Club Rugby

It was great to look back such a fantastic Saturday afternoon of watching Club Rugby from the stands at North Sydney Oval. 

Love the close rivalry between Norths v Easts where we saw an amazing end to this year’s Shute Shield regular season competition with a game-winning drop goal not long before full-time.

We now turn our attention to the four-week Finals series starting on Saturday with the Qualifying Final; Norths v Manly, Sydney Uni v Randwick, Eastwood v Easts & Warringah v Gordon.

Match Report: https://rb.gy/hpubcu

Top 3 players Report Card: https://rb.gy/sn5dco

I’ll also leave you with a stunning view of Sydney that I’ve taken just before I entered the venue the other day.

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The Norths are celebrating with full-back Max Burey in the dressing room right now after he delivered the game-winning drop goal that saw his side lift the Minor Premiership. He may not have the tall reach but has lots of physicality where he shares a similar build with current Waratah Will Harrison. His pace created nightmares for the Easts when running through their territory while possessing excellent kicking power; mainly when clearing out of trouble but he too can find both the touch line & goal posts as well, like he did within a few mins to go in the 2nd half. He hopes that his World Sevens tour with Australia earlier this year plus his past Rugby League expertise will help the Norths go all the way in the Finals beginning next Saturday v Manly Marlins.

The next Norths stand out player belongs to James Turner on the right wing backline at No.14. He‘s so quick through the channels when supporting the attack & is an amazing finisher as well, especially when Brad Hemopo assisted him via a quick offload & Turner pulled comfortably like a Track & Field sprinter with the Norths opening TRY on the far right short side. His tall reach & teamwork got the best of him defensively via an excellent read before locking the Easts up that helped his Norths side win scrums/penalties/turnovers. James has unfinished business at age 23 where a good Shute Shield finals performance, as well as potentially delivering his side a title, would hopefully see him back in the Waratahs picture next season at Super Rugby level.

And Jack Bowen made an instant impact off the bench for Easts when they were nine points down at one point in the 2nd half. His partnership with half-back Teddy Wilson was behind one of their team’s turning points that got them back into contention, especially when he added the extra conversion points. He & Teddy would be perfect in cricket as if they both took over the top-order batting collapse & form a big stand at the same North Sydney Oval. It boosted some confidence when Easts scored two more tries before they led for the first time with 15 mins to go. Sadly, Easts just couldn’t hold off until the very end when slow starts through both halves came back to bite them, and it would’ve been different if he played the full 80.

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It was great to be on the ground at North Sydney Oval earlier this afternoon to watch the regular season Shute Shield finale between Northern Suburbs v Eastern Suburbs.

Both sides played very well for the whole time that went down the wire, especially when Easts went from nine points down earlier at 26-15 in the 2nd half to first time leaders 26-29 with a only 15 minutes to go. But they just couldn’t overcome the minor premiers of 2022 in Norths, who not fired off in the first half but also built a good lead later on, before they responded to the Easts’ 2nd half resurgence with a Max Burey drop goal that marked the winning move towards full-time. 

The final score was Norths 32-29 Easts as we look forward to the four-week Finals Series beginning with the Qualifying Final in Round 1 next Saturday.

Commiserations to Easts with the narrow loss there. They have came from a long way when Easts made up some lost time that helped them close into Norths by a four-point gap (19-15) at the break. Now they may not have got the ball rolling straight away when Easts also suffered another setback after Norths extended their lead; However, a few changes of the bench benefitted another two tries in the 2nd half where they finally got ahead for the first time. They just couldn’t hold them off with a very small lead under pressure unfortunately, when the slow starts and incomplete attacking conversions eventually came back to haunt Easts.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Norths with the 2022 minor premiership title. It’s good to see them build some early momentum through both halves before there was a few ill-discipline errors where Easts fought back with a few tries/three-point goals of their own. However, they never gave up when Norths won plenty of ball opportunities thanks to them shutting down the Easts attack defensively. They had plenty of time to prevent Easts from slipping past them in their tracks. And to level the scoreboard at 29-29 with six minutes to go before they regained the lead with two minutes to spare via the drop goal & hold Easts off towards full-time is just incredible rugby to watch from a top notch Shute Shield side like Norths.

The Qualifying Finals are all set for next Saturday; Norths v Manly, Sydney University v Randwick, Eastwood v Eastern Suburbs & Warringah v Gordon.

For now, I had a wonderful Saturday arvo at a legendary sports ground that is both suitable for rugby union and cricket in North Sydney. I even saw a Greg Chappell Cricket Centre shop when I walked just outside the venue. I hope to visit there again next time as we turn our attention now to Game 1 of the Rugby Championship tomorrow morning at 5 am AEST when the Wallabies take on Los Pumas in Argentina.

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It’s been a bit over two months when we last had SpeedSeries at Eastern Creek with the TCR Australia, Trans-Am & S5000. Although the main S5000 portion may be done, but SpeedSeries is back at Queensland Raceway (Ipswich) this weekend for Round 5 of 7 in the 2022 season.

There’s plenty of exciting headlines to look ahead when we’ve got a jam-packed Trans-Am grid of 29 cars alongside a couple of debutants from Tom Hayman (Aussie Racing Cars), Jack Sipp (Super2) & Brodie Kostecki (Supercars).

Plus, TCR Australia will make up their half-century milestone at 50 races during Race 2 this Sunday. And it has been a long time since the TCRs last raced there in QLD three years ago when the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID, while this track wasn’t selected out of the shortened five-race calendar last year.

This is one huge event you don’t wanna miss as Nine will once again put Race 1 of the Trans-Am & TCR Australia this Saturday afternoon on their free-to-air channels via 9Go (NSW/QLD/ACT/NT) or 9Gem (VIC/SA/WA), with the whole weekend’s activities being a Stan Sport exclusive. Then as usual, Nine will showcase a two-hour highlights package the following weekend (August 13-14) on 9Gem/9Go.

You can sign up to Stan Sport for a seven-day free trial right now to watch every race live, as well as, full event replays & highlights. It only costs $20 a month to keep your fix of motorsport at any time, anywhere within Australia, such as, Formula E, IndyCar, World Rally Championship, Motocross and many more.

I would love to watch another SpeedSeries race live on free-to-air, having watched the season opener earlier this year at Symmons Plains in Tasmania. But I will be leaning on Club Rugby with Shute Shield regular season finale at North Sydney Oval at the same time between Northern Suburbs v Eastern Suburbs; That game will be live on 9Gem in NSW and ACT as well.

I will continue to keep a close eye though on the SpeedSeries from QLD within the next few days, while the Rugby Championship with the Wallabies & Australian Superbike Championship are back on my sports viewing fix also this weekend.

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Nick Chan has to be the first in-line when it comes to the Top 3 performers after a outstanding 2nd-half spell this afternoon at Inside centre for Randwick. He was so destructive in setting up their attacking execution twice that changed everything against Eastwood. We saw him process the mini cross-kick for his midfield partner Dan O’Brien to finish off inside the TRY box before a quick offload later on through the channels where no one couldn’t stop James Hendren on the far-left short side. That way, he has a lot to offer when being tested in both attack and defense that would hopefully earn him a future Waratahs call-up at Super Rugby level, such as unpacking with his immense pace & physicality.

Next up is Matt Faessler who was also another Randwick standout player at starting hooker. He demonstrated a masterclass from line-out time & pushed his way with the ball down low through the driving maul that help respond to Eastwood’s three-point early lead. He can also be an excellent communicator when backing Randwick up with numbers where Faessler scored another TRY later in the 2nd half, as his side began to stay further ahead & never looked back for the rest of this match. It’s great to see him gain some Super Rugby experience from the Queensland Reds earlier this season and come back to Club Rugby better with the Galloping Greens, after he was recently on the Australia A tour in Fiji.

And Michael Icely rounds out the Top 3 for Eastwood in the Number 8 role. He’s got an incredible tall stature that struck a nice balance with the physicality where his side benefitted Randwick’s slow start earlier on. It reflected his all-round ability alongside some teamwork when he helped them win turnovers/penalties defensively, as well as being a major force going forward with the scrum feed, ruck & maul. His personal best performances are there when Icely scored the consolation & final TRY of the afternoon. Sadly, Randwick’s messy attacking play ruined their good start before it isolated the defense – where they began to fall behind not long after half-time before it’s too late.

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It’s been a close first half between Randwick and Eastwood here at Coogee Oval. Randwick got the first TRY after Eastwood opened the scoreboard with the three-point penalty goal before Eastwood lead at half-time, 5-10, courtesy of a number of successful shoves that lead to a incredible TRY from Fabian Goodall on the inside centre at No.12. In the end though, it was Randwick who secured an easy win after a series of successive big scores in the 2nd half, 31-17.

It’s good to see Randwick respond to Eastwood’s opening three-point penalty goal with a complete line-up masterclass from Matt Faesseler at hooker. Although they’re not bad defensively when they won a few penalties/turnovers, but needs to be a bit more patient going forward where a few forward passes slowed down their progress. Fortunately, they addressed that problem after half-time where a series of tries from Randwick changed everything on the up with an easy win going towards full-time. Credit to Nick Chan for proving the finishing touches twice to Dan O’Brien & James Hendren, while Faesseler scored another TRY before James Tomkinson topped the cherry on the cake when he touched down on the TRY zone.

Meanwhile, Eastwood benefitted from Randwick’s early discipline & forward passing errors that helped them get the ball rolling. They dominated the ball going forward for the majority thanks to Fabian Goodall, but needs to be wary when trying to prevent Randwick from scoring at their own end. Yes, they may have scored the consolation TRY from their own Number 8 in Michael Icely alongside a few fresh faces off the bench; Sadly, Eastwood just couldn’t stay ahead when their first-half lead was slammed downhill into the ground. A messy attacking shape through open play didn’t match the standard Randwick fought back in the 2nd half before it’s too late, when their defensive contribution became a whole lot difficult to shut the opposition down.

17 weeks done, one to go in the 2022 Shute Shield regular season before four weeks of finals time. Randwick was 6th & Eastwood was 4th on the ladder prior to this match; Eastwood lost two spots now to 6th behind Randwick as Warringah moves to fourth after a win once again v Southern Districts.

Coincidentally, the Southern Districts will be on the road once again when they will face Randwick, while Eastwood will have an easy chance to close their 2022 regular campaign with a win v the Western Sydney Two Blues in Granville. And 9Gem will continue to show Shute Shield on free-to-air when the Northern Suburbs v Eastern Suburbs at North Sydney Oval next Saturday, 3pm.

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It’s been a wild and muddy afternoon in Week 16 of 18 of the 2022 Shute Shield Season, as the battle of the beaches derby took centre stage for the 100th time between two arch-rival clubs – Manly Marlins & Warringah Rats. They first played each other back in 1971 and it has been an annual tradition ever since in the history of NSW club rugby. 

Manly fired off well with a couple of early tries on the board in the first half at 17-12, while Warringah responded to their opposition’s early headstart. However, it’s Warringah who put the breaks on Manly’s inconsistent 2nd half form, before they eventually overtook top spot and then fend off with a two-point win in the end, 20-22.

It’s heartbreaking from the Marlins with the close loss. As said earlier, they got the early advantage going on courtesy of Ivan Fepuleai with two 1st half tries on the loosehead front row. Their defensive work wasn’t bad when a couple of winning penalties gave the Marlins a chance to redeem themselves.

Unfortunately, their attacking contribution was the only big weakness that left them down. A couple of handling errors and missed penalties saw the ball hand over to the (Warringah) Rats. Although we feel sorry for fly-half Kemu Valetini when his kicking game went so well, but he just couldn’t get it over the line with 1-2 mistakes towards the end under pressure. They lost three straight games now, so Manly needs to get back on track if they wanted to go all the way in the finals that begins early next month.

Meanwhile, Warringah is celebrating right now after a huge win on the Marlins home turf. They showed incredible fightback in the first half when closing into their opposition team’s radar, with two tries of their own from another prop Sateki Latu down at tighthead.

Then Latu completed the hat-trick that helped close into the Marlins by one point before the Rats took the lead for the first time with a few minutes to go, and saw Kemu Valetini fumbling with the ball in the 80th minute where they ran wild after the full-time whistle.

They showed amazing intent – especially in defense – when the Marlins had trouble processing going forward that led to winning penalties/turnovers. It’s the one huge factor that played out towards full-time where Manly’s failure to get the job done under pressure gave them a sigh of relief. They now look to end their regular season on a high with two games left before searching for their third title since 2017.

Manly will now head off to Gordon at Chatswood Oval, while Warringah returns home at Pittwater Park in Warriewood ahead of their Week 17 encounter with the Southern Districts from St. George. Plus, there will be another free-to-air Shute Shield game on 9Gem next Saturday at 3pm when Randwick take on Eastwood at Coogee Oval.

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We’re very excited to say that Shute Shield will be back on free-to-air with the Week 16 game between Manly v Warringah next Saturday at 3pm on 9Gem. There should be more to come with another two regular season games to finish off before continuing with one Playoffs round in August. They already showed some women’s rugby earlier this season on 9Gem with the Super W competition, as well as the opening Wallaroos match v Fiji.

It’s been a long time coming since club rugby hasn’t been aired on Free TV here in NSW since Stan Sport & the Nine Network replaced Fox Sports & Network 10 as Rugby Australia’s broadcast partner last year under an initial three-year contract, with the option to extend another two years afterwards.

Although Channel 7 was the previous rights holder for these Shute Shield games through a separate deal prior to 2021, but then Rugby Australia brought that product off Club Rugby TV and bundled them up under the one roof ahead of the next broadcast rights deal at the time two years ago.

We can’t wait to see how the business end of this year’s Shute Shield season pans out for those who don’t have the Stan Sport subscription to look back over the last 10-15 weeks. We’re also aware that there was some free-to-air Hospital Cup Rugby on last year on 9Gem via the QLD market alone, while we didn’t get to see that opportunity at all when lockdown in NSW also at the time effectively cancelled the 2021 Shute Shield season without a champion.

But let’s see if some of Nine/Stan’s regular Super Rugby & Wallabies commentary team will be present for these free-to-air club rugby games at the ground.

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What a way to wrap up the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific Season on a high at Eden Park with the Blues v Crusaders Final in Auckland, New Zealand. The Crusaders collected two three-point goals with the early lead going into half-time at 0-6, before they extend their winning margin off the back of Bryn Hall’s opening big score. The Blues may have responded to the Saders’ strong start when they were right back in the mix with 20 minutes left, courtesy of Finlay Christie’s TRY. However, they couldn’t find a way to close the gap where a couple of lost chances with the ball forced the Crusaders hand, as Sevu Reece’s TRY in the 76th minute was enough to secure the visitors with the championship, 7-21.

Commiserations to the Blues at home where they had to settle as 2nd best tonight but a fantastic season nonetheless. They got the build-up base going defensively, as well as a couple of fresh faces off the bench that helped them win a couple of penalties/turnovers along the way. They just couldn’t bridge the other end when it comes to the attack/executions; their throw-ins were poor at line-out time that held back time after time before a messy passage of play and a lack of numbers through the channels saw the ball flying over the place. It’s one huge weakness the Blues couldn’t match the Saders top-notch standard in the end.

Meanwhile, it’s good to see the Crusaders on top once again after they topped the regular-season winners tonight that secured another piece of silverware on their trophy cabinet. They didn’t rush anything whatsoever when the Saders kept a great eye on the Blues’ struggles going forward, especially at line-out time that wasn’t theirs to throw-in, as well as their messy attacking shape going forward. That’s how the Saders capitalised with the ball away from the opposition where they can do whatever they want, having scored two second half tries before they reached the finish line comfortably as these celebrations have already just begun – including those supporters watching back home in Christchurch.

After 18 weeks of action through 91 matches being played throughout the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific Season, we now turn our attention to the mid-year International tests – starting with the three-match Wallabies v England tour that begins on Saturday July 2 next month at Optus Stadium in Perth. We also hope to watch a couple of Shute Shield games in a few weeks time via free-to-air on 9Gem, as there’s so much rugby to look forward through the 2nd half of 2022.

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As Super Rugby transitions into the Mid-Year International Tests soon after the Blues v Crusaders Final this Saturday, it’s awesome to see Nine showcasing some Women’s Rugby earlier this year via 9Gem & 9Go with the Super W and the opening Wallaroos game of the year v Fiji so far in 2022.

The only competition they haven’t aired yet on free-to-air as part of the current multi-year contract between Nine/Stan Sport & Rugby Australia is the Shute Shield, which features grade club rugby teams across NSW.

Although they did show selected Queensland’s Club Rugby games with the Hospital Cup last year on 9Gem & will do so again for the 2022 season in a few weeks time, but that’s because Queensland weren’t in lockdown at the time unlike NSW – while these games were only available for the QLD market for free unless you subscribe to Stan Sport for $20 a month & stream it anywhere nationwide.

We’re about to see that sort of treatment soon when the Shute Shield approaches over the business end of the regular season before finals time. We just don’t know when the first of these four selected games will come on 9Gem, as Shute Shield has just came off a week-long break due to the long Queen’s Birthday weekend with eight regular weeks to go ahead of Round 11 this Saturday.

It will also be interesting to see if Nine/Stan will throw in some of their usual Super Rugby/Wallabies broadcast crew for these free-to-air Shute Shield games including the Finals later this August; Regardless whether some of them are lead-ins going into the Wallabies Tests at night or not.

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