The 2018 Rugby Victoria Senior Grand Final day began unexpectedly with waterfront views.
Overnight torrential rain had bucketed down over RHL Sparks Reserve. Although, with many hands on deck early Saturday morning, the water was quickly dealt with and the sun made its first appearance of the day.
As the sun arrived so did the teams, with the Premiership Reserve Grand Final between Melbourne and Kiwi Hawthorn kicking off proceedings for the day.
The Melbourne side was favoured to take out the premiership as they had gone through the regular season with only one loss to their name. Despite this, a determined Kiwi Hawthorn outfit came to play and in the end were too strong for the unicorns, defeating the minor premiers 25 to 13.
Next up saw the highly-anticipated CFA Lindroth Cup match between Uni Panthers and Power House take place. The Uni Panthers came into the game with a lot of confidence after finishing the regular season on top of the table and going straight through to Grand Final after narrowly defeating Western Districts in the Major Semi-Final.
Power House on the other hand had taken the longer route, claiming a 2 point victory over Box Hill/Quins and a 1 point win over Western Districts. Both teams had a number of Super W representatives within their ranks that played influential roles as the game played out. The beginning of the game was a tough back and forth affair, with Uni Panthers the first to break the stalemate and cross the line. Power House then answered back in kind with one of their own meat pies. This back and forth on the scoreboard continued going into halftime, with Uni Panthers taking a narrow 17-14 lead into the break.
The second stanza brought with it the first rain shower of the day which seemed to favour Uni Panthers as they ran in a number of long range tries, including a 50m effort from Super W and Aon 7s star Tangata Tupou. Power House were unable to answer the rampant Uni Panthers outfit who went on to claim the 2018 CFA Lindroth Cup Grand Final 37-14. Rosalia Leumuava was named as Women of the Match after a dominant outing for the Premiers.
The 3rd Grade Grand Final was the next cab off the rank, with Melbourne easily accounting for Harlequins 44-7, in-turn claiming both the Minor and Major Premierships. Shortly after this match finished Melbourne Rugby Club claimed their second title for the day, with their Dewar Shield Reserves side also defeating a gallant Harlequins side 29-18.
In the Championship Grand Final, the undefeated Minor Premiers Shepparton squared off against Monash University, who had edged past Bendigo in the Preliminary Final. From the outset Shepparton took control of the game and never looked back, cruising to a comfortable Grand Final win 46-12.
The grudge match of the day came in the form of the Premiership Grand Final, where Eltham were looking to get the better of Kiwi Hawthorn, something they hadn’t done in the past two Grand Finals. That was to change in 2018. The game was a physical affair in the first half, with both teams not giving an inch. The only points in the half came from a Eltham converted try. There was high drama early in the second half as Eltham went down to 14 men for the rest of the half as a red card was issued. Instead of dropping their heads, the 14-men Eltham outfit stood up and came through with a memorable 18-5 win over their rivals.
Throughout these games the rain came and went, with periods of blustery winds and even hail streaming down at one point.This wild weather was quickly replaced with the afternoon sun moving into the highly-anticipated Brighton Renault Dewar Shield Grand Final between Melbourne and Harlequins.
These sides had met on three occasion throughout the 2018 season, with Melbourne claiming the 2 regular season wins and Harlequins getting the better of the Unicorns in the Major Semi Final 20-6. Both teams boasted a Melbourne Rebel each, with Esei Haangana playing for Melbourne and Richard Hardwick for Quins. There weren’t just Rebels on the field, with the hill filled with Melbourne Rebels players who had come down to witness the best Victorian Club Rugby had to offer. Sammy Talaki even tried his hand at commentary, lending his voice to the 2018 CFA Lindroth Cup Grand Final. Melbourne Rebels coaching staff were also on hand, with David Wessels a keen sideline observer.
As expected the Dewar Shield Grand Final was a brutal affair, with both teams throwing themselves at the opposition in a bid to secure the ball and accumulate some precious points in trying conditions. Melbourne opened the scoring, crossing in the corner after a number of strong pick and drives from the Melbourne forwards. Harlequins replied before the end of the half, with Sam Aolele scoring after an initial break made by Antonie Van Zyl put the Unicorns on the back foot.
The game was anyone’s going into the break, with Melbourne holding onto the lead after a successful penalty kick attempt. The Unicorns bolstered this lead early in the second half, crashing over the white chalk off the back of a dominant scrum 5 metres out from Harlequins try line. Harlequins stayed in touch with a number of successful penalty attempts from Peter Breen. Not long after snatching the lead from Melbourne, Quins doted the ball down in the corner with 20 minutes to go. Man of the Match Sione Tui had other ideas though, scoring a +60m plus try for Melbourne to wrestle back the lead from Harelquins.
Tense times ensued, with Melbourne losing a player to the bin for the last stanza of the game and in-turn having to defend their line from a determined and unrelenting Harlequins attack with 14 men. The last 10 minutes highlighted why Melbourne were the team to bit this year and Minor Premiers, with the Unicorns standing up when it mattered most and holding out till the bell, defending the last maul of the game just inches from their own try line. The full time whistle went and Melbourne were the 2018 Brighton Renault Dewar Shield Premiers.
Congratulations to all teams who competed in the day. A big thank you to Box Hill Rugby Club for hosting and all volunteers for assisting with the day. We look forward to doing it all again next year.