ARMIDALE’S Benji Marshall was so impressive in the State Rugby Knockout final yesterday that he was awarded Player of the Final despite being on the losing side as Ben Venue went down to Newport 22-7.
Coach Andrew Watson assembled a side earlier in the year made up of a few rugby and rugby league players mixed with kids who play soccer, hockey and tennis, and put together a rugby side to enter the PSSA Knockout.
He never imagined he would be in Sylvania a few months later watching the boys cruise to a semi-final win and grand final berth.
Ben Venue played its way through the zone and regional sides first, learning as it went and shaping it game.
On Wednesday, the boys took on John Warby Public School in the semi-final.
The Western Sydney school easily outsized Ben Venue, who had to play a smarter game.
“We moved them around a lot and tired out their big boys,” Watson said.
“Our forwards really stood up in the second half though and matched them.”
A dominant display saw Ben Venue only let one try in as it booked a final spot with a 28-5 victory.
Winger Jacob Betts finished well, to pick up two tries.
The final was a different game, played against a very well-drilled side very familiar with each other’s game.
“It was a very close game,” Watson said.
“We were held up a few times in the first half but they deserved to win.”
Marshall had an enormous presence on the field in both attack and defence.
“He was amazing,” Watson said.
With devastating ball running and punishing defence on the fringes and cover, Marshall stood out in a losing side and deserved his award.
Ben Murphy also got a mention from the coach for his games along the way as well as the finals.
It was a big sporting week for the small school, with the girls’ hockey side also booking a spot in the finals series in Narellan next month.
After it too went through the zone and region, the side made the trip to Grafton to face Westlawn Public School.
Westlawn scored first against the run of play, despite Ben Venue controlling most of the game according to coach Sue Lye.
Ben Venue was getting a lot of opportunities and hit back to go into the sheds drawn at 1-1.
A nailbiting second half was played end to end, although neither side could find that final pass or shot.
But with ten minutes to go, Ben Venue scored a good goal and then hung on for the win.
The side will go to Narellan for the finals on September 9. So far, the only other side through is Parkes Public.