BROCKTON OVAL – With no time left in the second half, rookie VRC 2nd div centre Paddy O’Connell intercepted a Bayside Sharks pass and burned up the middle for 40 yards untouched to score the winning try and earn the VRC 2nd division a guaranteed top-table finish for the 2017/18 season, and a 15-0 record.

It Didn’t Start Well

The 2nds looked over-matched early. A very strong Bayside backline found holes in the 2’s D to score 2 tries and 1 conversion early and go up 12-0. The Bayside attack just kept coming in the first half. The Rowers didn’t look particularly sloppy or flat, but were clearly not doing enough on defense and the visitors made them pay for it. A strong Rowers backline looked equally matched, unable to find space against a Sharks defense that was clearly quick enough to run them down and take away the outside speed that had given the 2s so  much success all year.
When the Rowers did eventually get on the board late in the second half, it was fullback “Disco” Stu Holland coming at pace to take a short pass off a ruck at the 5m line, pushing would be tacklers into the end-goal and rolling over the ball to make it count. Bayside added a penalty to make it 15-5 at the half.

Veteran Rowers 10 “Handlebar” Henry Recinos kicked well, finishing the day with a pen and a key conversion.

No Quit in The 2nd Div

The Super 2s pack dominated the scrum all day long, winning their own ball easily and pushing the visitors off of their ball about half of the time. Frustrated, the Sharks began pulling it down. They conceded a penalty near their own goal line, giving scrum half Chris Nolan a chance to take a quick tap and put it in for 5. Henry Recinos hit the conversion to make it 15-12 and put the Rowers back in it.
The 2s played physical rugby and found some shape, speed and urgency in defense in the second half. Veteran 2nd row forward Kevin “Counsel for the Defense” Nanne, on as a substitute, had a strong game on both sides of the ball including a big cover tackle that threw cold water on the visiting sideline.
With the defense sorted, it was hard runs from the forwards moving the Rowing Club attack. Other substitute 2nd row forward “Little” Kevin Sambana proved hard to tackle and made important yards as the host team orchestrated a comeback. Veteran flanker Quinn Cowie pounded the ball through traffic after a hard, phase based Rowers attack to put one in the corner. A barely missed conversion left it at 17-18.
The outside attack wasn’t failing for lack of effort. The Bayside outside defense benefited from two missed crossing calls that could have been earned out of benefit of doubt. A high-motor chase game and good positioning continued to frustrate a talented VRC backline in the 2nd half. But the Rowers Pack never let up. Another penalty for pulling it down gave Recinos a clean look at a penalty from about the 20m that he banged home to give the Rowers a 20-18 lead.

The Rowers pack pushed Bayside off the ball all day, eventually driving their front row from the game with curious timing.

Greasy Gamesmanship

After a Rowers knock on close to their own 22, the Sharks made a series of substitutions that left them short of front row players and successfully appealed to the ref for uncontested scrums.
After the visiting pack, who had been embarrassed in the sets all day, stepped gently over the ball, Bayside made 10 yards swinging it wide through that quick back-line, then the remaining ten back the other way to exploit an overlap and go up 23-20 in the twilight of the game.

“Ball Don’t Lie”

With the Rowers sideline grinding their teeth, Bayside took the restart cleanly and began to operate. A determined Rowers defensive line, finding the line speed that was missing in the first half, pressed with a sense of urgency.
Then, on March 17th, St. Paddy delivered.
The interception that took the VRC 2nd div to 15-0 was created of of straight pace. O’Connell tore into the passing channel, picked it out of the air, and found another gear to beat the Bayside chase and bring it home.
Final score, 25-23 Rowing Club on straight work and determination… and a little bit of luck of the Irish.

Paddy explains to Jack: “Yeah… They just threw it to me…”

The 2nd div plays next at Brockton March 24 v. Langley.
All game photos courtesy Rowing Club Sideline Photographer and Disco Stu’s Press Agent Sharon Holland

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