Round 10 of FMG Premiership rugby saw all Senior teams bar Colts travel to Tompkins Park to take on Palmyra, with our Colts headlining the action at home. For our Colts it was another opportunity to flex their current rich vein of form and apply some more pressure to the top end of the table, where recent results have put us within striking distance of a Top 2 finish and finals. Reserve Grade, Third Grade and Women were all coming off last start wins against Wanneroo, and were hopeful of taking this momentum into their clashes against the perennially tough Palmyra. Whilst in Premier Grade the building logjam in the top half of the table as we approach the competition split, meant that this game was shaping as an absolute must win if we wanted to be in that Top 6 and in the mix for the 2022 Premiership.
To kick off our Round 9 coverage we start with our U21 Colts looking to make it 3 in a row after a slow start to the season, and determined to put in a top performance against Joondalup Brothers the reigning Colts’ champions. With 3rd spot on the ladder up for grabs we would need to be at our very best to get the W. It was a windy day at Pat O’Hara, and our Colts started strong stealing an early lineout and dominating the Brothers scrum. It was obvious the lads were up for it, and when young gun Luke Holt-Brown crossed the line after a strong driving maul, the try was converted from the sideline, and we had the start we were after. After a sustained period of possession and good hard work at the breakdown we were soon in good field position once again, with Brothers seemingly having no answers for the speed and accuracy at which we were performing. A precision pass from Tama Mason put prop Leyton Cameron, who was running a perfect line, through a massive hole and untouched for our 2nd try of the day, which was duly converted by our in-form kicker halfback Mekhi Koha. Joondalup finally had some possession, but their set piece was struggling in both areas, and they had no real answers for our organised defensive shape. We dominated a Brothers scrum 20m out, winning a penalty, which was kicked taking the game out to 17-0. Just before half time our Colts were again in position to get more points, they opted for the lineout off a penalty and a strong maul was formed and Brothers’ defence were left with no option but to illegally pull it down. Our boys backed themselves again, and went straight back to the maul. Once again Brothers infringed but right before the ref blew it up, quality loose forward Gaine McKenzie peeled the ball off the back and crashed over for the 3rd try of the half 22-0 at the half.
The 2nd half was always going to be a battle, Brothers were going to come out fighting it was going to be a good challenge for the lads to see how they would respond. A seesaw 10 to 15 min period opened the half, with Brothers throwing everything at the defensive line and when the ref yellow carded 2 of our players in contentious circumstances within 3 mins of each other, the boys were down to 13 and Joondalup had their opportunity. Defending with 13 men, our defensive line was breached twice in quick succession and with the score at 22-12 we were in for a nail biting last 10 mins. With a full complement of players back on the field, the boys showed great resolve and fight to force errors from Brothers and close the game out. Cole Bothwell was massive in the lineouts once again, and there were several stellar performances all over the park in both our forwards and the backs, but it was the inspirational performance of captain Tama Mason that earned the man of the match honours.
With this one now in the bag, the team looks forward to ‘Soaks next week and the opportunity to take 2nd place on the ladder with a win at home.
The action now moves over to Tompkins Park, where it was 3rd Grade with the first game of the afternoon. In blustery conditions we started with the wind at our backs looking to topple one of the form teams of the competition, having only lowered their colours once this year in the season opener vs Wanneroo. In fact, in their last 2 outings Pally 3rds had won by a combined score of 113-14 – so we knew we need to be on our game to get a result here. We started well, with early pressure around the breakdown in their half earning a 2nd minute penalty and a 3-0 lead. We also scored the opening try of the match in the 9th minute, with Andrew Guy chasing through a Robbie Rua box-chip over the ruck with penalty advantage in hand, and capitalising on a miscommunication between the Palmyra wing and fullback, regathering and touching down under the posts. Converting his own try taking our score to 10-0. Our final score for the half came in the 25th minute courtesy of another Palmyra ruck infringement, the successful penalty moving the score to 13-0. It was a dominant first half performance, that was largely aided by Palmyra’s ill-discipline around the ruck and the strong breeze trapping them in their half. The 2nd half would provide us with a very different challenge, and only time would tell if the breeze was worth more than 13 points.
The challenge the wind would play came into focus early on, with our boys finding themselves having to try and work the ball upfield in hand rather than by foot. A few minutes later a strong carry by James Eliaschewsky came unstuck when his offload was dropped cold, allowing Palmyra to spread it wide immediately to livewire wing Eric Bonney, who crossed out wide to open their account. The conversion took the score to 13-7. After a very even next period of the game, it was again Palmyra next to score. Capitalising on a midfield scrum on our 22m, they first shifted to the right from their Number 8, before working back to the left in a multi-pass backline move that finished with their left winger scoring in the corner. The missed conversion saw the score read 13-12, and it was well and truly game-on! Pally hit the lead soon after, capitalising on sustained possession within our 22m and our inability to effectively work out of danger, their converted try taking them out to 19-13 and their first lead of the game.
Our boys showed tremendous character from here to hit back 3 minutes later and regain the lead. Another strong carry by James Eliaschewsky, one of the real bright spots of our afternoon, who then managed to find Jared “Mr Olympia” Darcy who cracked open the Pally defence steam rolling 2 defenders on his way to the line to give us back the lead at 20-19 (after the successful conversion) with just under 6 minutes left to play. With the wind showing no signs of abating we were forced to play these last 6 minutes on defence and in our own half, winning a penalty midfield provided no respite unfortunately, Robbie forced to call a scrum as kicking for touch would just not progress the ball far enough upfield. Unfortunately, with what would prove to be the last play of the game Pally were able to drive over close to the line and break Baysie hearts, snatching a 20-26 victory. Our boys played their hearts out and did the club proud, but just missed out on forcing a famous victory.
The afternoon’s next game saw our Reserve’s try and build on their narrow win over Wanneroo the week before. The team new they would have to lift a couple of gears in order to match it with a very good Palmyra side, and some last-minute personnel changes with Meihana Mason a late scratching and Jake Buist being kept fresh for our must-win Premier Grade game did not bode well. We also needed to “borrow” a scrumhalf for the match with Jayden Michael coming in for his 2nd game of the season and his first in this key position, with regular 9 Jamie Kinninmont unavailable. We actually started the match with only 14 ½ fresh players (Sam Thornley’s return to action limited to 40 minutes), with the entirety of our bench being supplied by 3rd Grade who had just come off a bruising encounter of their own. Whilst it might sound like we are making excuses here, we are not – rather merely trying to highlight the position we found ourselves in coming into a game away to one of Reserve Grade’s stronger teams this year. To be honest, the less said about the actual game the better. The boys tried hard and did not disgrace the jersey they wore, but rugby games are far more often won by skill and execution rather than effort alone, and that was the case here. The boys found it hard to follow the game plan, and look for the space outside of the Palmyra 13, and instead spent the precious energy we did have in attack bashing into the same wall between the ruck and 12. An early shoulder injury to Haimona Lihou, without any reserve inside backs to cover also did not help things. The final score of 52-0 flattered Palymyra, with 21 of those points coming in the last 5 minutes when the game for us was already lost and the tank empty. One shining light for the day was young 9 Jayden Michael, who looked good in his first run with the team at scrumhalf, providing crisp service and a running threat around the breakdown for 65 minutes. Hopefully, we can keep him around the group for the rest of the season and into next year. Hopefully, being back at home this week with better numbers will see a return to the winner’s circle.
The final match covered this week is our Premier Grade clash. As already mentioned, the importance of this match to our season cannot be understated. Win here and our destiny is really in our own hands. With upcoming home games against Rockingham and Joondalup that we know we can win if we turn up in the right headspace and play our own game, a Top 6 spot come competition split and the potential to play ‘real finals’ beckons.
Palmyra ran with the wind in the first half, and this had proved to be a significant advantage for teams throughout the afternoon’s earlier games. It did not take long to have an impact in this game either, with our first real opportunity of the match – a lineout within the Palmyra 22m from an early penalty – being thwarted by the wind blowing Ben Buist’s throw off line and letting them off the hook. Despite the disadvantage we found ourselves at with the wind, our boys started the brighter of the two teams, with Pally infringing at the breakdown and the offside line often, and ‘Black’ carrying with purpose in midfield, with the likes of Nuku Pauta, Brandon Olow, Chris Saulala and Ty Newsome-Smith particularly strong. However, buoyed by a loud and parochial crowd, Palmyra worked back into the game to even the contest, and earned the first opportunity to score with a penalty attempt at the 15-minute mark. Their shot was wide; however, Palmyra were immediately on the attack again from the 22m restart, and managed to cross for the afternoon’s first try 1-minute later in the left corner through fullback Manihera Eden. With the conversion missed the score read 0-5 Palmyra. Baysie responded quickly, with Palmyra again infringing at the breakdown on defence, and Otu putting the resulting penalty deep into touch inside the Palmyra 22m. Adjusting from his earlier throw in a similar position, Ben Buist hit Brandon Olow at the front at the top of his jump, and from the resulting maul Niko Faoagali was able to drive over for a textbook maul try. Unfortunately, Otu’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, perhaps over-adjusting for the wind and putting his effort into the lefthand upright. The scoreboard now reading 5-5 and the kickers from both sides were struggling at a combined 0-3. There was plenty of time remaining in the half, but neither team was able to trouble the scorers again. Palmyra had the best chance in the shadows of half-time, with multiple phases on attack 5m out from our line, but our defence was equal to the task, with Chris Sualala and Otu Mausia first denying the hard-running Pally 13, and then Joe Annan and Ben Buist putting on another huge tackle on our try line to deny the Palmyra runner, forcing a turnover and the end of the half. So, 5-all is how the game was poised at the break. We would be running with the wind in the 2nd half, but Palmyra were starting to assert themselves at scrum time. This game was anyone’s…
Our second half did not get off to the best of starts: Otu over-cooking the kick-off and putting it dead in goal, and then Palmyra winning a penalty from the scrum restart on halfway. In fact, the first 10 minutes after half-time was all Palmyra: dominating possession and territory and forcing another scrum penalty within our 22m. From the resulting penalty advantage, they drove over our line, but somehow Matt Faogagali, Max Veech, Joe Annan and Brandon Olow managed to get under the ball and prevent what looked a certain try. After going back to the penalty Palmyra opted for another scrum, which they again forced a penalty from, and this time they would not be denied. With dominant front-foot ball their 10 Rewita Biddle drifted across field and turned an inside ball to their 13, who beat a few tired defenders on his way to the line. With the conversion successful the score was 5-12 Palmyra. With just over 30 minutes left to play co-Captain Joe Annan was subbed off after getting through a mountain of work in defence and around the breakdown, and was replaced by Jake Buist in his second game post his emotional return from retirement last Round. The change immediately had the desired effect, with Jake’s hard running along with that of Nuku Pauta and Chris Saulala starting to see us getting over the gain line and turning Pally’s big forwards around. However, this new-found ascendency would prove to be short-lived… In a contentious passage of play Andrew Ramsden was tackled on the half-way line in front of the shed, and despite getting a knee to ground the referee called “maul”, at which point Otu grabbed the tackler by the shoulders, pulling the maul to ground. The referee had a different view of this, and instead issued Otu a yellow card citing he had grabbed the player around the neck. This decision brought the obnoxiously vocal Pally supporters to full voice, and saw us down to 14 for the next 10 minutes. Luck continued to elude us, as shortly after replacement back Jake Strachan, in his first appearance of the season after being released by the Western Force and having only come on as a second half replacement, copped a nasty knock requiring stitches. He would play no further part for the afternoon, after this short 15-minute cameo and was replaced by Danny Vaevae. After an extended period of possession in Palmyra’s half we managed to win a penalty directly in front 15m out, which was duly slotted by Tavish Meade, closing the score to 8-12. This 4-point buffer would prove to be short-lived, with Rewita Biddle slotting a penalty for Palmyra just 4 minutes later to restore their 7-point lead, and then adding a second 7 minutes later to take the score to 8-18 with 8 minutes to play, and now requiring our boys to score at least twice to earn a win.
I could feel our chances slipping away, as the Pally fans slipped into another nauseating rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’…
John 4:23. “But the hour cometh, is now.”
As has been their want all season, just when you are ready to write this team off, they rise.
When all seems lost, they find a way.
When any other team would concede defeat, these boys find a way to lift each other up, and by sheer bloody-mindedness will their way back into the contest, and today would be no different.
On attack within the Pally 22m 15m from the lefthand touchline, scrumhalf Josh Stops spots the chance. The Palmyra tight head is slow to get back onside leaving only their 10 and right wing defending the blindside, matched up against Tav Meade in the pocket, Chris Sualala, Nuku, Otu and Danny Vaevae on the touchline. Josh sets up as if to pass to the openside, but instead passes blind, cutting Tavish with a flat ball to Chris, who then passes to Nuku running a strong line between the last 2 Pally defenders. With the ball in two hands and two defenders still on the outside the winger holds his width allowing Nuku to slice through Remita Biddle’s weak tackle attempt on the outside shoulder and through two cover defenders to cross out wide. Try!!! Wait… What? The referee is walking over and speaking to Otu. The AR has spotted a knock-on in the build-up a few phases prior. The try has been disallowed and Pally have the scrum feed. Surely that was our chance, and the universe is telling us “Not today Baysie” …
But rather than drop their heads on the back of the disallowed try, our boys continue to up their intensity. Palmyra look to spread the ball wide, but the ball hits the deck and Tavish Meade rushes up making a strong tackle, resulting in a net loss of 15m and then forcing a penalty for not releasing. Josh Stops immediately takes the quick tap and makes a cheeky 10m before earning another penalty, for Pally being offside and not retreating 10m. We put the ball into touch and set-up for a lineout within Palmyra’s 22m. The lineout is over-thrown, but Palmyra are unable to collect the loose ball cleanly knocking on and giving us a scrum feed 22m out 15m in from touch. The scrum is solid and Nuku, peels off to the blindside with ball in hand, he brushes past the Pally 9, through the fly half and blindside flanker and beats two more defenders on his way to the line. Beast Mode activated, and there is no disputing this one. With time running out and knowing we need to score again regardless of the result of the conversion Otu wastes no time, but his rushed kick misses wide and we are still trailing 13-18. The time recorded on the try is the 79th minute, and surely time will beat us?
Our next opportunity comes from possession in midfield 30m from our own line. Otu slots into first receiver and he cuts Nuku to find Brandon on our 22m line. Brandon winds up and powers almost to the halfway line and despite the attention of 3 defenders, manages to slip a beautiful offload to Danny cutting inside from his wing in support. Danny makes a valuable 25m metres before being pulled down, putting us back on attack deep in the Palmyra half. Pally put numbers into the breakdown to try and force the turnover but a strong cleanout by Ty and Nuku sees the ball retained. A strong carry from Chris Sualala on the next phase sees the ball advance almost to the Pally 22m, but the support runners over run the tackle, and with no ruck formed a Pally defender dives on the ball. Our support arrives just in time and trap the ball in the tackle. The referee awards a scrum feed to us, Palmyra perhaps lucky to avoid a full-arm penalty there. We win the scrum cleanly and have our backs set-up to the right, Josh uses Otu at first receiver as a decoy and Tav instead comes from behind the scrum to receive the ball behind Otu’s screen, Tavish then fires the ball wider to Andrew Ramsden, but the winger has read the play and jams up on Andrew and tackles him as the ball arrives with the ball flying into touch. The referee checks his watch, and we have time for the lineout. Pally secures the lineout and look to put the ball into touch, however Rewita is outside of his 22m, and the ball goes out on the full, so we are back to where we started, except this time we have the throw in. The referee again checks his watch… This is surely the last roll of the dice for our men in black.
The throw goes to Brandon at the front who has been solid in the lineout all game, but it’s low and catches him on the way up, and he is unable to control it. Instead, the ball is taken by the Palmyra No. 8, before immediately being ripped free by Jake Buist and falling to Niko Faoagali who shovels it straight onto Tavish Meade. Tav throws a looooong pass to Manu Kalolo, cutting Chris Sualala looking for the space out wide. Manu takes the ball into contact, but Chris wraps taking an offload and straightening the attack. Josh then goes back openside to Sam Faoagali to hit the ball up, and then from the next ruck swings it back to the numbers now operating on a wider blindside: first to Chris, who puts Manu through half a hole, and quick ball allows Josh to again go blind and set Otu up with a 3-on-2 overlap 10m out from the line. The Pally winger has jammed up meaning Otu can not immediately make use of the overlap, so instead he takes it to the line, beating Rewita Biddle’s tackle and forcing the winger to come in to cover. Otu then slips a perfect flick pass out of the back of his left hand to find a flying Andrew Ramsden who races to score in the corner, levelling the scores at 18-18!!
After having our heartbroken last round vs Wanneroo by conceding after fulltime when up 18-13 to finish the game at 18-all, this time we are the ones breaking hearts, having secured at worst an 18-all draw, but with the chance still for Otu to steal it from the sideline. The Pally shed sits in stunned silence, not quite comprehending what has just happened over the past 10 minutes. I’m wondering what has happened to ‘Sweet Caroline’? I though good times had never felt so good??
The referee confirms all time is up, so there is no need to rush this kick. Otu takes his time and slowly walks back to the 22m to line-up his game-winning attempt. He had a sighter a few minutes ago from an almost identical position, so he dials in his radar, adjusting for the still gusty wind and with ice in his veins he calmly steps up and slots it straight through. From my vantage point in the Visitors end of the shed directly over his shoulder, it looked sweet off the boot and never looked like missing. So, there you have it, with Otu’s 80+ minute conversion we hit the lead for the first time in the match, break Pally hearts, silence the shed, secure the JT Cup and stake our claim to the FMG Premier Grade Top 6.
Baysie’s Having a Party, Perth Bayswater 20, Palmyra 18.
This win was born from a massive team effort, and it seems almost unfair to single anyone out for their efforts, however there are some performances that are worthy of calling out:
- Nuku Pauta was at his rampaging best, solid in defence but brutal in the carry especially late in the game when he almost loaded the whole team on his back and said, “follow me boys”. His two late tries (one disallowed) dragged us back into the game.
- Brandon Olow had one of his strongest games of the season, which is saying something when considering the form he has been displaying. His run from our 22m to the halfway line and then offload to Danny bring us up the field late on will make the highlight reel, but it was the massive shift in defence he put on that really caught my eye.
- Otu Mausia and Tavish Meade, effectively interchanged at first receiver throughout the game varying our attack and providing different options at varying times. Tav’s defence was rock solid as usual, his distribution was first class and his ability to read the game and consistently make the correct kick/pass/run decision was instrumental in guiding the team today. Otu’s kick at the death to win the game alone is worthy of mention, but his offload for Andrew’s try and the run threat he offers at 10 gives us that variety mentioned earlier.
- Ty Newsome-Smith worked tirelessly around the breakdown with some important cleanouts to go with his strong defence and carries.
- Jake Buist and Manu Kalolo really added some spark from the bench. Our ability to bend the line and speed up our ruck ball noticeably increased when Jake got on the field, and Manu’s energy especially late on was decisive with some strong carries against the tiring defence.
- Josh Stops provided crisp service throughout, but like others this influence was really felt late on. His quick tap and decisions around when to attack the blindside vs openside were first class.
- An early ankle injury to Sam George gave Tele Teo his first taste of Premier Grade rugby for Perth-Bayswater. He did not look out of place at all with some assured touches in the first half before making way for Jake Strachan. The depth charts at Baysie are looking strong!!
The boys sang the song with gusto, but the Pally game is in the bank now and the focus turns to Rockingham at home this week, who will bring a high level of physicality and will look to drag us into a scrap. This coming weekend will also see us celebrate Max Veech’s 100th Premier Grade game for Perth-Bayswater, as well as our Past Players Day. So, if you are available please head down and help us celebrate.
* No match report from our Ladies clash with Palmyra this week