Endeavour coach Dave Howlett had the metaphorical champagne on ice following his side’s spectacular attacking display in defeating heavyweights Matraville 24-12 at Allianz Stadium last Friday.
Heading into the match as massive underdogs, Endeavour stunned last year’s finalists with an audacious running game that sees the Shire school through to the semi-finals for the first time since 2009.
After running in five tries against Matraville, the school that has played in four of the last five grand finals, Howlett said his team was more than happy to accept the title of being the competition’s entertainers.
“We pride our teams on playing with a bit of flair and that’s what school footy’s all about," Howlett said.
“The boys get enough serious footy where they’ve got to stick to game plans and they’ve got to put their skill in the back pocket a little bit, so we try and pull out the champagne corks. We won’t be dying wondering."
With the game evenly poised at 8-6 midway through the second half, Endeavour’s 16-year-old five-ighth Jaden Clarke sparked two sensational tries in four minutes to blow Matraville out of the water.
The first came in the 32nd minute, when the Cronulla Sharks junior did it all himself, barging through four would-be tacklers in a bollocking 20 metre run to the try-line with the game in the balance.
Just four minutes later the Lake Cargelligo product was at it again, combining with Australian Schoolboys fullback and South Sydney Toyota Cup star Alex Johnston for a try that left the Endeavour contingent of the crowd screaming for more and the Matraville fans stunned.
Taking on the line from 40 metres out, Clarke grubbered through milliseconds before being tackled for a flying Johnston, who then lobbed the ball over Matraville fullback Sitiveni Moceidreke with a deft half-volley that Tim Cahill would have been proud of before regathering to score.
“I was just trying to support and the ball popped up there and I put it through," said Johnston, who also claimed man of the match honours.
"Everything happened really quick so I was lucky to pull it off, but it was a pretty sweet try.
“I played soccer for 10 years and I’m playing footy now… but some of the old skills came back to me I guess.”
As impressive as Endeavour’s attacking skills were though, it would all have been for nought without the tireless effort of their forward pack, which held out a number of attacking raids from a Matraville side that had scored 90 points in its first two competition games.
Crucial to this defensive effort were Sharks SG Ball pair Kurt Dillon and Jordan Bowles, who were inspirational in playing every minute of the match and making a number of last ditch tackles on their own line. Lock forward Bowles received just reward for his efforts when he crashed through for the second try of the match in the 14th minute, giving his side an 8-0 lead after laying on the first for second rower Shaun Lane with a beautiful pop pass just for four minutes earlier.
Matraville kept themselves in the match with tries to winger Daniel Smith and interchange forward Kaine Palmer, but coach Scott Murray admitted they were out-enthused and out classed by the Shire-based school.
“Today we came up against a team that was a bit more enthusiastic than us and a little bit more urgent, and they ended up doing all the little things that are so important in the game that little bit better than us,” said Murray, who also lamented his side’s lost opportunities in attack.
“We were just forcing that last pass when we had our chances and it just really showed a lack of patience with the football. Some of the things we were doing with the football it was frustrating to watch, we were forcing passes that were going to the opposition or to ground.”
Endeavour will now travel to Brisbane to face the winners of the Queensland quarterfinal between Keebra Park Sports High and Ignatius Park College, and are now just 100 minutes of football away from reliving the school’s glory days, when they won three consecutive competitions from 2004 to 2006.
Endeavour Sports High 24
(S Lane, J Bowles, J Clarke, A Johnston, B Anderson tries; N Brown, I Thompson goals)
Matraville Sports High 12
(D Smith, K Palmer tries; D Walker 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium