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 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
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
Other Match Results
Shamrocks 47 Def Kiama 5
Tech Waratahs 17 Def Shoalhaven 14
Vikings 28 Def Camden