The next generation of Waratahs stars have stepped up to secure the U16 and U19s National Championships
Junior Wallaby Jack Bowen delivered a masterclass to guide the side to a 44-31 victory in the U19 Final, adding to the stacked playmaker depth at the club with a player-of-the-match performance.
For a considerable period, it looked like his opposite number Harry McLaughlin-Phillips would run away with the honour as the Reds started strong.
He was assisted by some moments of magic from fullback Matthew Brice as the Noosa product latched onto a great looping ball from Willem Johnstone to open the scoring for the Reds. Brice then leapt high to collect the restart and broke the Waratahs line only to be taken out by his opposite number Jack Matthews.
This reduced the hosts to 13 after back-rower Sam Allsopp was binned for one too many penalties on their line before Brice’s opener, allowing McLaughlin-Phillips to dissect the defence and put Jackson Connelly over in the corner for a 14-5 lead.
The Waratahs refused to panic down two players and actually turned it into a momentum shift in their favour. They outscored the Reds 10-5 in the period with Bowen slicing through the line to put Aaron Dimovitch over to put them back in front.
An inside ball to Jamie Clark extended the advantage to the hosts as they took a 22-14 lead into the break.
Bowen then put Tom Morrison into space with a gutsy ball at the line as the Waratahs threatened to run away with the final.
The Reds refused to back down and eventually, their forwards burrowed over through Angus Ward.
A perfect ball from Taj Annan found Jarrod Homan in the corner before the centre kicked them in front with 20 to go.
Needing a spark, the Waratahs pack stood up to force a crucial scrum penalty with the game in the balance. This put the Reds on the back foot, leading to Annan receiving a yellow for a professional foul.
Two minutes later, Bowen caught the visitors short for numbers with his third try assist, delivering the ball on the spot for Dimovitch’s second try and the lead.
Hayden Maher sealed the win with seven minutes to go as the Waratahs spread the bad and found space, with an unselfish move from Jackson Ropata putting his flanker over to seal the win
As for the U16s, the likes of lock Zion Poitaha and fullback Mitchell Woods announced themselves on the big stage for the NSW side as they produced a dominant 40-10 victory
Poitaha was a menace in all aspects of the game, bullying the Reds in the wet conditions as he earned player of the match.
The Waverley product was denied a try inside two minutes after a charge down but couldn’t minutes later as he shrugged off defenders and stepped over the line from a trick lineout play.
He continued to make his presence felt at the breakdown and powered the Waratahs over the line on countless occasions.
The hosts took advantage of the rolling subs as all six front-rowers interchanged nicely to overpower their counterparts across the park.
This allowed the likes of Woods and winger Charlie Poynton to pick apart the Reds’ defence, with the fullback producing a great individual piece of brilliance to score their second try, slipping past two defenders after getting the ball on the halfway line.
Backrower Ollie Aboud was rewarded for their Waratahs’ pack dominance, diving over for a double to take a commanding 28-3 lead at the break.
Woods turned playmaker after the break, skipping through the line and floating the ball for captain Marshall Le Maitre to dive in under the posts.
The Reds continued to fight valiantly and a yellow card to Poitaha provided the opening for their rolling maul to barge over via Ewald Kruger.
In the end, the Waratahs were a class above and deserved the dominant victory, taking out of the inaugural title.
“Really proud of all the boys and everyone that put in the effort to make this work,” skipper Le Maitre said on the competition
“(The U16s comp) is a really attractive prospect and all the boys get around it, it’s a great initiative for Rugby.”