Rats muscle up and win Australian Club Championship

by Staff Writer

Warringah showed that they have the muscle and skill to make it back-to-back Shute Shield titles after taking out the Australian Club Championship match in oppressive conditions in Sydney on Saturday.

The Rats won 41-28 against a very game University of Queensland side scoring six tries and ticking the one remaining box from their 2017 season that was marked by the death of lower grader Lachlan Ward, the brother of captain Sam.

The tragic passing of Ward was a rallying point that brought the club even closer together in 2017 and judging by what was on show at Pittwater Rugby Park, the mentality is that there is much more to do for the club in 2018.

Warringah set up their victory in the first half off the back of a very solid scrum headed by Rory O'Connor, Luke Holmes and Harry Rorke, scoring four tries and giving the 28-7 half-time scoreline.

UQ were certainly not out if in those first 40 minutes but the Rats with 63 percent of possession and 71 percent of field possession were always going to make hay while the sun was shining.

The Red Heavies did score the first try of the game when Clifton Setu dotted down under the posts after Warringah's Sen Wileman had a kick charged down about 40 metres from the tryline.

A quick interchange of passes between the UQ backrow released Setu in an inside channel and made his way to the tryline without too much drama. 

From there it was all Warringah as they continued to put the UQ scrum under immense pressure and although there was a lot of dropped ball - understandable in the hot and steamy conditions - the hosts had to be given full marks for endeavour.

UQ did hit back with two tries after the break with Will Eadie, a genuine speedster, and the veteran centre Con Foley getting their way over the line to bring the scoreline back to 28-21.

It was game on at the 45 minute mark but the Rats were once again able to gain control at scrumtime and from there Josh Holmes scored a nice long-range try and replacement hooker Rob Kelly scored from a well-constructed rolling maul.

Scott Gale, who has oodles of overseas and Super Rugby experience, had the last say for the Red Heavies when he went over near the posts.

Rats skipper Sam Ward said the game was the perfect way to start their year.

"It felt like more than a just trial match," Ward said after the matchj.

"We want to be the best team in Australian club footy and we did that today - we've got a bit of a chip on our shoulder this year.

"It's just so fitting to cap everything that happened last year with that next step. It's an awesome feeling.

"We knew that they were going to a very fit and mobile team.

"Ideally 25 degrees would have been a bit better than the 35 degrees that we got here today but there was plenty of running out there."

UQ centre Foley, who stepped up as skipper when Jack de Guingand was forced off in the first half with a hamstring injury said the Rats were just too good on the day.

"We came here giving ourselves a really good shot at it but Warringah were just a bit too good for us today. They made us pay for every mistake that we made, " Foley said.

"We probably gave them too much at the start - there were four tries in that first half and with a side like Warringah they are always going to grind it out.

"There were some good learnings for us from that game and one of them was the importance to start well - you've got to match sides early in these sort of games.

"We knew that we had plenty of attacking weapons. Scoring points isn't a problem for us but we've got to be able to execute under pressure."

The Red Heavies, who were best served on Saturday by No. 7 Wyatt Setu, kick off their Brisbane club season next weekend when they take on Easts.

Both teams played for Tackling Violence Cup which supported a domestic violence initiatve of the NSW Government.

RESULT

Warringah 41

Tries: Davis, Luke Holmes, Mackenzie, Girdler, Josh Holmes, Kelly

Cons: Dorrian 4

Pens: Dorrian 1

Uni of Queensland 28

Tries: Setu, Eadie, Foley, Gale

Cons: Dalgleish 4

Pens: 0