Eastwood Preview Round 18
By Paul Treanor
Round 18 seemed so far away not so long ago and all of a sudden it is here. It has become an anticlimax in certain aspects as results across Round 17 settled several of the possibilities that were expected to be decided this round. But there are a number of games that will have a bearing on standings come Saturday night so it will certainly not be a dead round. Round 17 wasn’t kind to Eastwood with losses by Third Grade and the three Colts sides, dropping us out of the race for the Club Championship which looks like being claimed once again by University for the eleventh year in a row. Manly do sit just 13 points behind University and could still get across the line but will have to rely on an upset or two by Eastern Suburbs, University’s opponents this weekend. Colts losses in all grades sees them drop two places to sixth in the Colts Club Championship but have a chance to redeem themselves this weekend. With Randwick up against Northern Suburbs an improvement is not out of the question. Again University looks set to be crowned champions of Colts for the 10th straight year. James Martin increased his lead in the try scoring contest by adding a try to his tally playing in Second Grade and looks certain to be the clubs highest try scorer this season. This week we take on Warringah, who need to win in some grades to keep their finals campaign on track. Eastwood have two minor premierships to claim, while Thirds need a win to stay in third spot on the ladder. Colts Firsts need a win to have an outside chance of making the finals, while Colts Thirds can improve their position with a win. This sets the stage for some exciting and desperate rugby both at Rat Park were Grade will be playing and at Millner where Colts will be looking to make amends for last week and finish the Rounds on a high.
Grade 4th Grade 1st Place
Warringah’s surprise loss to Randwick last week has taken away the anticipated Minor Premiership decider this Saturday. The loss in fact sees Warringah drop back to third and they will not be wanting to make it two losses in a row heading into the finals. After Eastwood’s 50 – 0 win over Souths last week they sit five points ahead of University and just one point from this week’s clash will see Eastwood crowned Minor Premiers. Both sides have a lot to play for and will be looking to come out on top. It was a close affair last time they played at an overcrowded Millner. Eastwood will need to maintain their current form to beat Warringah. Again there were a number of changes to the run on side from the official side. This week’s side has Daniel Minto coming in to replace Heath Toon, Paul Ng Shiu dropping back from Thirds while Lachie Parker and Dave Prikala come into the pack replacing Luke Ferris and Ed Neely. In the backline Max Page has been called up to Thirds and is replaced at half by Mitch Magrath who is in turn replaced at fly half by Xavier Chigwidden. Will this be the run on side? Get to Rat Park early to find out.
3rd Grade 3rd Place
Eastwood loss on Saturday has put them in threat of dropping back to fifth if they lose again this week. Both teams scored four tries but Eastwood missed James Martin kicking letting Souths take the win by five points. The two losing bonus points were extremely important and have left Eastwood just holding onto third place on the ladder. Warringah’s win over Randwick last Saturday puts them just one point behind Eastwood while Randwick is a further three points behind Warringah. Randwick play Norths and the outcome of this game and the Eastwood and Warringah clash will decide the final placings in Third Grade. Eastwood lost by a converted try against Warringah seven rounds ago and will have to bring their A game along with their kicking boots to retain the important third place. James Martin was a late call up to Seconds last week where he stays due to the hamstring injury that has forced Brad Curtis out for two to three weeks. Sione Kupu who took over at full back last week remains there again this week while Paula Hafoka retains his spot on the wing. Last week’s kicker Harry Bennett is out injured and his place has been taken by Andrew Ferris who moves from half back to fly half while Max Page comes into the side as the new number 9. In the forwards Nick Johnson comes back in as George Kent returns to Seconds. Matt Prestipino also returns to the side after missing last week. Without James Martin and Harry Bennett in the side, a new goal kicker will need to be found. This should be a tight contest and gaols will be an important part of the mix if victory is to go Eastwood’s way. The sixth spot of the finals is also up for grabs between West Harbour and Southern Districts. Souths will be looking to take full points against Gordon and hoping Manly can beat Wests or at least prevent them from scoring four tries. It all shapes up to be an interesting final round for the Third Grade competition.
2nd Grade 1st Place
Eastwood Second Grade are in a similar position to our Fourth Grade side. They are five points clear of second place Manly and need at least one point against Warringah to claim the Minor Premiership. With the top four sides already decided the final two places come down to this weekend’s games. Warringah are sitting in fifth with just a two point lead over Randwick and West Harbour who are equal on points. Warringah will want to beat the undefeated Eastwood to make sure of retaining fifth spot. A loss by Warringah could see them drop out of the finals in the last week of the competition. We can expect Warringah to throw everything at Eastwood with their season on the line. Eastwood will not want to lose their first game of the season in the last round and will have the added focus of the Minor Premiership. Last time they met Eastwood ran out winners 42 – 14 and should again prove too strong this Saturday. It should be an interesting contest. George Kent returns to the side after missing last week, while James Martin retains his place at full back. The rest of the team remains unchanged. Randwick play 8th place Northern Suburbs, while Wests have second placed Manly to contend with in their last throw of the dice to make the finals. An interesting afternoon for Second Grade.
1st Grade 2nd Place
The desire to make the finals was enough incentive for Randwick to spring a surprise on Warringah and as a consequence Eastwood is now clear second with a round to go six points ahead of University who have moved ahead of Warringah. Warringah will want to get back on the winning list and make a statement by defeating Eastwood. Although Souths lost to Eastwood last weekend the one point losing bonus point sees them four points ahead of Randwick and a loss against Gordon and a Randwick victory over Northern Suburbs will see them drop back to sixth. A loss by Randwick opens the door for West Harbour to take the last spot should they win against Manly. A task that would appear to be beyond them based on their recent form but you never know when the Pirates will launch an unexpected raid. Manly have already claimed the Minor Premiership and might take the foot off the peddle giving West Harbour a sniff. On Souths recent form it is hard to see Gordon beating them in such an important game and look to be Eastwood’s opponents in the first round of the finals. Eastwood showed they are a team that can adapt to their opposition and game day conditions. The loss of Nick Batger before the game and then his replacement Brad Curtis in the first half did not stop them putting in a strong performance against the Southern Districts side who solved their defensive problems of the previous week and were determined to show they will be a handful in the finals. The only change to the team this week is Nick Batger returning to the wing. It is all tough games from here on in and Eastwood have been battle hardened over recent weeks. It should be an interesting tussle between two sides that have their eyes set on going deep into the final series.
3rd Grade Colts 4th Place
The loss to Southern Districts sees them jump ahead and push Eastwood back to fourth. Southern Districts have a bye this weekend and with just a four point lead a win over 11th placed Warringah will see Eastwood move back to third. The danger is Norths who sit two points behind Eastwood and have what you would expect to be an easy game against last placed Randwick. A loss by Eastwood will see them drop back to fifth and a match up with the team who finishes second – currently Manly. A win and a finish in third place will see them take on Southern Districts next week and improve their chances of playing in week 2 of the finals. Eastwood will need to put last week’s loss behind them and get on with the job. They should prove too strong and have too much at stake to allow Warringah to spring an upset.
2nd Grade Colts 3rd Place
Despite the loss to Souths last weekend Eastwood Colts Seconds are guaranteed third place no matter the outcome of this week’s games. They play 11th placed Warringah who have only won four games all season and should end the season without adding to the tally. As this stage Eastwood opponent next week will be Manly, unless they lose against West Harbour and either Southern Districts or Randwick win. With Randwick taking on the undefeated Northern Suburbs this will be a huge upset, while Souths will be expected to take care of Gordon. Manly have the upper hand and should take care of 7th placed Wests and play Eastwood next weekend.
1st Grade Colts 7th Place
Eastwood needed to win last week to keep their finals chances alive but Southern Districts proved too good and now Eastwood will need Manly to lose to 8th placed West Harbour while they win against 10th placed Warringah to sneak into sixth place. It is still a possibility. Should they do it and make it into sixth place they will take on University next week. It’s now out of their hands and they will have to wait until results come in to see if they move on to the finals or miss out. All they can do is put on their best performance and have a good win against Warringah this Saturday in front of their home crowd.