Shamrocks Qualify For Big One In Anniversary Year

Shamrocks have moved to within one win of the ultimate celebration in their 50th Anniversary season with a tactical 39 – 22 Preliminary Final win over defending Premiers Bowral at Vikings Oval. The match was significantly impacted by a strong gusting southerly wind but it was the Woonona team that handled the tricky conditions the better booking a spot in next week’s Grand Final against Minor Premiers Avondale.

Rocks coach Paul Ridgeway came up with the right tactics to deal with running against the strong wind in the first half. His side controlled much of the tempo and possession in the first half successfully restricting the Blacks attacking opportunities. Bowral still managed to outscore Shamrocks three tries to one in the half to lead 19 – 7 at the break but were unable to take full advantage of the wind.

In contrast Shamrocks opened up their play in the second stanza making good use of the conditions to run in four unanswered second half tries to progress to the big IDRU Grand Final day next week. With the foundations of the win laid by another tenacious display from their forwards, Fly-Half Thomas McDevitt put in a Player of the Match performance with a prominent hand in three of his side’s five tries and kicking five goals. With the Rocks running in three tries in an eleven minute period early in the second half to take the lead, Bowral couldn’t match the energy of the Rocks no doubt feeling the effects of last week’s torrid Semi-Final encounter with Avondale.

Enjoying a run of early penalties Shamrocks were able to set the pace of the match cleverly choosing to go to scrums from penalties ensuring they had risk free control of possession for a significant period of the opening fifteen minutes. The first try however fell to Bowral somewhat against the run of play. Center Sebastian Sell made a strong run at the Rocks line only to be pulled down a couple short. Hooker AlaomanuFeiloivao crossed for the Blacks from the breakdown and with a conversion from Lachlan Huntington, Bowral lead 7 – 0, sixteen minutes in.

Another run of penalties had the Rocks continuing with their restrictive tactics and nine minutes later McDevitt was prominent in the Rocks first try of the match. McDevitt put big center Dale Sullivan away inside the Blacks half. McDevitt backed up on the inside and found Flanker Daniel Pora in support who crossed for the try. McDevitt converted and the scores were equal at 7 – 7 after twenty five minutes.

The heavy workload into the wind started to take its toll on the Rocks as the Blacks made significant inroads into Shamrocks territory. After several strong forward drives at the Shamrocks line Huntington put center Sell into a clear corridor for the Blacks second try, converted again by Huntington for a 14 – 7 lead.

The defensive effort of both sides was the standout feature of the half but as Bowral finished with the better of play late in the half another try came minutes before the break to energetic young Prop Clancy Donnan. With a couple of penalties falling their way Bowral threw a dozen phases at the Rocks line from close range before Donnan burrowed his way over. Huntington’s conversion went wide as Bowral went to the break with what appeared to be a reasonable lead of 19 – 7.

With the strong southerly holding, the second half belonged to Shamrocks who used the conditions well with a strong kicking game from Fullback Rory Davis. Six minutes into the half big center Sullivan produced what was probably the play of the match when he burst clear from inside his own quarter linking with wingman Luke Tonegato. Tonegato carried the play down the left side sprinting to within a meter of the Bowral line before being brought down by Bowral Fullback Austin Lockington. The Rocks other winger Liam Vuik cleaned up at the breakdown to score the first of his three tries. With the conversion from McDevitt it was game well and truly on at 19 – 14 to Bowral.

McDevitt started the next try for the Rocks five minutes later finding space for the ever probing Rory Davis to break clear. Davis drew the remaining defenders before passing deftly to Vuik who crossed for his second five pointer. McDevitt converted from wide out for the Rocks to lead for the first time in the match 24 – 19 at the fifty one minute mark.

McDevitt was at it again six minutes later breaking clear 30 meters out from the Blacks line. Flanker Daniel Pora backed up again before positioning a fast running Rory Davis who sliced through to score to the left of the posts. McDevitt converted again and the Rocks now led 26 – 19, putting on nineteen points in eleven minutes.  

Minutes later after withstanding an attacking barrage from Bowral, Shamrocks lost Sullivan to the Bin for repeated infringements. Huntington kicked a penalty goal from the incident to reduce the Rocks lead to four at 26 – 22. The renowned tenacious Shamrocks defense really stood up at this point as the Rocks really tightened the screws on a frustrated Blacks attack. The Rocks line remained intact during the suspension period setting the tone for the remainder of the match as the Blacks struggled to make headway into the wind and due to the Rocks relentless defensive effort.

Shortly after Sullivan’s return the Rocks were in again. With ten left on the clock Shamrocks were attacking deep in the Blacks half when Rory Davis produced a bullet pass to Vuik enabling the winger to get outside the opposition and race down the eastern touch line to score in the corner. McDevitt converted for a 33 – 22 score-line.

Replacement Bowral center Erin Blackshaw appeared to score three minutes later from a strong thirty meter run but was ruled to have lost the ball over the line in what was Bowrals last scoring opportunity of the match.  

McDevitt added a penalty goal to stretch the lead to fourteen and then Rory Davis added a cheeky Field Goal right on Fulltime to bring up the final score.

The match was as expected a typical hard fought finals match with the defensive effort of both sides outstanding in the trying conditions. The battle in the forwards was ferocious throughout with both packs tackling themselves to a standstill but it was Shamrocks who handled the conditions best reaping their reward of a spot in next week’s Grand Final.  

For Bowral there was none better than No.8 Feteraki Sage who was strong in both attack and defense taking the ball deep into the Shamrocks defensive line all day. Backrowers Harry Carlin and Jack Parsons tackled tirelessly with Props Todd Pearce and Clancy Donnan prominent once again. Captain Coach Tim Small who has done an enormous job throughout the year toiled hard all day till replaced late in the match with Sebastian Sell and fullback Austin Lockington also busy.

It was an outstanding effort across the park from the Rocks with their seemingly endless energy and appetite for hard work once again coming to the fore. The side handled the conditions better than the Blacks overall but it was their work ethic once again that got them the result. Even without star Flanker Iszak Lunney who will be going under the surgeon’s knife to repair his badly damaged knee on Tuesday, the Rocks relentless play at the breakdown and in defense was a feature of their match. Led by Jesse Roche, Chris Smith and Lachlan King up front, their busy backrowers once again were outstanding. Captain Damian Clark, Daniel Pora and Kurt Davis were busy all day. The defensive effort of Heath Mercer was punishing throughout inspiring an even greater effort from his team mates. Corey Aylett’s service to the outside backs is pivotal to the sides attacking performance with McDevitt and Sullivan a constant threat in attack. The speed of the back three for Shamrocks, Rory Davis, Tonegato and Vuik was instrumental in all but one of their five tries. Shamrocks now move onto next week’s Grand Final against Avondale joining their Second Grade side who will also be going around on the big day against Bowral.

Shamrocks 39 (Liam Vuik 3 tries, Daniel Pora 1 try, Rory Davis 1 try, 1 field goal, Thomas McDevitt 4 goals, 1 penalty goal)

Def Bowral 22 (Alaomanu Feiloivao 1 try, Sebastian Sell 1 try, Clancy Donnan 1 try, Lachlan Huntington 2 goals, 1 penalty goal)

Lower Grade Results

2nd Grade Bowral 20 Def Avondale 17

3rd Grade Vikings 45 Def Bowral 12

                Vincentia 19 Def Camden 10

Grand Final Day           WIN Stadium                        Saturday 14th September

1st Grade               Avondale V Shamrocks                    6.00PM

NRC               NSW Country Eagles V Fijian Drua         4.00PM

2nd Grade               Shamrocks V Bowral                      2.00PM

3rd Grade                 Vincentia V Vikings                      12.00Noon