven wrong. In Third Grade there are two matches with the winners going through to the big game. My tips are for Camden to win over Vincentia in the first match of the day and for Vikings to win a close one against Bowral. In Second Grade I’m tipping that Avondale will be too good for Bowral. First Grade is a really difficult one to decide. Bowral who had a bruising encounter last week with Avondale are not able to put their top side on the field due to ongoing injury problems. Speedster Henry Yuill was Blue Carded last week and will miss this match. Shamrocks also have some injury concerns with two key players very much in doubt for this crucial match. Outstanding attacking fullback Rory Davis who missed last week’s match up with University remains doubtful due to a stomach illness. Flanker Iszak Lunney failed to finish last week’s match after coping a painful knock on his knee. Lunney is waiting the results of scans which could mean the end of his season. It remains to be seen if the duo can take the field on Saturday or whether they will be available a week later. All things considered I’m leaning toward a Shamrocks victory which could mean an Avondale V Shamrocks Grand Final in both First and Second Grade. Shamrocks to win.  

All opinions offered in this column are the opinion of the author. They should not be considered to represent the views of the IDRU.