Harlequin has capped off a fantastic season, with the Minor Premiers claiming their seventh Dewar Shield premiership with a 29-26 win over Melbourne at Sparks Reserve, Box Hill.
Harlequin came into the match as clear favorites, with only two losses for the season, however strong late-season form late ensured Unicorns would put up a tough fight.
The match was mostly open and free flowing, with Justin Marsters scoring Harlequins first try of the afternoon after four minutes. Maradona Farao missed the conversion, and Melbourne skipper Chris Slade’s penalty attempt soon afterwards was also unsuccessful, hitting the upright.
In the moments following, a strong run down the wing from Slade saw Melbourne score their first try of the day. The post became a curse for Melbourne in the first half, with Slade once again striking it on his conversion attempt, leaving the score level at 5-5.
Harlequin regained the lead on the 20 minute mark with number eight Sione Taufa breaking away from the scrum to score, however Farao again missed the conversion attempt.
Melbourne was able to take the lead late in the first half with a try to Ben Jones, followed by the first successful conversion of the afternoon to Slade, however the outside centre missed a penalty attempt moments later.
Tim Emmery came closest to extending Melbourne’s advantage just before the break but was well thwarted in the corner, and the Unicorns took a 10-12 lead into half time.
After an even first half Harlequin controlled the second, with sustained bursts of fierce attack and consistently strong defence allowing them to secure the victory.
Slade missed another penalty attempt early in the second, and Harlequin responded by opening up the flood gates, with two tries in less than two minutes to Faroa and man of the match, Jack De Guingand. Former Wallaby Lloyd Johansson took over the kicking duties and successfully converted the second try, with Harlequin skipping out to a 22-12 lead.
Harlequin only took a few more minutes to score their third and final try of the afternoon, with backrower Taufa crossing the line for the second time. A successful conversion from Johansson put Harlequin out to a 29-12 lead.
Melbourne continued to push Harlequin’s defence late into the match, determined to work back into the game. The Unicorns were able to break Harlequin’s line twice late in the match, with a try to Andrew Stevenson on the hour mark, and a converted try for Emmery on the full time whistle was just reward. However it was a case of too little too late for the Unicorns, as they were defeated by three points.
The defeat was Melbourne’s second successive Grand Final defeat, last year going down to Moorabbin 30-24. The Unicorns have now played in every Dewar Shield grand final for the last five years, winning three premierships in a row between 2009 and 2011.
Harlequin and Melbourne also went head to head in the Premier Two Grand Final, with Harlequin taking a tight 31-29 victory.
Melbourne’s Premier Three team claimed their third grand final victory in a row, defeating Power House 36-18. Melbourne’s Women’s side also tasted premiership glory defeating Power House 22-16.
Power House took their only victory of the day in the Premier Four Division, with a comprehensive 27-0 win over Southern Districts.
In the Second Division, minor premiers Northern claimed the A Grade Premiership over Geelong 36-15. The Panthers could not achieve the same success in the B Grade, going down to Melton 32-27.
Bendigo caused an incredible upset in the Regional Grand Final, claiming their second Third Division Premiership in a row against Shepparton, 54-25. This was Shepparton’s first and only loss to a regional side in their inaugural year, with the Bulls dominating the competition in 2013.
As the curtain closes on the biggest year in the history of Rugby Union in Victoria, The Victorian Rugby Community alongside the Rebels would like to extend their thanks to the Box Hill Rugby Club for hosting the day, as well as all the clubs who participated in a great day of community rugby.
2014 is set to be another watershed year for Rugby in this state and the Dewar Shield. Following foundation shareholders transferring their shares to the Victorian Rugby Union in June this year, the Rebels and the VRU are now an integrated business, with the game of Rugby being developed and promoted throughout Victoria under the one brand, the Melbourne Rebels.
A series of community awards were presented by Victorian Rugby Union president Tim North and Melbourne Rebels players Eddie Aholelei and Cruze Ah-Nau at the completion of the Dewar Shield Grand Final. These awards celebrate the significant contributions that players, clubs and volunteers have made to Victorian Community Rugby throughout 2013.
Cowper Shield, Club Championship – Melbourne
VicRugby Volunteer of the Year – Brock Parker (Harlequin)
Coach of the Year – Ruhan Van Zyl (Harlequin)
Victorian Under 20s Player of the Year – Thomas Bohle (Harlequin)
Bob Banks Memorial Medal, Best Player in the Victorian State Team/Rebel Rising – Bill Valetini (Harlequin)
Leading Individual Points Scorer (Dewar Shield) – Martin Naufahu (Footscray, 108 points)
Leading Individual Try Scorer (Dewar Shield) – Sakaria Noa (Southern Districts, 15 tries)
2013 Dewar Shield Player of the Year – Junior Paila (Endeavour Hills, 25 votes)
Referee Gold Whistle – Matt Hall
Paul Gascoigne Medal for the Best Player in the Grand Final – Jack De Guingand
McCarthy Cup for Minor Premiers – Harlequin