|2007 PRELIMINARY FINAL
DE LA SALLE V ENGADINE DRAGONS
The Dragons were fired up from the very beginning of this match but it seemed to take De La Salle a little bit longer to get into stride.
Engadine No.7 Harry Day took a great catch from the De La Salle kick and Engadine put it through the hands.
They broke De La twice in a row and would have scored except for the ever reliable RyanGiles whose great defence from the outset was an indispensable part of De La’s hard fought victory over the irascible Dragons.
Dragon’s Michael Morris did a great barging run early on to smash through the clutching De La players arms. He continued this type of play right through the game and was instrumental part of a ferocious Dragon’s attack, one of Engadine’s best on the day.
The game see sawed with De La putting on some heavy pressure but Engadine was up to it with desperate defence forcing an uncharacteristic drop ball by Reece Davidson, just when it looked like De La would get across the line.
Suddenly Engadine got the ball wide on the right side and was almost through. Nearer to De La’s line they put up for a beautifully executed bomb that edged past the posts on nice angle, dropped within the in-goal, bounced and wham! Engadine were on the board. The try was converted as well. 6-0 to Engadine.
Luke Dodge, Engadine’s outside centre showed strength beyond his years with some heavy hits particularly on big Zac from De La. This guy was unbelievable in both attack and defence. He was wild, strong and showed some great skill and execution in his play as well.
The Engadine No.6 also used some smart plays to really bother the bigger De La forwards.
But some of the De La tackles were unbelievable, with Davidson and Manahan hitting everything that moved. Big Zac seemed a little bowled over by all the attention he received but Manahan stood tall, leading his team in some excellent defence and attacking with strength and determination as well.
Engadine hung tight and half time seemed to come quickly with the Dragons still in front. The De La fans were quiet. Engadine seemed fairly well in control as they trundled off the field to discuss second half tactics.
You just never know what’s going to happen next.
Reece Davidson’s massive kick off from the half time restart was both high and long. It seemed to leave all the Dragons players clutching at mid air as they watched it bounce over the dead ball line. “Damn” the collective cry went up from Engadine and De La pounced on the opportunity.
The line drop out was fairly short and it wasn’t long before Reece, running slightly wide of the ruck, about 20 yards out, in what seems like a favoured move, used his speed and strength to put the ball over. His conversion was slightly wide. 6-4 - De La finally lifted their heads.
Dragons Dodgy was at again shortly after with some unbelievably hard tackles. This kid is strong and sure enough he came up with the ball about 30 yards out. Engadine let it fly with a great backline movement. Some brisk passing ended up with the winger scoring in the corner. They missed this conversion. 10 – 4. Engadine in the lead by a converted try. .
De La kicked off and within minutes had the ball back in their hands. They went wide and right through the hands with a fast running John Speeers scoring in the corner without so much as a hand touching him.
Big Luke Manahan stepped up for the conversion and kicked it over from the corner. 10 all -game on!
It didn’t take long for De La to get it back into Dragons territory with some good hard runs. A good defensive set by De La saw Engadine kick the ball out on the 5th tackle near to half way.
They packed the scrum, De La saw the advantage and pressed it home with another backline movement ending up with Johno scoring an almost identical try in the corner. Manahan missed this kick. 14 – 10 De La Salle finally hit the lead.
Engadine seemed to loose their way momentarily and De La swooped with some great bustling runs up the middle that ended with halfback Tom scoring under the posts.
He converted his own try to put them ahead 20 -10. The De La crowd smiled.
With about 10 mins to go it was desperate straights for Engadine. Monty made a great darting run up the middle for De La but was mowed down with some deadly Dragons defence.
Engadine gained a few penalties and got some better field position. Pressing hard near the line they scored over near the corner. They missed the conversion bringing it to 20 – 14.
With only a few minutes on the clock the Dragons continued to drive forward. De La defended with all their might and it was just great football from both teams.
The crowd held their breath as Michael Morris drove and darted to put the dragons into a break edging towards the line.
The Dragons spun it wide but tiredness and good defence from the De La backs saw the Dragons squander the slim chance they had as the touchy lifted his flag. The ball was out and the game was over. De La was through to the 2007 grand final.
From the spectators point of view this was an enthralling game. Both teams played hard and fast with very little for the referee to do except keep the 10 yards and follow the players up and down the field. Overall the referee seemed very fair with the penalty count almost even.
Congratulations to all players on both teams. You gave it your absolute best.
We look forward in anticipation to next week’s grand final - Cronulla Caringbah v De La Salle at Shark Park.
See you there. Grant Drinkwater