The prestigious Caldwell Cup trophy is heading back to the Illawarra after the 2015 Illawarriors defeated arch rivals Newcastle Hunter 24 – 14 at Eridge Park, Bowral on Sunday. With the constant showers that fell over the weekend turning the field into an absolute quagmire, the two sides still managed to produce a high standard football match befitting the occasion. The showers continued to fall throughout the match but both teams still played an attacking highly entertaining style of game to enthral the small but enthusiastic and appreciative crowd.
Both sides showed their willingness to play open football from the opening whistle with play moving up and down the field at pace despite the conditions. The Hunter boys maintained a grip on possession in the early stages of the match but it was Illawarra that went to a 6 point lead with Rapine Mason kicking two penalty goals at the second and sixth minutes.
Newcastle continued to put plenty of pressure on the Illawarra defence as they threw the ball around, putting wave after wave of attack together at the Illawarriors line. The Illawarra defensive effort was very strong, enabling a number of turnovers in their favour and with excellent kicking games from halfback Chris Miller and fullback Andrew Barrett they continually drove the attackers back downfield.
The first try of the match came in the fifteenth minute when Newcastle halfback Jayson Strachan forced his way over the line after some strong forward play led by their captain, No. 8 Va Talailevia. With the try converted by Mark Butler the out of towners hit the lead at 7 – 6. Newcastle continued to dominate possession spending the best part of the next five minutes in the Illawarra half, but was unable to crack the very impressive Illawarra defence.
At the twenty minute mark Illawarra settled for another three pointer, on one of their rare excursions into the Newcastle quarter. Rapine Mason’s third goal put them back into the lead at 9 – 7.
With three minutes left in the half the Illawarriors attack exploded into action when in three phases of play they took the ball eighty meters up field after a typical rampaging run by big centre Jade Gardner. Hardworking No.8 Paul Tuala started the play from the back of the scrum with Gardner finding wingman Rhys Peters in support who took the ball deep into Newcastle territory before finding Tuala backing up on the inside. Tuala could only manage to advance the ball a couple of meters before being tackled twenty meters from the line. The ball was spread quickly across the field to left winger Eli Sinoti who was denied a try by being tackled cm’s from the line. From the ensuing ruck one of Illawarra’s pivotal players on the day Chris Miller sprinted through to score adjacent to the left upright. With the try converted by Mason the Illawarriors went to the break with a 16 points to 7 lead.
The second half was just four minutes old when Miller took play to the short side and sent Peters away on a long run down the touchline. As the Newcastle cover closed in on Peters he passed infield, but his pass fell short of its intended target, flanker Tom Horton. Horton brilliantly allowed the ball to bounce unimpeded in front of him and then toed the ball towards the Newcastle line. With the ball coming to rest five metres short of the line, Horton won the race to the ball, scooping it up to score his sides second try. Mason missed with his conversion attempt but the Illawarriors had taken a stranglehold on the match at 21 – 7, with the two tries coming in a seven minute period either side of the halftime break.
But Newcastle were not done yet as they managed once again to dominate possession and threw plenty at the Illawarra defence. They raided away for the next ten minutes but the Illawarra defence willingly took them on, continually shutting down the best Newcastle could offer. At the fifty eight minute mark, Mason calmly kicked his fourth penalty goal to extend the Illawarra lead to 24 – 7, which only sparked another strong attacking effort from Newcastle. With ten minutes left the pressure finally paid off when Newcastle were able to create a simple backline overlap for winger Tapaki Rahui to score wide on the right. Blake Creighton’s conversion reduced the lead to ten at 14 – 24.
Newcastle managed to create more try scoring chances in the dying minutes of the match but it was the staunch Illawarra defence that had denied them all day that continued to stand the pressure through to the final whistle.
For Newcastle, halfback Jayson Strachan was strong all day with No. 8 Va Talailevia showing plenty of leadership for his teammates. But it was the Illawarra defence that proved the decisive factor in the final as all the squad members right across the park toiled manfully lead by their inspirational Captain No. 8 Gavin Holder. Holder was simply machine like in his play striving to complete the one goal that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career. Well supported by the ever present Paul Tuala, his blind side flanker Tom Horton and front rower Mark Minter up front, Holder led his side to a much deserved victory.
Halfback Chris Miller, who had to miss Saturdays match because of quick trip to New Zealand on family business, only arrived back in town on Saturday night to join the squad for the final. His presence in the match was vital for the side’s performance. His direction around the field and his excellent kicking game was instrumental in the sides overall performance. Jade Gardiner continued his outstanding Saturday form, continually troubling the Newcastle defence, with Andrew Barrett showing the benefits of all his experience at fullback. With two tries scored by each team it was the excellent goal kicking by Rapine Mason with 5 from 6 for the day which made the ultimate difference on the score board.
Illawarra 24 (Chris Miller 1 try, Tom Horton 1 try, Rapine Mason 1 goal, 4 pen goals)
Newcastle Hunter 14 (Jayson Strachan 1 try, Tapaki Rahui 1 try, Mark Butler 1 goal, Blake Creighton 1 goal)
In the NRMA Colts Shield final the Illawarra Under 20’s went down to a strong New England side by 23 points to 13. New England inside centre Alex Pay had a blinder scoring 2 tries himself and delivered the vital last pass for his side’s third try. He also kicked a goal and two penalty goals to score almost all his sides points. The junior Illawarriors were right in the match until the final fifteen minutes with one of their best players for the tournament, Tim Lewis scoring a nice try. With fullback Bradley Reed kicking two penalty goals the side was just two points off the pace at the break, but couldn’t match the finish put on by the New England boys. For Illawarra young lock Angus Clark had a strong game, with Tim Lewis also prominent.
New England 23 (Dan Sweeney 1 try, Alex Pay 2 tries, 1 goal, 2 penalty goals)
Illawarra 13 (Tim Lewis 1 try, Bradley Reed 2 penalty goals, Ryan Schoupp 1 goal)
This article was originally posted on the IDRU site on 3 May 2015, written by The Rogue