Thursday, March 15
Early morning arrival with billets at William Clarke College (WCC), and then away for the day. To everyone’s satisfaction, the planned Sydney tour is replaced by a visit to famous Bondi Beach.
Given the blue skies, sunshine and 31 C temperatures, this tourist destination proves to be an idyllic spot. The swimming and body surfing even become a post-match recovery session of sorts.
Lunch is on the pier, before a return to the bus and transport back to WCC for a final evening with host families.
Friday, March 16
An 8:30 am start sees the SMUS contingent depart WCC. Thanks so much to WCC Rugby master Ben Carr and all the host families for a thoroughly enjoyable visit!
There is one short detour for the tour party before travelling inland to the Blue Mountains and the town of Bathurst. The tour party travels inland on the Great Western Highway. Before reaching the town of Bathurst, some 200 km west of Sydney, the team motors through the famous Blue Mountains, for decades one of Australia’s most popular vacation spots.
Scenic World provides a whole series of spectacular itineraries, starting with a journey on a 52-degree incline on the steepest rail line in the world. Incredible views of the Jamison Valley may then be followed by various hikes through the ancient rain forest and historical mining exhibits. The return up top, via the Cableway, which glides back up the escarpment and by Orphan Rock, is also breathtaking.
To cap the afternoon, a trip on the Skyway has us both gazing through the gondola’s glass floor some 200 m down to the valley floor, and also floating between the cliff tops and past Katoomba Falls. And, of course, in the distance lie the famous Three Sisters rock formation.
Dinner time sees the tour party finally reach Bathurst, the oldest inland town in the country and site of the first cabinet meeting of the Australian government.
All Saints’ College is a sprawling, rural campus on the outskirts of town. There is already a strong connection to SMUS, as we visited back in 2010, and All Saints’ toured B.C. in 2012. With the series tied at 1-1, both teams will be keen for a victory in the rubber match.
The tour party is staying in Britten House, the most famous building on campus. After a quick dinner, both the Senior and Junior squads head out to the field for a short practice.
Saturday, March 17
Stifling heat (35 C) and humidity requires an early start to play, with the Juniors kicking off at 10:00 am and the Seniors to follow immediately after. Each game will be split into three 20 minute periods, with 7 minute breaks between, in order to combat the elements.
SMUS 29 All Saints’ College 28
Not surprisingly, given the scoreline, this contest was an absolute thriller and right on a knife edge for the full 60 minutes. The hosts featured an aggressive pack, and a very talented 10-12 combination. The centre in particular showed his worth early on, carving a neat arc to round the defence from halfway.
SMUS slowly came back in to the game, with Josh Mao registering the first of his brace of tries, before Duke Curran also crossed to provide a 10-7 lead.
However, All Saints’ replied almost immediately, with the centre again over in the right corner. 14-10!
Two wonderful cover tackles by Max Nishima then helped keep SMUS in touch, with Mao rewarding this defensive work by plowing over close to the posts. 17-14 SMUS.
With the hosts tiring somewhat, a lovely piece of interplay between Viny Dhillon, Samson Yan and Trent Curran almost put Jack Batoni away. But the try went a begging, with All Saints’ then counterattacking smartly to regain the lead at 21-17.
With the game entering the final six minutes, a long diagonal run by Nick Strandberg provided the position from which Nishima scored. Then, Will Kinahan found a seam close to the ruck, duly converting his own try. 29-21 and job done, or so it seemed.
All Saints’ instead gained possession from the kickoff, with the right wing roaring down field and then around under the posts. 29-28 with time still for one last passage of play. The hosts again looked dangerous, but a knock on ended this final attack.
Mao and Nishima played outstandingly well from start to finish, with Tristan Kuhn and James Scott solid in the midfield. Allistair Catto did a fine job throwing in and on restarts.
1st XV game
SMUS 22 All Saints’/St. Stanislaus XV 5
The hosts, with a number of players unavailable due to exams, partnered with local rivals St. Stanislaus. This big, physical and aggressive combination showed good cohesion as well, cashing in on some early pressure to score in the left-hand corner and lead 5-0. The rest of the opening period was not much better for SMUS, with the team starved of possession and forced to defend for long periods. Still, somehow the line remained intact, with some tactical changes at the break hopefully able to up the tempo of the game.
With Ephraim Hsu taking quick taps from PKs, and with a wonky lineout finally sorted, SMUS came back in to the game quickly, as Owen Weismiller took a wonderful line to streak untouched for a fine try. Luke Rainier-Pope added the extras, with Hsu then extending the lead to 12-5 with a weaving run from a broken set play. With tails up, the players continued to apply pressure. Kiikpoye Ode went over in the corner only to be ruled in touch a meter short of the line, while Simon Gilmour also came close.
The best score of the match came with 10 minutes to play, when the back three of Duc Khuong, Finn Goodyear and Adam Gheis counterattacked well down the left wing, before the latter delivered a wonderful inside pass to the supporting Matt Hagkull. With Rainier-Pope’s conversion, the 19-5 lead looked safe enough, with a penalty goal right at the buzzer the icing on the cake.
In a fine overall team effort, Lucas Bosley played very soundly at fly half, while Rhys Williams, Mohammed Al Abdul Salam and Ranon Ng contributed well in a rejigged forward pack. Hagkull and Rainier-Pope, well supported by Weismiller and Gilmour, were rock solid in defence.
A post game BBQ followed, next to the All Saints’ swimming pool, with the players from both teams more than happy to take a plunge in the refreshing water to beat the heat.
The evening involves a visit to the famous Mount Panorama race course, site of the annual Bathurst 1000, one of Australia’s most celebrated motor races. When not race season in September/October, the 6.2-km course is considered a public road. We travel the hilly course, complete with long straightaways, serious elevation changes, chicanes and very tight corners. Even better was seeing, up close, numerous kangaroos and also sampling the delights of Annie’s Ice Cream Shoppe, surely one of the best anywhere on the planet!
Before bed, the team split into four groups for a 10-pin bowling challenge. Standing anywhere near a gutter would have been downright dangerous, such were the number of gutter balls, but several players did show decent form. In the end, Adam Moulden proved the most successful!
It was a happy crew that headed back to the college. St. Patricks Day festivities were in full swing back in town, but it was time for sleep.
A big travel day awaits, some 350 km from Bathurst to Canberra. St. Edmunds, one of the power schools in Australian rugby, will be our hosts.