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Play stopped in Shute Shield final due to social distancing concerns

After lengthy discussions during the week, a crowd of 5000 was permitted to watch the match, which Gordon ended up winning 28-8. It was their first Shute Shield title since 1998.

By full-time in the pouring rain, the Gordon faithful were on their feet, cheering their team home and it was impossible to split the large group up.

Wayne Pearce Hill at Leichhardt Oval during the Shute Shield final.

Wayne Pearce Hill at Leichhardt Oval during the Shute Shield final.Credit:Brook Mitchell

When the final whistle blew, Gordon supporters were unable to run onto the field, as has been a tradition in years gone by.

One fan tried his luck and jumped the fence but was grabbed by police and quickly escorted from the ground.

The earlier problem arose given the sheer size of the supporter groups and after a five-minute delay, play resumed to the relief of organisers and fans.

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Security and police kept a close eye on proceedings for the rest of the match as a tense battle ensued between two proud clubs.

In March, when COVID-19 brought a halt to all professional competitions, the future of community sport looked bleak.

The Shute Shield, the jewel in the crown of Australian club rugby, was no certainty to begin at all.

The financial toll on clubs was immense, given they rely significantly on gate takings and matchday profits. There were initial fears that merely half a dozen teams would be able to field first grade sides.

“I didn’t think we’d get here,” said Sydney Rugby Union boss Phil Parsons. “When we went into this, offices were shut down, we didn’t think our sponsors were going to make it and we weren’t sure if the clubs were going to make it. We’re here.

“It would have been very easy to pull the pin on it but we stuck to it. We thought we had six teams and ended up with 13. We invited Penrith and Newcastle in because we weren’t sure how many teams we had. They created great memories too. All in all it was quite a successful year.

“The season has been full of drama.”

A major thunderstorm before kick-off, and another during the latter stages of the game, threatened to spoil the occasion but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney was a keen onlooker in the stands, while a number of Wallabies squad members poked their heads in for a look before the third Bledisloe Cup match later in the day.

There was a sprinkling of Wallabies jerseys around the ground, with a number of fans making their way out to ANZ Stadium for the first Test match on Australian soil this year.

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