The Old Soldier Memorial oval came alive this Saturday for the match up of two of the Barraclough Cup’s most evenly matched first grade sides: Lindfield V Hunters Hill.
The second grade game had presented the potential fight from both sides but the Lindfield outfit managed to force a convincing win of 44 to 12.
The side-line was packed with Old Soldier supporters, displaying the usual, classic suburban rugby enthusiasm and banter. The junior under eights played a short curtain raiser game before both sides lined up in the centre for kick off.
Hunters Hill moved the game straight into the Lindfield 22 early on in the piece, showing their intention for a dominant game of forward phase play and potential back prowess. However, the first 10 minutes was characterised by a very evenly matched back-and-forth from both sides, as well as a lot of stoppage as a product of early-season sloppy ball play and a scrupulous referee.
Lindfield appear to have been practicing the structure of their phase-play, utilising forwards for strong line running in the back line as a means of attack.
But Hunters Hills proved too strong in defence, repeatedly managing to turn possession over and eventually ending up over the Lindfield try line yet only to be held up. The resulting scrum presented halfback Patrick Nicol with the opportunity for a quick snatch and break over the line for a cheeky try in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score stood at 5-0 for quite a while.
The next 10 minutes was characterised by indecisive back and forth between both sides, Lindfield outside centre Sam Yeats proving his place on the paddock with multiple snatches of Hunters Hill dropped ball followed by convincing breaks up the centre.
Hunters Hill was also showing potential spark, fly-half Pierre Hola and both centres Darren Firmin and Patrick Simpson linking up for charismatic line running and subsequent line breaks.
Lindfield hooker Riley Rolleston threw his weight around making some brutal impacts in defence and attack as he steam-rolled the opposition multiple times.
The Hunters Hill fly-half Pierre Hola had been toeing the line all day and managed a break followed by a chip which he collected himself, before spinning the ball wide to second rower Jordan Butler for an easy run in for another try. This ended the first half, Hunters Hill leaving the half confidently with a lead of 12-0.
This confidence seemed to emanate from Hunters as they re-entered the field, Jordan Butler regathering their own kick off by jumping up and head-butting the ball back to his own team.
Possession was quickly turned over however, and spread wide to Lindfield winger Anton Wright who found space and ran most of the sideline for a very quick try.
Yet again, Hunters Hill managed to turnover the kick off and look sharp in offence. But Lindfield again succeeded in turning the ball over, fullback Ryan Leeson brilliantly chipping the defence, getting the game back into Hunters’ 22.
After a yellow card to second rower Jordan Butler from Hunters Hill, Lindfield use the opportunity to put more points on the board, a penalty bringing the game to 12-8.
As Hunters Hill start to look defeated, inside centre Darren Firmin regroups attack off a Lindfield 22 drop out, weaving in and out of the defence for a solid 40 metre run.
This break and a subsequent line-out off a penalty kick resulted in another dominant display of mauling prowess from the powerful forwards of Hunters Hill, crashing over the line for another try.
The score was now 19-8 and Hunters Hill didn’t look ready to take their foot off Lindfields proverbial throat, maintaining high pressure. Halfback Patrick Nicol repetitively completing cheeky runs and chips off ruck and maul, keeping the Lindfield defence guessing.
Yet as had been seen before in this game, the more dominant looking side seemed to be foxed as Lindfield turned over their attacking chance with a solid break from winger Anton Wright.
Lindfield now held the power, the referee penalising Hunters Hill again and again for ruck infringements that finally ended with a try in the corner to Lindfield.
The turbulent game of switches of power didn’t stop there, Lindfield looking to keep a roll on, as the score was now 19-13. Lindfield number 8 Jonno Broome delivered a massive hit in the centre of the field, which looked to rattle the Hunters’ forwards as tempers flared and handbags were thrown.
Hunter’s fly-half Pierre Hola returned the favour, running the ball head-on into at least two players in a row, demolishing them in his path as he trucked up field.
Yet another penalty for ruck infringements gave Hunters Hill halfback Patrick Nicol the chance to slot an easy three points from in front of the goal. Score : 22-13, Hunter’s looking to have secured a convincing win.
Lindfield remained relentless, fly-half Tom Hennessey finding a good hole before spreading the ball wide to Jonno Broome who picked up the ball only to look up into a fierce coat-hanger from the massive Hunters Hill second rower Nisi Naufahu.
The subsequent penalty inside the Hunters Hill 22 proved virtually useless as the ball was easily turned over and the Hunters’ winger made a handy 50 metre break before chipping ahead. As he was burnt by opposition winger Anton Wright his temper got the better of him, deciding to shove him from behind with no contact on the ball, sending him to the ground and getting his team penalised.
That was all she wrote for the first round, Hunters Hill managing to force a convincing win over a team that prove to be almost exactly evenly matched to their own force.
This game displays a promising level of rugby for the Barraclough Cup for the 2015 season.