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Sydney Uni Lions stand alone as the only undefeated team in Gridiron NSW after a rousing 68-12 victory over the previously unbeaten Northwestern Predators at Pennant Hills Park on Saturday night.

The win puts the Lions in the box seat to secure the top seed for the playoffs and keeps alive their bid for an undefeated season.

However, the Lions did not have it all their own way against the Predators. Indeed, the Lions fell behind for the first time this season after failing to draw the Predators offside and turning the ball over on downs while attempting to convert on a 4th down play in their own half.

The Predators grabbed the chance and took a shot at the end zone. While the Lions had good coverage on the play, the Predators’ receiver won the wrestle for the ball to claim the opening score and a 6-0 lead.

The lead did not last long. Shaken out of its slumber, the Lions’ offence powered down the field on the back of strong running by Alex Watson (#40), with Quarterback Kiernan Dorney (#11) taking an option run play in for an answering score. A successful PAT by Liam Erby (#17) gave the Lions a 7-6 lead.

The Lions repeated the dose on its next possession. After the Predators had been forced to punt without gaining a yard, Watson ripped off runs of seven, 17 and 21 yards to bring the Lions into scoring range.

This time Dorney found receiver Sam Darcy (#84) on an eight yard touchdown pass to push the score out to 14-6.

That was the score at half-time, with neither team able to execute on offence with the consistency required to take control of the game.

It was a different story after halftime. The Lions scored a touchdown on every one of their eight possessions after the break to run away with the game. The Lions’ offensive linemen, Brad McManus (#77), Justin Schnurstein (#61), Alex Davies (#55), Luke Dickson (#78), Tsuyoshi Kittaka (#62), Elliot Mills-Conolly (#73), Marton Perez (#57) and Carl Ellis (#75), took control of the line of scrimmage and did not let go.

The running backs ran wild. Alex Watson finished with a career high 238 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, while freshmen running back Abdul Kadir showed his gift for open field running with 106 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries.

The passing game was the perfect complement to this dominant running attack, with Victor Martin (#86), Andrew Smart (#29) and Sam Darcy (#84) all holding at least five catches each from Dorney, who finished with 21 completions from 31 attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns. In all, the Lions gained 534 yards on offence.

Naturally, this offensive firepower was made all the more decisive by the blanket thrown over the Predators by the Lions’ defence. The Predators were limited to only 36 net yards rushing on 27 carries and completed only 12 of 33 pass attempts for the game.

The defensive line of Fady Aoun (#79), Michael Rigney (#95), Chady Aoun (#54), Martin Balada (#74), Bola Labulo (#53) and Scott Thompson (#38) dominated at the point of attack, with Rigney (six tackles, one for loss, one sack, one fumble caused) and Labulo (six tackles, three for loss) leading the way.

In the defensive backfield, captain Nick Olive (#22) led the team in tackles (eight tackles), with (#9) Keenan Mackett (five tackles, one interception), (#4) Kevin Trinh (one interception, two PBUs), (#28) Suren Wickramasinghe (two tackles, two PBUs), (#30) John Tamanivalu (four tackles) and (#19) Stuart Olive (four tackles, one fumble recovery) all making key contributions.

In a game with three phases, it should also be noted that the Lions made every PAT, with Liam Erby (#17) kicking two from two and Victor Martin (#85) six from six, while Erby launched the season’s longest punt at 62 net yards. The kick-off coverage unit was also sound, restricting the return yardage on the smaller field.

The Lions now get to rest up during their bye week before heading into their final regular season games with a match-up against the Central Coast Sharks on November 7 at Craik Park, Austral, kickoff at 3pm.

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