Scoring a total of 132 points in two games, Sydney North Harbour proved too good for Illawarra in the Junior Gold Cup matches at Campbelltown Showground. Starting with a resounding 72-7 win in the Under 15’s, the well drilled U17’s side followed with a 60 points to 7 win. The two big losses for the Illawarra sides came on the back of tough losses the previous Friday night at the same venue against Western Sydney. The 15’s went down in a hard fought match 10-22, and a severely depleted 17’s side went down 8-57.
In a high standard Under 15 match on Friday, Western Sydney had the better of the first half to lead at the break 12-0. The Illawarra side was able to mount more pressure on the visitors in the second half, with forwards Seamus King and Oscar Moran showing the way, and some smart play by halfback Liam McPherson, allowing lock Thomas Robinson to score his third try in as many outings to get Illawarra back in the match at 5-15. Illawarra continued to pressure the Western line throughout the second half, when with five minutes remaining, the Western outside centre took a clean intercept and raced 95 meters to score a decisive try for a 22-5 lead.
Illawarra fullback Josh Fullerton-Harvey pulled one back with a try on the stroke of full time to bring up the final score. Best for Illawarra was inspirational flanker Bailey Antrobus, with halfback Liam McPherson and locks Thomas Robinson and Seamus King also having strong games.
The Under 15’s Sunday game against Sydney North Harbor was five minutes old when player of the match Sydney North centre Dominic Easy scored the first of his two tries. Sydney put on three more tries before the break and we saw a wonderful goal kicking display by their winger Jacques O’Hearn. Sandwiched between their third and fourth try, Illawarra lock Thomas Robinson scored try number four for the tournament after packing into a scrum at No.8, and charging over next to the posts. With the conversion by fly-half Patrick Reynolds, Illawarra were still in with a show at 7-26.
But the second half was all Sydney North with their very efficient all round play, seeing them run in eight more tries. Their backs run amuck in the second half with centre Easy having a hand in many of their scoring raids and scoring one sensational try from fifty meters out in a powerful run. The Illawarra boys never give up trying to the end with the big workload for the weekend taking its toll as the day grew hotter. Skipper Bailey Antrobus and locks Seamus King and Thomas Robinson made strong contributions.
The Sydney West Under 17’s ran in 9 tries on Friday night in what was a dominate display against a gallant Illawarra side forced to play the match with only 15 players. The western side played a power game outgunning the Ilawarra boys to score a resounding 57-8 points win. Captain Rueben Vermaak, who continued to show strong form in another lead from the front performance, was strongly supported by the consistent Rhys Robinson.
Things didn’t get any easier on Sunday with the Sydney North side scoring the first of ten tries after just one minute of play, eventually running out easy winners 60-7. Illawarra responded to equalise the match after eight minutes with a well worked driving maul from a lineout, resulting in a try to lock Rhys Robinson, converted by Finn Loiterton to make the score 7-7. Two more tries before the break set up a commanding lead for Sydney boys of 19-7.
Illawarra lock Ed Baillieu was sin binned after eight minutes of the second half. Sydney took full advantage of the extra player running in three tries in that ten minute period and the game was all over at 38-7. Despite his sin bin break Ed Baillieu put in a tremendous effort for the side with Matt Davidson and Daniel Taufahema also playing well.
The groups next outing is an away trip to Melbourne to take on the Victorian sides on March 15, who were very impressive in last years’ tournament. With a bye next week the guys will have a chance to rest up a bit before the flight to Melbourne and also to reflect on the lessons learnt over the last few weeks. The standard of play in this years’ tournament has clearly been a step up from last year and the Illawarra boys have struggled at times to go with the opposition. But that is what this tournament is all about, an opportunity for our players to be tested at a higher level and to learn from the experience.