2014 Queensland Premier Rugby ‘Game of the Round’; Round 3 (‘Local Swoopers Saddle Equine Guests In Finger-Biter on Chipsy Wood’)
Souths Magpies vs. GPS Gallopers; Chipsy Wood Oval, Yeronga Park; 5/4/2014
“GPS’ flyhalf is a practitioner of cross-bow like service, his flat, accurate passes open space for outside backs running exquisite, well-practised lines, most devastatingly a number thirteen who moves like a Basque bull and has a consistently threatening impact on the game.”
Report by Scott Gittoes
Chipsy Wood Oval is a special patch of earth. The specialness I speak of here is not the hallowed turf, legends-of-yore type (though not to deny that quality, either) but rather of a far more plain and empirical nature; this oval is Souths Magpies’ solitary field. It’s a modern day botanic miracle that the soil is capable of supporting any grass-life whatsoever, be it that nine separate tag-shoed teams train and host games on these scant few square-metres week after storm-addled, sunburnt Queensland week. But today, owing to some favourable early season scheduling and, rumour has it, a new groundskeeper with a sixth sense for lawn nutrients, Chipsy Wood is in as good a state as one’s ever likely to find it; deep shamrock green, duck-down soft on top and firm and fast underneath, on what is yet another textbook autumn afternoon in Brisbane.
The curtains are drawn for a free-flowing contest and based on recent form – namely, GPS Gallopers’ tantalisingly close premiership bid last year and the Magpies as-yet undefeated start to the season – one suspects the protagonists will eagerly oblige. After no more than ten minutes, it’s evident that today is bound to be a spectator’s delight; equal parts free-flowing, physical and impassioned.
It’s expansive across the park. GPS’ flyhalf is a practitioner of cross-bow like service, his flat, accurate passes open space for outside backs running exquisite, well-practised lines, most devastatingly a number thirteen who moves like a Basque bull and has a consistently threatening impact on the game. Only rigorous three-quarter defence prevents the visitors from collecting any material points from these incursions. As it stands, Souths have crossed first on account of some deft hands and opportunistic support play from a skilful, mobile forward pack whose biggest are also amongst their quickest and most dexterous. But for all their damaging size – the front row recalls images of Easter Island’s Rapa Nui – natural talent and clean set-pieces, the Magpie pack’s inferior discipline and structure at the defensive breakdown is their undoing.
The Gallopers are far more calculating. They choose their battles wisely, committing few to the rucks and mauls and so conserving health in defence and exploiting gaps that appear with increasing regularity at the fringes. It’s from this platform that GPS establishes first-half ascendancy, scoring three unanswered tries, including a chip-chase one-two from flyhalf and inside centre that is a certainty for the season highlight reel. To deepen their woes, the Magpies’ notoriously volatile flyhalf earns a late-half yellow card for a hit that is much more shoulder than arms. At 25 – 8, if the writing’s not yet on the wall for the home side, the paintbrush is certainly wet.
Confidence: nigh on impossible to practise and bottle but easy enough to recognise – a whimsical, organic element that more or less floats on the wind. It’s directly proportional relationship to instinct is well acknowledged; ‘natural’ players are all but nothing without a gullet-full of the stuff. Fifteen minutes into the second half, moving along a seemingly inevitable trajectory towards a GPS victory, the instinct-laden home side receives a telling shot of confidence in the arm. A bullocking maul pushover is immediately followed by a stunning kick-off return from a fullback who has an utterly dependable (and, for the visitors, consistently annoying) habit of finding routes through barely-there gaps like water.
This dramatic shift in momentum is decelerated only by an engine-room fracas that results in a second Magpie in the bin and a local crowd baying for pounds of officialdom flesh. Rendered largely impotent by preceding defensive phases, the Gallopers are unable to gain any relevant advantage against fourteen men. Upon recovering their full suite, Souths execute an authoritative landslide scrum pushover. GPS cling to the lead by a lonely point.
The conspicuous absence of an official match-clock is part of the uncultivated beauty of rugby at this level. The referee’s wrist is the sole arbiter of time. Spectators are left guessing, pointing at watch-faces, blind to the seconds that remain. In a game that has been a tale of discipline versus flair, both teams must now exercise the former. The Magpies maintain their composure and, against historical form, prevail in this final test, repeated pick and drives drawing out a penalty within range. The unpredictable wind on the Chipsy Wood plateau ensures silence until the flags are raised. Souths scrape home for consecutive wins at the death against the best from last year.
Result: Souths 30, def. GPS 28
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