Our 2020 Shute Shield grand finalists have been determined, with Gordon and Eastwood clashing in the first-grade season decider for the first time since 1976.
Last weekend’s penultimate round saw two Melbourne Rebels in action, with Charlie Abel’s Gordon clashing with Eastern Suburbs, while Lachie Anderson’s Eastwood faced Northern Suburbs on Sunday.
Following a dominant regular season campaign, the heavily favoured Highlanders found themselves trapped in a tense 3-all deadlock at the main break.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon at Pittwater Rugby Park, it was a frustrating opening half for the minor premiers and one which included their starting prop, Charlie Abel, being sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes, following a lifting tackle.
Chasing their first premiership since 1998, Gordon soon found themselves staring down the barrel of defeat, trailing 10-3 in the 50th minute, courtesy of Richard Woolf racing over for East’s first try of the game.
Minutes later, the underdogs looked set to extend their seven-point lead, as a Jack Maddocks dash found open space for Sam Shries, deep in the Gordon’s quarter, only for the backrower to be pulled down from behind by Gordon’s Charlie Abel, in a stirring defensive moment for the prop.
In a sudden shift of momentum, Gordon then went on to produce a breathtaking twenty-one-minute display of surging Shute Shield footy, running through three tries in enthralling fashion.
Through tries to Joey Walton, Ahmu Tuimalealiifano and Jack Dempsey, the league’s strongest attacking side overcome a stringy Easts’ defence and a strong mid-spring gust of rain, to record a stunning 25-points in the blink of an eye.
When the final whistle was blown, Gordon had run out 28-19 winners in a memorable semi-final victory and one instilling the Stags with an abundance of momentum heading into next week’s decider.
After a frustrating opening half, Rebel Charlie Abel would go on to play a crucial role in his side’s comeback win, recording a team-high 16 tackles in 70 minutes of playing time.
While adamant the job was not yet finished, Abel says he’s “extremely excited” for next week’s grand final and for the potential opportunity to be a part Gordon’s first premiership side in 22 years.
“The boys have been working hard all year for the opportunity to bring a premiership back to Gordon, because it’s been a long time for the club, so the team and our supporters are now just really excited to be back in the Grand Final,” said Abel.
Reflecting on his momentum swinging chase down of Sam Shries, Abel believed he was just in the “right place at the right time” – a typical response from the humble, hard-working prop.
“I was just trying to work as hard as I could off the ball and do all I could to defend the line.”
“I saw Maddocks break the line and I just chased hard to get involved somewhere and when the offload came to the inside I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The minor premiers will now face their North Shore neighbours, Eastwood, in Saturday’s season decider, after the Woods’ nail-biting 100-minute, 12-9 win over a gallant Northern Suburbs.
Despite Northern Suburbs making 35 more carries, 112 extra passes and running for more than 215 extra metres, four penalty goals from five-eighth Tane Edmed, saw Eastwood claim a miraculous victory in a game that needed an extra 20 minutes of overtime to determine a winner.
Melbourne’s Lachie Anderson was again one of his side’s hardest workers. Playing at outside-centre, Anderson completed 10 successful tackles in defence, along with 8 important carries in attack.
While Eastwood enter Saturday’s grand final as firm underdogs, the Woods will take great confidence from their narrow five-point loss to Gordon in the final round of the regular season earlier this month, in a game which showed the Woods have the talent and the playing style to perform against the competitions very best.
The 2020 Shute Shield Grand Final begins at 3PM (AEDT) Saturday, October 31 and is live on 7Two and 7plus.