Randwick go from strength to strength

Rupert Guinness

September 20, 2010

Randwick 29 Manly 25

RANDWICK will field one of their strongest sides in years for their Shute Shield semi-final against Eastwood, with four top-tier Wallabies returning to their squad, including captain Rocky Elsom.

Second-rower Mark Chisholm, utility back Kurtley Beale and winger Drew Mitchell are also expected to return for the Gallopping Greens for their game on Saturday at Woollahra Oval.

Randwick coach Mark Giacheri dropped the bombshell yesterday after his side produced a huge upset by beating Manly 29-25 in their elimination semi-final at T.G Millner Field - just one week after the Marlins thumped Randwick 39-7 at Coogee Oval.

Meanwhile, in next Sunday's second semi-final, Sydney University will play Southern Districts at University Oval No.1 after their 42-17 victory over Eastern Suburbs at Coogee Oval on Saturday.

Randwick's playing stocks had already been boosted ahead of yesterday's clash with Manly. The Galloping Greens welcomed back five players - four of them forwards - from the side that lost to the Marlins the previous week, including loosehead prop Sekope Kepu, hooker John Fonokalafi, No.6 Seilala Lam, No.8 Ben Mowen. The fifth player was Wallabies Tri Nations tourist and outside back Nick Cummins.

''Credit to Manly. They have been the form team all year and have had the best forward pack all year,'' Giacheri said. ''Our blokes coming in were a bit fresher. They [Manly] gave it all last week and our guys - Super 14 [level] players - came back fresher to negate their strength. At the end of the day our forwards got on top, which was key for the turnaround. Last week we just got belted up front.''

Giacheri is looking forward to injecting four Wallabies into his side next weekend.

''We would have liked to have had them [yesterday] ... we will just weigh up the team selections and see what fits,'' Giacheri said.

Randwick half-back and captain Patrick Phibbs believes the impact of the four Wallabies will be profound. Citing the impact of Berrick Barnes for Sydney University in their win over Easts on Saturday, Phibbs said: ''It's always a positive having a bit of depth in your squad and going off Sydney University and how they played having Berrick back, they are players who can make a difference.''

However, Randwick would not be on the cusp of a grand final berth were it not for the players who got them into Saturday's semi-final.

Five of them originated from second grade, and most of them will drop back for their Colin Caird Shield semi-final against Southern Districts on Saturday.

Giacheri also praised Phibbs for his role in Randwick's victory over Manly, whose loss came despite scoring three tries to two.

"There were a couple of key plays where we were under the pump and [Phibbs] was able to kick through, chase and put the pressure back on them," Giacheri said.

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