The Alltel Dewar Shield Round 8 Match of the Round will see Melbourne University host the in-form Harlequins at H.G. Smith Oval.
The last time these two teams met in Round 2, Melbourne University led at half-time because the Quins came storming home to record a nail-biting 10-point win.
Melbourne University could not repeat its Round 4 heroics last round, falling to the in-form Endeavor Hills 23-38.
While, Harlequins dispatched Box Hill in an ominous warning to the rest of the competition, coming away 64-3 victors at Holmesglen Reserve.
We caught up with both sides before their Round 8 clash to hear their thoughts on their sides preparations and what they believe the opposition will bring game day.
Harlequins First XV Captain Angus Arundel
Harlequins sit in third place with a 6-3 record, how do you feel the side has performed so far this season?
It’s been a case of us building into the season. The way we started probably wasn’t what we wanted, but the way we’ve built into the season has been really pleasing. We’ve had great luck with injuries and we’ve been able to get nice cohesion together and build the squad.
The team produced a dominant performance to defeat Box Hill last week. What did the team take away from the win?
Not to be cliche, but it was just doing the simple things well. We gave ourselves opportunities to attack when we got into the half, and then when we got into the 22 we made sure to execute.
The team has won five of the last six – with the last two wins of a combined 97 points. What do you think has been the key behind the sides form and what players have you been most impressed by over this stretch?
I think we’ve had a lot of play from our forward pack the last couple of weeks. Our defence, in particular, has picked up and I think that is building a great platform for us to transition and score some points from. Paris Dale, starting at 8, the last few weeks has really taken that with both hands. He has been a standout player with his ball carry as well as his work in defence and tackles.
In the last time the two teams met in Round 2, the Quins defeated Melbourne Uni by 10 points. What can the team take away from that performance?
That was a great game. It was really close. We hosted them here and they were leading us at half-time and it really came down to the wire in the last five minutes. I think if there’s anything to take from that is that it’s just going to be a close game again and we can’t wait to get over there.
What do you think Melbourne University will bring to the match-up and where do you think the match will be won and lost?
Maybe I’m biased, but they’ve got a great scum so that’s somewhere where we’ll have to be at our best. Around the set-piece they are excellent.
Melbourne University Head Coach Tom Lucas
Melbourne University sit in 7th place with a 3-6 record, how do you feel the side has performed so far this season?
I’m actually really happy with how we’ve performed. I think the win-loss ratio probably doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve been really happy with how competitive we’ve been with the squad that we’ve got. We are mostly a very young team, so I’m really happy with how we’ve gone so far. We are looking for a strong finish to the season.
The team has been very competitive all season, notching up wins against Endeavour Hills and Power House. What has been the focus for the team heading into the second half of the season?
With the way the table is at the moment, it’s still wide open. So, we are targeting at least half of the games we are playing throughout the rest of the year to be wins. That’s our target; if we can get to that then we are a pretty good shot at making finals. Week to week we are focused on getting those wins up.
The team lost to Endeavour Hills last week – after beating them in Round 4. What did the team takeaway from that performance?
Every game there is something to improve. I was pretty happy with the way we defended, our structures looked good but we just gave away way too many penalties. We’ll be working on that this week. Endeavour Hills are a very strong outfit so I’m not taking it as too hard a sign. We are definitely improving week to week, so we are looking to keep that up for this week.
What players have impressed you this season?
Shawn Ingle, our captain, is a really strong performer and leads from the front as flanker. I’ve been really happy with some of the young guys stepping up. Steven Ma’afu Ah-Chong at prop, Tom Herbst on a wing, and Juan Sixto at half-back. A young bunch of guys but really strong work ethic and really coachable.
Looking ahead to this weeks Dewar Shield Match of the Round against the Harlequins. The last time the two teams met was in Round 2 – with the Quins winning a tight contest at Holmesglen Reserve. Your side was leading that match at half-time – is there anything you can take away from that performance?
Absolutely, everything from that game we’ll be looking to repeat. We had really strong defence. Again, we gave away some silly penalties, which probably let them back in the game. That’s definitely a focus for this week. The Quins have really picked up their game in the back half of the season as well, so they’ll be a really tough opponent. We are just going to stick to our plan.
What do you think the Harlequins will bring to the match-up and where do you think the match will be won or lost?
They’ve got a lot of pace out wide and we know their set-piece is really strong. Obviously those areas are a focus for us this week. If we can take them on up-front with our set-piece and match that and hopefully get a few turnovers, that will unleash our backs out wide as well.
The Alltel Dewar Shield Match of the Round will be held at H.G. Smith Oval, K/O 3:15pm. Tune into Rugby Victoria’s Facebook page from 3pm to catch the live stream of the match.