Premiers Finish Over The Top Shamrocks

Welcome Back Rugby! The weather was fine, the sun was shining bright as Rugby returned to the Illawarra. The opening Round of Illawarra Rugby for 2020 saw last year’s Grand Final sides Avondale and Shamrocks opposed at Gerry Cappetta Oval. Despite the long layoff the healthy crowd was exposed to a very entertaining afternoon of Rugby with no less than eleven tries laid on by two well prepared sides.

Avondale took the points for the opening Round of the Peters Woods Challenge Shield series, with a hard fought 45 to 34 win over the Rocks. After a see-sawing first forty minutes the teams went to the break even at 17 each. The Wombats laid on three tries in the closing stages of the match when it appeared that the Rocks were going to get revenge for their loss in last year’s decider as the Woonona side led 34 – 24 with ten left on the clock.

Both sides were missing players from their 2019 teams and it was clear that the long layoff had not been kind to the fitness level of both sides. However the standard of play was high and both clubs coaching staff would be pleased with the effort from their sides given the unusual nature of the offseason we have been forced to endure.

Avondale exploded from the kick-off and had their first try on the board before a minute of the match had passed. Big Prop Forward Anthony Amone found space on the left when the Rocks conceded possession from the kick-off running twenty meters to score in the Change-room corner. Within minutes the Wombats were in again when wingman Jesse Leng showed all his pace to score in the same corner off a slick Wombat backline play. With one conversion from Silipa Tuigamala, Avondale were out to a 12 – 0 lead after three minutes.

Shamrocks refused to be rattled by Avondale’s early success and with Fly-Half Tom McDevitt showing the way the Rocks posted their first points a matter of minutes later. McDevitt split the Wombat defense in center field and put Fullback Ben Ridgeway in the clear who raced forty meters to score under the posts. McDevitt converted to reduce the lead to five at 12 – 7 at the seven minute mark.

Both sides quickly settled down with play moving at pace from one end of the field to the other in an absorbing contest. Jesse Leng repeated his display of blistering pace when he scored in the same left side corner off another well worked Wombat backline maneuver for Wombats to take a 17 – 7 lead after eighteen minutes.

McDevitt impacted the game again when he put center Matt Suana through the Avondale line on half way. Suana fed midfield partner Ben Stewart who found McDevitt backing up down the middle of the field as the number ten scored under the sticks. With four minutes left to the break McDevitt goaled and on the stroke of halftime added a penalty goal to tie the scores up at 17 all.      

Avondale got the best of the early minutes of the second stanza after a string of penalties enabled them to camp in the Shamrocks half for long periods. However the tenacious style of the Rocks 2019 defense was there again as they repelled the best that the Wombats could offer. Avondale eventually broke the deadlock when Leng scored his third try down the left for the Wombats to lead again by seven at 24 – 17 after fifty minutes.

With the Wombat effort showing signs of fatigue, Shamrocks put on the next seventeen points putting themselves in what appeared to be a match winning position with ten minutes remaining. McDevitt was instrumental in much of what Shamrocks did in attack. The Fly-half found fullback Ridgeway again on the right who expertly positioned winger Tim Hawkins on a run to score in the corner. McDevitt converted and at the sixty minute mark started the backline raid that produced his side’s fourth try. Center Stewart running off McDevitt fed winger Liam Vuik on the left and the winger showed good pace to score wide out. McDevitt converted and minutes later added another penalty goal to take the Rocks to a 34 – 24 lead with eleven minutes to go.

Avondale started the match with young attacking star Allan Tuigamala on the bench. Tuigamala joined the match after the Rocks last try and brought a new lease of life to the Wombat effort as they scored three tries in seven minutes. He sparked several attacking raids before Lock Jake Kamire forced his way over the Rocks line from close range as the game went into the last ten minutes. Silipa Tuigamala converted the try and then instigated the plays that saw the Wombats steal the match from the Rocks.

An attacking midfield kick saw what a Rugby Ball can do with an horrific  right angle bounce opening up an opportunity for James Benn who secured the ball to run away and score a converted try putting Avondale back in front 38 – 34. With Avondale on the attack again in the Shamrocks quarter, Silipa Tuigamala pounced on a loose ball from Shamrocks to score and convert bringing up the final score of 45 – 34.

Given the unprecedented nature of the lead up to the belated start to the year both sets of Coaches would be pleased with their side’s efforts in this match which was an entertaining affair for a very appreciative crowd. The winners Avondale were well served by hardworking Lock Keiren Jack, Flanker Michael Malaki, No.8 Tuu Taanoa and center Nua Alone. McDevitt was a standout for Shamrocks scoring 19 points for the match and was prominent throughout. In another busy defensive effort Shamrocks forwards Gareth Thomas, Jesse Roche, Kalem Smith and Damien Clarke were strong. Center Ben Stewart and Ben Ridgeway also stood out for the Rocks.

Avondale 45 (Jesse Leng 3 tries, Anthony Amone 1 try, Jake Kamire 1 try, James Benn 1 try, Silipa Tuagamala 1 try, 5 goals)

Def Shamrocks 34 (Ben Ridgeway 1 try, Tim Hawkins 1 try, Liam Vuik 1 try, Tom McDevitt 1 try, 4 goals, 2 penalty goals)  

Other Match Results

Vikings 17 Def Shoalhaven 10

Tech Waratahs 41 Def Camden 12