PICTURE: Rachel Wright Photography
By Pat McLeod
Bond University Rugby Club’s 2021 finals campaign has ended, despite all four contenders producing stand-out performances at the weekend.
Hopes were high for Premier Women, Second Grade, Colts 1 and Colts 2 to progress through to grand finals next weekend. However, all four teams lost, and in this Covid-abridged finals series, that meant sudden death.
Bond University Director of Rugby Luca Liussi said the looks on players’ faces across the two days of semi-finals, told the story.
“The players were shattered not to progress further,” he said. “And it wasn’t for lack of effort. All four teams gave everything.
“We definitely had our chances in every game and of course it is disappointing that we will not be campaigning next weekend, but that is finals football.
“Congratulations to all Bond players, coaches and support staff for doing our colours proud.”
Here is an overview of each of the weekend’s games:
Bond (Second Grade) 24 v Souths 29 (at GPS)
The Bull Sharks were dominant early, notching tries to hooker Tyrell Kopua and winger Adam Gauder to go out to a 14-5 lead in the first half. Justin Bernstein (10) converted both tries and slotted a penalty to give Bond a half-time lead of 17-12.
Souths hit back with two converted tries early in the second stanza to lead 26-17.
The score stayed locked there until about 10 minutes before full time when Josh Havea (7) scored, Bernstein converted and Bond were within two points at 26-24.
However, as the Bull Sharks desperately tried to bridge that gap, Souths notched a penalty in the shadows of fulltime to inch further ahead 29-24 – which was how the match concluded.
Bond Second Grade Head Coach Damon Virtue:
“That was real finals football.
“It was close, but we had our chances. When we got that break on them in the first half, if we had nailed another opportunity straight away, and we had the opportunity to do that, then maybe the outcome would have been different.
“With a bigger lead early then it would have put scoreboard pressure on them. We missed an opportunity there. But to Souths’ credit they scored two really good breakout tries and took the momentum back.
“Our boys hung in there and they came back towards the end of the game and we felt we had an opportunity to win it then, but it was not to be.
“There are positives. I think there is a lot of fight in this group and the boys could’ve rolled over a little when Souths got out to a decent lead, but they showed plenty of character.
“That is finals football, holding your nerve and having composure and Souths probably did that a little better on the day. We just were not clinical enough.
“We prepared very well, but it was not meant to be.
“Everyone put in today, but Josh Havea (7), Zac Moimoi and Josiah Tavita had exceptional games and winger Adam Gauder did some very good things on the edges.
Bond (Women’s Premier Grade) 10 v GPS 31 (at GPS)
Before Saturday night’s elimination semi-final, Bond women’s Head Coach Lawrence Faifua had some prophetic words for his team of talented youngsters:
“If we fall into the GPS trap and let it become a slug-fest we will get into trouble.”
Those words became a stinging reality on Saturday night. Try as they might to unleash their attacking brilliance, the Bull Sharks were continually drawn into a classic finals grind, and with GPS’s much bigger pack, there was only ever going to be one outcome.
The Bond women were in no way intimidated by their rivals. At every confrontation they put their bodies on the line. They also knew their match-plan depended on possession, but as hard as they tried, that ‘tap’ could not be turned on sufficiently.
Bond Premier Women’s Head Coach: Lawrence Faifua:
“That was tough. Things just did not go to plan.
“Congratulations to GPS. They were pretty good tonight. They used their size. You can’t win a game defending and that is what we did for the majority of tonight.
“There are so many positives to come out of this season and you certainly can’t question the girls’ heart. We just need to work on the skill set.
“We went out there with a certain game plan and we didn’t execute it.
“What GPS does really well is get the game into a grind and we fell into that. They played really smart and to their skills.
“It was just the fundamental stuff we didn’t do well tonight. We didn’t build phases and it just became one-out footy.
“I am very proud of what the girls have achieved this year. The majority of them are 7s players and so we are just trying to tweak the women’s program so it is a better 15s program as well. That comes down partly to recruitment … a bit more size and also the more they play 15s the better they will be.
“As always there were so many of the girls who gave everything – hard to single anyone out.
“I am just really proud of the girls. It has been a long and testing season with different things happening. We have had a lot of girls coming in and out of this team and there were a lot of girls who missed out playing tonight.
“I am proud of the effort and the overall program.”
Bond (Colts 1) 0 v Easts 17 (at Norths)
This was a classic finals encounter between two closely-matched sides.
The first points of the match didn’t come until late in the first half, with Easts going into the break up 7-0. As Bond chanced their arm in the second half, the Tigers were able to capitalise on opportunities and ran in two more tries.
The Bond Colts side of 2021 is packed with skill, however they were unable to make full use of the few chances that came their way on Saturday.
Bond Colts 1 Head Coach Brenden Jones:
“They were the two best teams in the comp going hard at it and that showed in the scoreline, when nil-all almost to half time. So, the match was a testament to both teams.
“Easts held a couple of crucial passes and we didn’t. You have to try things in these big game and when the big moments come … you make them stick. Our moments didn’t stick and their’s did.
“That’s just how finals go.
“As far as the season goes, we had some very good moments through the year. We learnt as a team. There were times that we did not play as well as we could have.
“These are quality players coming through Bond now, so that puts us in a really good position for years to come.
“There are nine players from this Colts 1 side who now move up to the senior grade. So, these guys will progress up and with our Colts 2 team also in the finals and most of them to play Colts next year means the club is in a good position.
“This is the first time we have had two Colts teams in the finals, which means the Colts program is progressing really well. Of course, it would be good to actually win one. This is my fourth finals in a row – Colts 2 twice and now Colts 1 twice.
“There were no standouts today, and I mean that in a good way. They played very well as a team with everyone putting their hand up.
“It was a classic grind today between two sides who are very well matched.
“We are building a good culture and that is another positive that you take out of this season.”
Bond (Colts 2) 22 v Brothers 33 (at Norths)
Colts 2’s elimination final was a mirror image of their season – a spluttering start followed by a barnstorming finish.
During their season the young Bull Sharks took until Round 11, a 24-20 win over Easts, before they realized their potential. They did not lose another game until this weekend.
On Saturday Brothers dominated through until about 15 minutes into the second half – leading 33-7. But then Bond found their rhythm and confidence and brought that lead back to 33-22 before they ran out of time.
Bond Colts 2 Head Coach Derek Farmer:
“We have had an outstanding season. When you look back to eight weeks ago, the last thought in our head was that we would be in the finals. We set a benchmark for these boys after the Norths game and pretty much from then on they showed so much improvement.
“They had to win their next four games – which they did to stay in the finals race. We kept going, so we are really proud of what they have achieved.
“They are a great bunch of lads and they will do the club proud for years to come.
“The turning point for them growing as a team was the game against Wests (Bond won 30-29 with a try and conversion right on full time). I didn’t have any nails left after that one. They showed they had grown as a team that could fight to the very end, which they showed again today.
“There are a few boys who will step up to open grade after this season. So, I thank them and wish them all the best.
“Just some fundamental mistakes cost us today. Our ball security was not what it needed to be. We turned over a lot of ball, often at crucial times. If we had been able to convert those chances to pressure, which would have probably resulted in points, then you look at a different scenario.
“But that is just how things go sometimes. Of course we are disappointed that we did not go to the next stage, but you can’t be disappointed in the effort all players put in today.
“It’s a great learning curve and a great journey that they have been on.”