NSW Country Rugby Union

Cockatoos Retain Maher Ross Cup

Cockatoos Retain Maher Ross Cup

The NSW Country Cockatoos have retained the Maher/Ross Cup with an emphatic 40 points to 7 victory over Sydney Suburban at Camden Rugby Park last weekend.

Played in sunny conditions on a premier surface, the match was primed for the Cockatoos to show their fast-paced game plan and fatigue the opposition.

With 14 Cockatoo debutants, many thought going into the match that the Sydney team would have too much class and experience taking the cup back from country. However, this wasn’t to be the case with the Cockatoos dominating the match from the outset.

Led by inspirational captain Paul Tuala, the Cockatoos forward back steamed into action and before long were dominating at the ruck, lineout and scrum. This allowed the slick Cockatoos backline good space and allowed the team to have good field position.

In the 15th minute Tuala used his strength from the back of a ruck near the Sydney try line to plant the ball down. Fullback Jack Arthur converted and the Cockatoos led

The Sydney side tried to rally from the ensuing restart but costly mistakes with drop balls allowed the Cockatoos to regain possession. A clever chip kick over the defensive line by fly half Grant Knight was regathered before the ball was shifted to the right side of the field where centre Pat Keen broke into the backfield and raced away to score under the posts. Arthur converted for a 14-nil lead.

By this stage fatigue had well and truly set in with the Sydney side as from the restart they again made mistakes and allowed the Cockatoos to assert their attack back in the Sydney 22. It wasn’t long before prop Kevin McNamara made a barnstorming run to cross the line for the Cockatoos third try. Arthur missed the conversion and the score remained at 19-nil.

In the 25th minute Cockatoos fly-half Grant Knight received a yellow card for a repeated team infringement and the Cockatoos were playing with 14. While the crowd were anticipating a Sydney resurgence it didn’t happen and the Cockatoos defended well to nullify any attacking raid Sydney tried. 

With five minutes to go in the first half Knight was back on the field and it was all
Cockatoos. Sydney were being outplayed all over the park and it was prop Andy Papworth the next to score from clever forward play close to the line. Arthur converted to send the Cockatoos to the break leading 26-nil.

At the half time huddle Cockatoos coach Matt Thomas praised the work of his team.
“They’ll get some energy back and come out firing” he said. “We need to hold them for the first ten minutes and they will fatigue again” he said. “That is when we take the game to another level of speed.”

The Cockatoos took this advice and delivered it to perfection. In the 52nd minute centre Andrew West crossed for the Cockatoos fifth try and with Arthur’s conversion the result appeared comfortable at 33-nil.

Thomas then went to his bench to keep the pace of the game up and finish the match off.
The Sydney side were rallying and chancing their arm by this stage to get on the score sheet. A backline move to the left side of the field saw the Cockatoos defence tested. Knight raced out of the line and almost took an intercept however the referee didn’t see it that way and ruled a deliberate knock down. Knight received his second yellow card and that was his afternoon over. The Cockatoos would see this one out playing a man down.

Sydney were quick to respond and after several attacking phases close to the Cockatoos line crossed for a try which was converted. The score was 33-7 with 20 minutes to play.

The Cockatoos needed to respond and it was captain Paul Tuala and No. 8 Travis Brooke who led from the front with good line speed in defence and continually contesting at the breakdown. The fresh Cockatoos off the bench also played their part in ensuring the Cockatoos did not give Sydney a chance of more points.

In the 74th minute the Cockatoos crossed for another try to Pat Keen after smart lead up play by winger Sirelli Bainivalu. Arthur converted and the Cockatoos led 40-7 which was the full-time score.

Following the match a battle worn Paul Tuala received the Maher/Ross cup which NSW Country have now won four times and two years in succession. The Cockatoos side were jubilant in victory with stand-out performances from Tuala, Keen and Travis Brooke who was named players player.

The Cockatoos next match is on Saturday 17 June against ACT Provincial in Canberra with the final match against Queensland Country in Newcastle on Saturday 1 July.

NSW Country Cockatoos 40
Tries: Pat Keen (2), Paul Tuala, Kevin McNamara, Andy Papworth, Andrew West
Conversions: Jack Arthur (5)


Sydney Suburban 7