On April 25th Chatswood oval fell silent for the finale of a short commemorative service, held in honour of our ANZACs. The teams lined up; Gordon v Warringah, separated by bagpipe players, the last-post trumpet player, Glen Curran delivered the ode of remembrance standing beside Hayden Rorke, Director of Gordon RUFC.
Both forces looked anxious for the game throughout the service. Gordon and Warringah are both teams of considerable strength this year, a few rising stars playing for both uniforms.
The buzz on the sideline and in the stands reached climax on kick off and a tight-knit game of massive hits and solid footy began.
Warringah wanted to stamp authority over the game from an early stage, pushing into the Gordon 22 quickly with a short break down the left of the field from winger, Harry Jones.
The Stag defence proved strong enough at this stage, flooding a vulnerable Warringah ruck to turn possession over. The ball was then spread to inside centre Erik Moss for a well-placed chip down the sideline.
Gordon looked threatening as they formed strong attacking rugby, using the big prop Tobias Guikabau and number eight Harry Rorke as battering rams, testing the Warringah wall.
The evenly matched skill-level was embodied throughout the match by the amount of time spent in the centre of the field as both teams attempted to use sheer force to smash it out.
Gordon looked dangerous through their back-line movements, especially as fullback Sione Ala ran a tight crash-ball, taking out the Warringah number-eight, Sam Ward.
Keeping the ball for long enough to slowly wear down the Warringah defence, the Stags managed to dive over in the corner with the first try of the day to inside centre, Erik Moss.
Off the restart, Gordon look to be tightening their grip over the game as fly-half Mark Preston formed a massive hole with a very nice dummy-pass. His break down the centre was ended short however when his offload pass was fumbled and Warringah manage to clean up nicely.
At this stage, the Gordon scrum started suffering.
The Rats looked threatening as their centres Tyson Davis and Michael Adams linked up nicely and were able to feed their outside backs, Harry Jones, Richard Hooper, Brad Dixon and Dave Feltscheer.
However, Gordon managed to use an over-commitment to the Warringah attack against them as a dropped ball was cleaned up by winger Matt McDougall who gunned it in for the second try of the match.
The score was 12-0 and the home team was impressing their supporters.
Warringah looked seriously hurt at this stage, as a quick few phases off the restart forced scattered defence and another sly try, earned by fullback Sione Ala.
But, 19-0 was enough of a dent in the Rats’ ego and they composed themselves professionally off the kick-off, assertively pushing the game into the Stags 22.
The referee pinned the scrums on Gordon fault, and they lost that facet of game-play at this stage, the Rats being given a full-arm penalty every time a scrum went awry.
The game remained as tense as ever as both teams continued to slug it out in the centre. Warringah looked to chip and chases to pressure the Stag defensive line; a box-kick from halfback Josh Holmes putting fullback, Sione Ala, under pressure inside his own try line. Hooker, Luke Holmes followed him into the danger-zone closely, but Ala was adept enough to fox him, faking one way before moving the other, before putting the ball down for a 22 dropout.
Exciting footy resulted immediately after the dropout as Warringah winger; Brad Dixon mounted a daunting counter attack, running hard. The ball was quickly cleaned up by Gordon’s openside flanker Luke Rissman off a fumbled ball. But the returned attack from the Stags was turned over quickly and pitched out to winger, Harry Jones, for a flawless chip picked up easily by halfback Josh Holmes for the first Rat try.
The remains of the first half were defined by the desperation of both sides.
Waringah Hooker, Luke Holmes pulled off an impressive run, bumping off defenders left and right for a solid run through the Stag 22. The game was held only 5 metres out from the Gordon try line.
Suffering at this stage, the Gordon scrum, becoming a major threat in such dangerous areas of the field, was swapped-up as they brought in the massive prop, 16. The scrum was monstered physically on interchange, but Warringah managed to retain possession, spreading the ball to the opposite wing where winger Harry Jones was able to get over for the last try of the half.
Scores were 19-10 to Gordon at half time.
Entering the second half with the scores at 19-10, the first minute was sloppy as both teams anxiously attempted to create play from nothing.
Another scrum was won by the powerful Warringah forward pack in the centre of the field. Harry Jones, running an inside line, broke the defence before getting caught short of the try line but was able to flick the ball off to support-runner, Tyson Davis for a try under the posts.
Gordon looked to be wearing down under the relentless pressure from Warringah.
Rats’ Halfback, Josh Holmes placed a perfect chip deep inside the Gordon 22, fullback Sione Ala getting tied up and forced back over his own try line for a scrum five metres out.
Warringah held their attack for a long time, looking to break any second. Blindside flanker, James Cunningham looked to dive over at one stage, but was said to have dropped the ball resulting in yet another scrum.
A penalty for ruck infringements by the Stag forwards was taken quickly by the Rats, aiming to dive over in the corner. Instead, the ball-carrier was picked up and driven a solid six metres and out by the Gordon flanker, Jack Dempsey.
This was the point in the game where both teams’ tempers flared.
Another ball slipped out beneath the Stags and a penalty try was given to the Rats. The score was now 19-29.
Less than 10 minutes were left and Gordon looked eager to capitalise, but were struggling. Winger Matt McDougall made a handy break and was taken high, causing both teams to let loose on each other in the centre of the field.
A torrential downpour that came out of nowhere began to really affect the game, hail and mud being hardly conducive of good footy.
Gordon used the final nail-biting minutes to force themselves deep into the Warringah half, but the Warringah defence was having none of it.
Gordon threw forwards at the defensive line as seconds ticked by and even into overtime as Warringah continued to concede penalties for offside.
Jack Dempsey finally managed to dive over the line after a thrilling final five minutes of the game.
The final score was 26-29 and effectively encapsulates the very close-knit, exciting rugby that was exhibited on ANZAC Day.