By Pat McLeod
Men’s First Grade: Bond 31 v Wests 40
The Bond Premier men’s rugby team have targeted next Saturday’s clash against Brothers at The Canal as the match to put the Bull Sharks back into finals contention.
On Saturday, away against Wests, for the third week in a row, Bond made crucial second half mistakes that cost them dearly, going down to the Bulldogs 40-31.
The Bull Sharks went into half time close enough, down 17-12, but importantly Wests were to play the second stanza with only 14 men after forward Jeremiah Skelton was red carded in the 32nd minute.
However, vital turnovers in the 47th and 53rd minutes led to long-range tries to the Bulldogs, which ultimately cost Bond the match.
Bond are now in fifth place on 37 points, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Brothers (44). Bond play Brothers at home next Saturday and then seventh-placed Souths (away) in the final round.
After the Bond clash, Brothers end their home-and-away season with a tough outing against second-placed GPS.
So the formula is simple – win both games, hopefully with a bonus point, and Bond are likely to be in the finals.
“We know we are still in it and we know against Brothers next weekend it will be a crucial turning point,” said Bond’s Head coach Grant Anderson.
“We play them at home. If we beat them and Souths with bonus points, we put ourselves in a really good position. We want to finish the season strong.”
However, there was no hiding Anderson’s disappointment at letting Saturday’s chance slip.
“Honestly, we are really disappointed that we did not win today and I think we should have,” he said.
“It was frustrating to see us not consolidate possession in the A Zone in the second half and score tries.
“However, the way that the players continue to react to adversity is a real positive out of this game because you can see the effort that they put in. It is just that last one per cent that we are lacking.
“There were pleasing areas. We did tackle well. At times we were able to use the ball really well and scored some good tries.
“We were really in the game at half time and we spoke about areas we would take them on in the second half. But we lack leadership at crucial moments.
“It was frustrating that we could not capitalise on the one-man advantage.”
Bond started extremely well against Wests, finding plenty of width with the ball before hurting the Bulldogs through the middle which led to the opening try, to prop George Blake, converted by Byron Hutchinson to give the Bull Sharks a 7-0 start.
In fact Anderson singled out Blake as one of the Bull Sharks’ best.
“George Blake was very good, very physical, tackled hard, scored a try, carried hard.
“Nick Turner was also really good. That was his first 80 minutes in a long time. He was good in the set pieces and just tries so hard.
“Wilson Blyth had his best game of the season. Josh Canham was really good when he came on and in the backline it was good to see Rhian Stowers return with some great touches.
“Spencer Jeans was very good at halfback.”
The Bull Sharks came away with four wins on Saturday – Premier Women, Second Grade, Third Grade and Colts 2.
Here’s what each of the other Bull Sharks’ coaches had to say:
Women’s First Grade: Bond 41 v Wests 5
Women’s coaching director Setu Naseri:
“We were able to get the job done and with that win we have qualified for the finals no matter what happens in these last two games. So, we are definitely playing finals football this year.
“The first 35 minutes of the match was close to the best half of football we have played all year. We then made some changes through the second half to give more girls more game time.
“We are now looking at getting good momentum building as we want to start to peak. So, it is all about fine-tuning our game, getting a few of the kinks out before finals and trying to keep everyone healthy.
“It is hard to point out any particular player for the Wests match as a standout because it literally was a great team effort. Having said that, it is great to see Tara Reed at hooker playing so well. She brings a lot of experience and maturity to the team.”
Men’s Second Grade: Bond 26 v Wests 17
Bond Second Grade coach Damon Virtue:
“This was an awesome result, especially after the loss last week and to not only win, but get the bonus point was the icing on the cake.
“Our start today was really good. We jumped out of the box and put some points on them. We spoke about the need to do that before the game, to come to Wests and put them on the back foot straight away.
“We played at a good tempo, which is important for us because we are not a big side. So, we are able to move them around, found some good space and converted early.
“The good thing about what we do at Bond is that all the men’s squads train together so everyone is used to coming up against quality. So, it doesn’t matter who we play on a Saturday, we are used to facing quality opponents. It lifts the level for everyone.
“As far as the finals go, that is not our focus. Next week (against Brothers) is a crunch game. We get the cookies next week and we set ourselves up to come second and that gives you two lives in the finals.
“But first things first, we will try to get that ‘W’ next weekend. The boys are excited about how they are travelling and I was rapt with how they played against Wests. They put in a really good effort.
“Our best were Helaman Samuela (prop) and Josh Havea (6) in the forwards. In the backs Ronan Kapi (centre) was strong and we moved Lloyd Johansson into 10 and he handled that position very well. Overall a very good team effort.”
Men’s Third Grade: Bond 17 v Wests 15
Bond Third Grade coach Jai Johnson:
“I would say there was a big slice of relief, but even more a feeling of pride after that game … a very satisfying win.
“The win came through two significant tries late in the second half. We were down by 10 and scored off a poor kick from us through a great chase by winger Jedd Percivel. Then on the bell, we were given a penalty. We then put pressure on them with several successful pick and drives, another penalty, more pick and drives, another penalty, short shift from Noah Scallen (9) to Brad Jones, who scored under the posts. Mitch Currie converted to give us the win.
“I was just so proud of the absolute effort from everyone today. Everyone gave it. We had a number of players who played injured. We had a player late to the game, so we had a prop starting at eight.
“Just the effort was amazing. We lost Liam Upfield, out for the season with a broken leg. We had two young colts come on to the bench and played very well at prop and second row.
“The match was another case of players putting their hands up when we were most at need and coming through for us.
“Our centres – Guy Walter and Franky Calugay – were courageous against a couple of very big ball carriers. They just played tough. It was a gritty effort.
“It is hard to single anyone out because they all played well.
“We are now a shot at making the finals. Depending on other results we are a chance.
“There was such a great vibe after the game. The boys were very happy. Before the game I asked them to just play with pride in the jersey and for each other and that is what they did.
“That is a 50-point turnaround from when we played them (Wests) nine weeks ago.
“For us, in our second year, to knock off the ladder leaders … We just want to keep going and cause upset after upset. Even if we don’t make the finals, that is a win for us. We are here to cause as big a headache for other teams as possible. As a player I had a reputation as a menace and that is what we will be for the rest of this season.
“That game today will sit with me for a long time. I have coached rep teams, etc, but that win, the courage and effort displayed, will sit with me a long time.”
Colts 1: Bond 36 v Wests 38
Bond Colts 1 coach Brenden Jones:
“A loss, but we got the two bonus points out of it and that is what we were after.
“We would have liked to have come away with a win, but we just made too many mistakes and never put back-to-back points on them. It was just try-for-try and that, in the end, wasn’t enough.
“We needed to get two (bonus) points and now we just need to win one more game with a bonus point and we are in the finals. So, it wasn’t all bad news today.
“We are close to where we want to be. There were some really good points from today. Ethyan Martin was outstanding, scoring four tries and was incredible to watch. He skinned them. He was a freak.
“We are getting there. We have players coming back from injury who had valuable game time today and they will be better next week. We need to be more patient instead of trying to counter out of our own 22 all the time. We just need to be more mature and work our way out – take a couple of hit ups and then kick out.
“Today they scored off our mistakes - things like bad kicks, not catching kick-offs, almost unforced errors.
“We certainly are not panicking after that loss. We just need to get better in certain areas and own what we do instead if thinking ‘someone else will take care of that’.
“Marlon Jones (6) was again terrific, as was Hunter Dare (4) and in the backline Hamish Roberts (14) and Dion Samuela (15) were also very good.”
Colts 2: Bond 30 v Wests 29
Bond Colts 2 coach Mick Barnao:
“That was a real coach’s heart attack game – a hard-fought battle to the wire.
“We won by one point and I believe that really tough mental battle will be a great benefit to the players. The lessons they have learnt from that close win will be far better than if they had won by 20 points. A mental battle that goes right down to the final second is ideal leading into the finals.
“It was a real tight game where both teams went toe-to-toe for the entire match. At half time there was just a couple of points in it and then in the second half with not long to go we were down by nine points 29-20.
“We needed a penalty and a converted try – and that is what came our way.
“The end was great, but our defence was the key to winning the game, although they scored a couple out wide in the first half. But we were able to tidy up and tighten up and it worked a lot better in the second half.
“We have worked hard on our structure and the boys certainly put that into practice today. We got three tries from pick and drives. So, we took the opportunities which came from good structure.
“Today’s win was even more crucial than last week’s win over UQ. Wests and us were fighting for fourth place. Things are still not guaranteed, but that win does a lot for our confidence and momentum.
“Our players were certainly jubilant about winning, but now they believe they can go all the way. We have spoken about it, now there is true belief.
“For us today, our usual standouts were there, as they are every game, but a highlight was the performance of players such as Tim Chapman and Callum Bell, our bench props. When they came on the intensity did not drop. They were outstanding. They have not had a substantial amount of game time, yet their scrummaging and carries were very good.
“All of our loose forwards played as they should. Each needs to be a pest all game and they were.
“In the backs, Casey Selwyn, was very good in defence, standing his ground and his reading of the game was excellent. He attacked the ball and was a great motivator for everyone out there.
“And of course our 10 Josh Radcliffe converted our final try from out wide to give us the winning margin. So that was one of those dream-come-true kicks.
“He then controlled play in those tense final two minutes to give us the game.”