The in-house trial. How good is this!
Almost full on footy and players looking to execute all those shapes, all those plays, all those drills from the pre-season. Individuals looking to impress as team members.
Home vs Away
Blue vs Gold
As the clock struck 8am, both teams filed from the sheds onto the field. The Blue moved to the eastern end of Saleyards and the Gold took up their spot at the western end.
The typical pre-match warm ups then commenced. Passing, running into strike pads, getting basic shapes right – think about what you usually see during the warm ups on match day and it was done today.
With about 15-20 minutes of pre-match ritual completed, the players took up their match positions, the clock was set to 30 minutes and the ref blew the whistle. Game on!
The opening exchanges featured great hands from a number of forwards as they worked into executing their shapes. Nathan Brown laid on a pearler which sent Tim Mannah charging through the middle of the ruck, and Mannah followed this up with a collection of bullocking runs.
There would ultimately be some alternating between the teams (not interchanging) with the forwards, but with first grade halves calling the shots, it wasn’t long before the Blues began to assert their dominance.
Most backline shifts looked to challenge the Gold defence, yet it was a controversial call from the referee which awarded the first try to Michael Jennings. The play started with a shift to the right and a magnificent line run by Hayne. Cutting back infield, he collected a pass that was closer to his feet than his chest and burst into open space and was finally rounded up by the cover defence ten metres out.
Another shift, this time to the left, found Jennings on the outside of Niukore. In a remarkable ball and all tackle, the young Cook Island international appeared to strip the ball before Jennings could ground it, but the referee saw enough to award the try. There appeared to be surprise on the face of both players.
Hayne again featured in the next try. Hitting the ball at pace just inside the twenty, he had the defence back-pedalling as he charged towards the line. With the winger finally drawn in to make the tackle, a superbly timed pass found Hoffman who merely strolled over.
The next four-pointer, on the back of a dropped bomb, was far too soft for anyone’s liking. The Golds were in poor position next to the ruck, allowing Kaysa Pritchard to dive over from dummy half. The space next to the play-the-ball left Reed Mahoney with little chance of effecting a one-on-one tackle right on the line.
The final try of the first half again featured that man, Jarryd Hayne. Running off Mitch Moses, the “Plane” drew early interest from the defensive winger. This time the centre threw an early ball to Hoffman, and the winger again had a clear passage to the line.
There were a few positional changes in the backline during the second half, as players were rested or interchanged. This highlighted the versatility within the squad and the ability to cover injuries during a match. Will Smith featured heavily in these changes, playing wing, half and fullback at different times.
The half began poorly for the Blues through an unexpected try to the Gold’s Dane Aukafolau. After having to turn around to pick up an ill-directed pass to his wing, the big outside back took off on a diagonal run from just outside the 20 to plant the ball under the posts. The field literally opened up in front of him.
Only one more try was added in a second half in which the Blues controlled both territory and possession. Again it featured Hayne.
A perfectly timed pass again put Hoffman into the clear down the wing. As the fullback came across in cover, Mitch Moses loomed up in support to accept the ball and cross the line.
Jarryd Hayne – he was the epitome of restrained confidence in easily his best effort of the pre-season. He concluded the session with more conditioning work during the extras.
Josh Hoffman – classy, professional, fast. He’s underrated by quite a few fans and it baffles me as to why.
Mitch Moses – his combination with Norman is showing the benefit of having a pre-season together. He reads the play well and is an outstanding communicator.
Will Smith – seemed to play everywhere
Tim Mannah – ran great lines and often broke the first tackle.
Nathan Brown – a reminder of 2017 today.
Tepai Moeroa – imposed himself defensively.
Beau Scott – doesn’t understand the word restraint. Physically and verbally he was constantly in the game.
No prizes for guessing this – the play-the-ball.
There were at least 4 or 5 penalties, and this was from a single ref. The reality is, that a pocket referee watching the play-the-ball would have found more infringements.
The coaches had the squad practising their action during extras.
Next week, the preparations for the Newcastle trial begin.