This week’s round is highlighted by several local derbies – The Battle of the East between Randwick and Eastern Suburbs, The Battle of the North between Northern Suburbs and Gordon, and The Battle of the West between the Western Sydney Two Blues and Penrith. While all 3 games promise to be particularly hard fought, Randwick v Easts and Norths v Gordon hold particular historical significance for the clubs involved.
Gordon and Norths have a long and fierce rivalry that dates back to the 1930s when Gordon was admitted to First Division. According to Norths’ historians, Gordon broke the original agreement by encroaching on the Shoremen’s territory when they based their club on the lower north shore at Chatswood instead of further up the Pacific Highway at Waitara. Tensions were further strained after Gordon’s Wallaby fullback Laurie Monaghan kicked a drop goal after the siren in their final round clash in 1981 to not only win the game but also relegate Northern Suburbs to Second Division, where they spent the next 8 seasons. Gordon dominated the North Shore derbies in the early to mid-1990s when they won 3 premierships, including the 1998 victory over Norths in the Grand Final at the Sydney Football Stadium. In recent years, Norths’ hard work off the field has translated into a resurgence on the field, culminating in their emotional 2016 premiership win in front of a packed house at the historic North Sydney Oval. Meanwhile, Gordon broke a premiership drought of more than 20 years last year when they defeated Eastwood in the Grand Final.
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The Easts – Randwick rivalry is one of the oldest and fiercest in the Shute Shield. Both clubs have experienced golden periods where they have not only dominated the rivalry but the entire competition. The Beasties won 3 premierships in the 1940s while Randwick became one of the most famous rugby clubs in the world when it won an incredible 18 premierships between 1970 and 2000. Both clubs view their opposition in a derogatory fashion when it comes to derby day and there are real and perceived differences between the clubs, despite their geographical proximity.
With Anzac Day on Sunday, all host clubs are sure to ensure that appropriate recognition and reverence are given to the occasion.
All games are available live and streaming on Stan Sport.
Randwick v Eastern Suburbs at Coogee Oval
Randwick were disappointing in their 15-point loss to Warringah last week. With regular flyhalf Ben Donaldson called up for Waratahs’ duty, the Wicks’ new midfield were hampered by the lack of familiarity and cohesion. Eastern Suburbs went down to Manly in a 2-point thriller at Ladies Day at Woollahra Oval. The Beasties led 14-3 at one stage but on never managed to break away from the plucky Marlins, who eventually edged ahead with a conversion after the siren.
As with all local derbies, this is a tough game to tip. However, I think that if the Easts’ forwards can win enough quality ball then their backs should be able to score enough points to ensure a Beasties’ victory.
Prediction: Eastern Suburbs by 12
Southern Districts v Warringah at Forshaw Rugby Park
Southern Districts hosted Eastwood last week and, despite holding a 1-man advantage for much the game, went down 28-25. The Rebels leaked too many points in the first half and although they were able to mount a strong comeback in the second half, their backline is yet to really gel in attack. Warringah was very impressive in their first game of the season, having had a bye in round 1. The Rats dominated Randwick, scoring 4 tries to 2.
Souths will be desperate to get their first win of the season after 2 close losses but the Rats just looked too good last week.
Prediction: Warringah by 7
West Harbour v Hunter Wildfires at Drummoyne Oval
West Harbour conceded 50 points for the second week in a row, losing 57-15 to Sydney University. Defence has been an issue for the Pirates in recent years and seems to be the missing piece of the puzzle, as their set piece is strong and they are capable of scoring some flashy tries out wide. The Hunter Wildfires are also 0-2 after losing 23-3 to Northern Suburbs. The Wildfires competed strongly and will be looking to continue to improve each week.
The Pirates have been disappointing in their 2 games so far, although they have had an admittedly tough draw. The Wildfires will see this game as a golden opportunity to record their first win of the season and if they can match the Pirates up front, then this could be their week.
Prediction: Hunter by 8
Western Sydney Two Blues v Penrith at Holroyd Sports Ground
The Western Sydney Two Blues showed plenty of grit and determination in the first half against reigning premiers Gordon in their round 2 clash at Chatswood Oval last week. Gordon were kept scoreless until the 23rd minute and a clever Two Blues’ try after halftime saw them trail 19-5. The floodgates opened soon after and the tries flowed as the Highlanders ran out to a 50-5 win. Penrith had a bye in round 2, which followed a 73-0 drubbing at the hands of Northern Suburbs.
Both teams will be targeting this match and it should make for an enthralling contest. I think that the Two Blues look to have the defensive edge and a more structured approach in attack.
Prediction: Western Sydney Two Blues by 14
Sydney University v Eastwood at Glen Willow Stadium (Mudgee)
Sydney University were far too strong for West Harbour last week, with the Students notching up a half-century for the second consecutive week. Uni faces their first real test this week as they take on Eastwood, who had an inspiring 28-25 win over Southern Districts at Forshaw. An early red card saw the Woodies reduced to 14 men but some strong first half attack and resolute defence in the closing stages saw them hold on against the fast-finishing Rebels.
Uni and Eastwood have been the 2 most successful teams in the professional era, winning an incredible 16 of the last 20 premierships. With both clubs again looking like they will have strong claims to the 2021 title, this is sure to be another tight clash. I think that Uni may be a touch fresher and will enjoy the home ground advantage.
Prediction: Sydney University by 3
Northern Suburbs v Gordon at North Sydney Oval
Northern Suburbs are yet to concede to a try in season 2021, keeping the Wildfires to a solitary penalty goal in last week’s 23-3 win in Newcastle. The Shoremen return to North Sydney Oval this Saturday for the first time in 18 months, having played their home games last year at Bon Andrews Oval (North Sydney No. 2) and Rat Park while the main ground at North Sydney was used for cricket. Gordon was another team to score 50 points or more in each of their opening 2 games. The Highlanders had to work hard in the first 60 minutes against the Two Blues before their superior skill and fitness saw them run in a number of late tries on their way to a 50-5 win.
Norths were the only team to defeat the eventual premiers last year and they will provide the first real test for the 2021 Highlanders. It’s almost impossible to pick a winner here but the home ground advantage has me leaning ever so slightly to Norths.
Prediction: Norths by 1
Round 2 Results
|Gordon v Western Sydney Two Blues||Gordon by 32||Gordon 50-5|
|Sydney University v West Harbour||Sydney University by 25||Sydney University 57-15|
|Eastern Suburbs v Manly||Eastern Suburbs by 18||Manly 24-22|
|Hunter Wildfires v Northern Suburbs||Northern Suburbs by 15||Northern Suburbs 23-3|
|Southern Districts v Eastwood||Eastwood by 5||Eastwood 28-25|
|Warringah v Randwick||Randwick by 4||Warringah 29-12|
|Penrith – Bye|
So far Hugh is 10 From 12 or 83%, going well but it’s still early days.