Andre Itula Shines As Wombats Secure Title

It was billed as the Grand Final we were not going to have and the match lived up to Grand Final status. In a highly entertaining, suspenseful and at times brutal game of Rugby, Avondale has prevailed 24 – 22 over a very gallant young Campbelltown side to secure the Peter Woods Challenge Shield.

In an astonishingly brilliant attacking performance, Wombat Captain Andre Itula scored all four Avondale tries on the day to lead his side to their second successive season title on the back of the 2019 Premiership. For the Quinnies exciting young Fly-Half Netane Masima scored all his sides points from three tries and three goals with the last coming in the dying seconds of the match.

The first forty minutes of the match was incredibly intense with both sets of forwards ripping into one another with neither side gaining supremacy by the break. The overall four try to three margin was a clear indication of the closeness of the two sides with the more experienced Wombats just prevailing over the young Quinnies.  

It was eleven minutes into the match before Itula scored his first try when he mesmerized the Harlequin defenders in a weaving twenty meter run to the line. Junz Leota missed an easy conversion attempt and Avondale took a lead which they never relinquished throughout the match.

After another twenty odd minutes of torrid forward play punctuated by some big hitting and efficient defense from both sides, each team crossed for tries in the last five minutes of the half for Avondale to lead at the interval by 12 – 5.

Itula’s second try was one of complete individual brilliance. In the midst of a standard backline play just in the Wombat half, Itula kicked over the heads of his opposing centers and ran onto the perfect bounce shooting through the final defensive line like a shot out of a canon, racing forty meters to score. With the try converted by Mani Tuigamala, the Wombats were out by 12 – 0 with five left to the break.

Campbelltown’s two best performers then combined to post the Quinnies first points for the day. Young talented twenty year old Campbelltown junior, Fly-Half Netane Masima made space on the right for former Junior All Black Flanker , John Akauola-Laula who charged down the touchline and when surrounded by defenders produced a gem of a pass infield to Masima who scorched away to score in the corner. The teams went for a well-earned rest with Avondale leading 12 – 5.

The heavy forward exchanges continued into the second half and started to takes its toll on both sides as no quarter was given either way. Some scrappy play cost both sides scoring opportunities but some outstanding defense especially from the defending Premiers, kept both goal lines intact for the first thirty minutes of the half. Campbelltown will probably rue the fact that they chose on several occasions not to take shots at penalty goal before Masima put one over at the sixty minute mark for an 8 – 12 score-line.

With both sides going to their benches as the intensity of the match had its undeniable effect, the momentum of the match swung ever so slightly toward the Wombats. Itula scored again from what appeared to be an innocuous backline play on Campbelltown’s quarter line. Itula ghosted through the defensive line without a hand laid on him to score his third try for a 17 – 8 Wombat lead.

Masima responded soon after with his second try when replacement center Etu Lolohea took advantage of some tiring defenders to break out from virtually his own in goal. Lolohea brilliantly took play deep inside the Avondale half before positioning Masima on his inside for the youngster to score and convert to put his side right back in the match at 15 – 17 with less than ten to go.

Campbelltown lost Akauola-Laula late in the match to a head knock as in form Avondale Half-Back Andy Duggan left the field with a suspected ACL Knee injury. With less than five on the clock Itula scored his fourth after combining with Antonia Ale in a planned kick and chase try. From near halfway Ale deftly kicked into open space near the Campbelltown posts with Itula storming through from behind his Fly-Half winning the race to the bouncing ball to score beside the posts. Tuigamala converted the try for the decisive points of the game and a score line of 24 – 15.    

This Sene Aelua coached Campbelltown side showed why their supporters can look forward to some good times ahead with the players refusing to concede that the match was lost. Masima scored his third try when he ran off powerful center Elijah Sa who took on the tiring Wombat defensive line to set the try up. Masima converted only to hear the final whistle blown seconds later signaling the Avondale title win.

Campbelltown’s turnaround in fortunes this year was no better displayed than in the side’s performance here. A strong performance up front against the competition bench mark Avondale pack, was outstanding. Lead up front by Rep front rower Alex Sherwin, the young Campbelltown pack lost nothing to the most feared forward pack in the district. Back rowers John Akauola-Laula, Tausoga Taala, Tony Campbell and especially No.8 Hector Tapueluelu were all outstanding. Fly-Half Netane Masima has a big future if his performance here and in recent weeks are anything to go by. Centers Elijah Sa and Atelemo Katoa had an obsorbing contest with their Wombat counterparts with Fullback Chris Faaee strong at the back.

The defending Premiers are well deserving of their Peter Woods Challenge Shield Title success on the back of last year’s IDRU Premiership. The Wombats knew to expect strong opposition from Campbelltown especially on their home ground and needed to find all their resolve to prevail. Led again up front with strong performances from the Front Row Amone brothers, forwards Tuu Taanoa, Michael Malaki, Kyle Moody and Josh Waine performed strongly throughout. At the back Mani Tuigamala and Willy Taanoa were a constant handful for the Quinnies. Halves Andy Duggan and Antonio Ale had some deft touches but it was the sublime performance of Andre Itula which made the ultimate difference in the match. Coach Joe Aiono’s ability to have his side performing for the entire eighty minutes in matches has been instrumental in the side’s success since he took over as Coach two years ago.  

Avondale 24 (Andre Itula 4 tries, Mani Tuigamala 2 goals)

Def Campbelltown 22 (Netane Masima 3 tries, 2 goals, 1 penalty goal)

Other Match Results

Shamrocks 47 Def Kiama 5

Tech Waratahs 17 Def Shoalhaven 14

Vikings 28 Def Camden 21