Shoalhaven Get Up In Another Try Fest

Another scintillating display of attacking Rugby by Shoalhaven brothers Steven and Mark Brandon has laid the foundation for the Shoalies big 65 – 33 win over Shamrocks in Nowra. Mark Brandon crossed for two tries himself with both he and Steve playing prominent rolls in five more of their sides nine try haul. The win lifts Shoalhaven into third place on the table with two rounds remaining in the Peter Woods Challenge Shield Tournament.

Avondale looks to have secured the Shield with a bonus point win over Vikings, while Campbelltown maintained second place with a 21 – 5 victory over Kiama. The results mean that the Wombats now have a six point lead over the Harlequinns going into next week’s clash between the sides in Campbelltown. The match next Saturday virtually takes on a Grand Final look for this disrupted season as a win to Avondale will secure them the Shield in its inaugural year.

In a highly entertaining but none the less physical match at Nowra, Shamrocks registered first points inside the first minute of the time. After kicking off the Rocks injury depleted forward pack won possession at the very first breakdown. Center Jake Psaras took play left to the short side and found fullback Ben Ridgeway in support who crossed for the opening try in the corner.

Minutes later in a sign of things to come Shoalies fullback Steven Brandon made a strong break on halfway. He scooted deep into the Rocks half before finding Fly-Half Harry Hibbs in support who posted the Shoalies first of nine tries. After both conversion kicks failed Hibbs added a penalty goal four minutes later for Shoalies to lead for the first time at 8 – 5 with eleven minutes gone.

The Rocks scored next after their forwards put on several strong phases in the Shoalies quarter before big front rower Lachlan King touched down and with a conversion from Ridgeway, Shamrocks took the lead 12 – 8.

The lead was short lived when Shoalhaven Flanker Tom Hill pulled off a perfect charge-down meters from the Rocks line. Winger Blake Gurney pounced on the loose ball to score. With the try converted by Hibbs, Shoalies were back in front 15 – 12.

Shamrocks forwards drove play deep into Shoalies territory putting plenty of pressure on their line and drawing several penalties. After a scrum drive close to the hosts line Referee John Maughan responded to another Shoaly indiscretion and awarded the Rocks a Penalty Try which gave the Rocks the lead for the last time in the match at 19 – 15.

Shoalies lifted at this point and the final minutes of the half belonged to them with their wingers crossing for a try each. Both came from a loose ball, the first to Mark Brandon who swooped on a Shamrocks lost ball just in his own half and outsprinted his opponents in a fifty plus meter run to the line. Left wingman Blake Gurney was then on the end of some good backline play to break clear on the left. His inside pass was knocked down by a Rocks defender but bounced fortuitously back to him and he raced away to score. Hibbs converted both tries and Shoalhaven went to the break 29 – 19 in front.  

The second half belonged to the brilliant Brandon Brothers who were instrumental in four of the five Shoaly tries. A minute after an early penalty goal by Hibbs, Mark Brandon created a chance for center David Priestman. Brandon showed blistering speed on the right after getting outside the defense before passing infield to Priestman who scored Shoalies fifth try for a 39 – 19 lead.

Shamrocks were not done yet however with winger Mitchell Adams crossing for two well-constructed backline tries with fullback Ben Ridgeway prominent to give the Rocks some hope of their chances at 33 – 39 with still thirty minutes left.

But the day belonged to the Home side and the mercurial Brandon brothers. Four tries came to the Shoalies in the final twenty minutes as the pace of the match took its toll on both sides. With Shamrocks experiencing a mounting injury toll over the last few weeks Shoalhavens bench had a bigger impact in this match as the personnel changes came late after a frantic high paced game.  

Blake Gurney scored two more tries, the second off a mid-field Steve Brandon break with Gurney showing all his finishing skills to position himself perfectly for the try. Steve Brandon showed all his strength again with another mid-field break, this time feeding replacement Half-Back Connor Trudgen for the try under the posts. The last try was vintage Mark Brandon. The flyer got outside his defenders again racing away from over fifty out only to be rounded up and held with thirty to go, but somehow broke free of the defender to score under the posts.

With thirteen tries scored in the match one would think that defense and effort was not too apparent on the day, but that was not the case with both sets of forwards ripping in to their work throughout. In the end The Brandon Brothers freakish attacking skills were a defining factor in the game but there were plenty of eye catching performances from players of both sides.

For Shamrocks font rowers Jesse Roche and Lachlan King lead strongly up front with their back rowers Jordan Stalker, Xavier McDevitt, Gareth Thomas and No.8 Kalem Smith again working hard. Half-Back Corey Aylett once again provided excellent ball to his outside players with Thomas McDevitt and Ben Ridgeway standout performers.

Whilst the Brandon Brothers are a significant factor in the Shoalhaven success, it would be wrong to underestimate the ability of the squad as a whole. As shown in this match they have a strong committed well disciplined approach to their football. Strong performers today up front were Dylan Moon and Tom Avey with backrowers Michael Raftery, Tom Hill and Michael Dunn getting through plenty of the heavy work. The Shoalies have plenty of strike power in their entertaining backline with Harry Hibbs, Aaron McDonnell and David Priestman also making strong contributions. As well as the Brandon brothers efforts in this match special mention should be made of young Wingman Blake Gurney who continues to show he has a bright future ahead of him.

Shoalhaven 65 (Blake Gurney 4 tries, Mark Brandon 2 tries, David Priestman 1 try, Connor Trudgen 1 try, Harry Hibbs 1 try, 7 goals, 2 penalty goals)

Def Shamrocks 33 (Mitchell Adams 2 tries, Lachlan King 1 try, Ben Ridgeway 1 try, 3 goals, 1 Penalty Try)

Other Match Results

Campbelltown 21 Def Kiama 5

Tech Waratahs 40 Def Camden 31

Avondale 22 Def Vikings 0