Wallowing to win
UNFORTUNATELY Saturday's preliminary final between University and Dawson Valley turned out to be a spectacle as exciting as the “Eton Wall Game” but that is no fault of the players on the park.
The famous English public school game is renowned for its low scoring, no points scored in the last 100 years of contests, with the action more notable for the amount of mud churned up by the participants.
On Saturday there might not have been a wall but mud was the order of the day along with large ponds of water covering a big percentage of the Rugby Park field.
Considering the conditions, the players did well but it was not a day for spectators with the forwards slogging it out and little room for the more creative footballers.
Chances of a back-line movement were minimal with players slithering and sliding through deep water as they tried to grasp the slippery ball.
In the end the match came down to Dawson Valley scoring two close range penalties, one in each half, to score a 6-0 victory.
“It was spoiled as a spectacle,” Drovers coach Jack Wright said.
In the first 20 minutes University camped in the Dawson Valley half but rarely looked like crossing for a try.
“All-in-all our ball handling was better than the opposition's,” Wright said, “and also our kick and chase game.”
The Drovers coach had tinkered with his line up, relegating winger Dave McLenaghan to the bench in favour of Jordan Hilse.
“I wanted guys to tuck the ball under their arm and take it forward, and Jordan did this well,” he said.
Wright was also pleased with his pack saying they won all their own feeds and also one against the head. Line out time was a bit of a lottery and so Wright tried to keep the plan simple and he was happy with the way that worked.
Both of the Valley penalties came from the boot of scrum half Alex Raguse.
While on a fine day the kicks would have been classed easy, Raguse still had to contend with the slippery under-foot conditions before kicking the goals.
“He has been put under pressure in recent weeks and so we have been working on his kicking,” the coach said.
Wright was also happy with the kicking game of his fly half Dan Hayes who kept turning University around and making them play in their own half of the field.
Angus Creedon was again to the fore while hooker Grant Thompson was another to perform well for Drovers.
University coach Lachlan McMurtrie was very disappointed to miss out on a finals spot in such poor playing conditions.
He said the surface water was dangerous and made the result a lottery.
“They could have flipped a coin before the start (to determine a winner),” he said.
“I have seen games called off with shallower water.”
Given the conditions he felt the two teams did as well as they might and played some hard rugby in the forwards.
McMurtrie was also disappointed about the award of the two penalties, one moved within kicking range, he said, after his captain had asked a question of the referee.
Drovers now face Colts at Rugby Park on Saturday in the grand final with Wright saying his players got through the weekend's game unscathed with two other players, Isaac Holmes and Steve Priddle, expected to be available.
Dawson Valley 6 (Alex Raguse 2 pens) def University 0