28.04.2008 – Graham Croker

A strong first-half defensive effort from Sydney University paved the way for a resounding 38-16 win over Eastern Suburbs in their Round 5 clash at University Oval on Saturday.

With just 29 per cent of possession in the opening 40 minutes, the Students made 110 tackles to 43 to restrict the visitors to two tries and a 16-5 lead at the break.

Sydney University then dominated the second half in a five-try shut-out to maintain their unbeaten run in 2008 and an unbeaten home-ground run since a first round loss to Gordon in 2004.

The hosts had good performers across the park, but it was the scrum that once again paved the way with another dominant performance that might have yielded a push-over try but for some strange adjudicating.

With Nathan Trist still on the injured list, the University called up Jacob Taylor for his First Grade debut at fullback. Aside from one dropped ball, Taylor, a Colt from 2007, handled the duties well. Along with Eastern Suburbs custodian Gavin Debartolo, he is one of the few kickers going around who employs the torpedo to effect.

Competing on a heavy ground and against a big pack, halfback Nick Haydon was recalled in favour of Nathan Sievert at the scrumbase and although continually hampered by loose forwards at the breakdown, he kept a regular supply of possession to a backline that moved the ball to the perimeters and kept kicking to a minimum.

Easts set up camp in the University quarter from the outset, but 10 minutes of assault produced a solitary penalty goal from Debartolo.

When the Students finally gained possession for one of only two sorties over halfway in the first half, they made their intentions clear with a grand team try.

Number eight Tim Davidson, winger Lachlan Rosengreen , five-eighth Dan Kelly, prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Haydon and Taylor handled in a 50-metre break down the left of the park. Quick ball from the breakdown saw play shifted to the right, with Haydon and flanker Pat McCutcheon combining to send flanker Jono Jenkins over in the corner. Halangahu’s conversion attempt hit an upright and bounced away.

Easts were immediately back on the attack when the hosts mangled the restart, presenting Debartolo with another penalty and a 6-5 lead.

With 71 per cent of possession Easts continued to pound the University defensive line, which finally ran out of numbers in the 27th minute when Easts’ captain Tom Egan cruised up the blind-side of a ruck to send winger Afusipa Taumoepeau over in the corner.

The visitors repeated the dose with a similar try three minutes later, when second-rower Matt McGann found space to send Taumoepeau over for his second five-pointer. Debartolo missed both conversion attempts and a penalty goal attempt on half-time, but his team went to the sheds with their tails up.

Those same tails were dragging on the ground 40 minutes later after the Students shifted into another gear and ran in five tries. It could have been seven. Halangahu was dragged down centimetres short of the line a minute after the restart. Two five-metre scrums resulted and the Students attempted push-over tries from both only to be thwarted by Easts players disengaging from the contest and hampering Davidson and Haydon at the back of the University scrum. To add insult, the visitors were awarded a penalty.

Some justice was restored minutes later when Easts’ flanker Ed Brenac was sin-binned for repeated infringements at the breakdown. While he was off, the hosts ran in three tries; the first when Davidson peeled off a scrum to send Haydon over, despite a swinging arm from Taumoepeau that connected but went undetected.

Yanuyanutawa scored the first of a brace when Kelly and prop Laurie Weeks sent replacement flanker Jone Tawake on a surge. When tackled, he off-loaded to the smiling Yanuyanutawa, who cruised over in good position for Halangahu to convert into a 17-16 lead.

The lead was stretched to 24-16 in the 56th minute when winger Mitch Inman skirted down the right touchline and found Davidson in support. Another surge from Weeks took play to the line and Haydon finished off the movement with a try under the posts for the bonus point.

The Students’ fifth try was a spectacular effort, with second-rower Ben MacCalman taking the blind-side route to send Yanuyanutawa on a 40-metre run up the left touchline to score in the corner. While many thought the Education Department buildings were in danger of demolition, the big prop had the presence of mind to take down the spinnaker in time to pull up inside the oval. Halangahu rewarded the effort with a touchline conversion.

The blindside was again the preferred route for the host’s final try, initiated by Haydon and finished by Rosengreen, who had plenty of traffic to beat on the way to the line.

Interviewed on ABC TV after the game, Davidson said the young University side should benefit from weathering two tough matches in two weeks. “Those grinding matches will do us the world of good,” he said.

“The few times we had the ball in the first half we made inroads and scored a try, so we were confident we could score points despite being behind at half-time. It was just a matter of getting some possession and holding on to it.”

Haydon, the other senior statesman in the winning side, was full of praise for the pack. “They gave us some good go-forward, allowing us to put some phases together in the second half,” he said. “Jerry (Yanuyanutawa) was well rewarded. He tries hard at training during the week.”

Halangahu was insightful in his interview. Normally a five-eighth or fullback, he said he was finding his way at No.12 but would play anywhere for the benefit of the team.

“We kept our composure after the break and didn’t resort to playing catch-up football,” he said. “That meant keeping the ball in hand and not kicking when coming out of our own half.”

Sydney University 38 (Jerry Yanuyanutawa 2, Nick Haydon 2, Jono Jenkins, Lachlan Rosengreen tries; Daniel Halangahu 4 goals) d Eastern Suburbs 16 (Afusipa Taumoepeau 2 tries; Gavin Debartolo 2 pen goals).

In the lower grades, Eastes triumphed 32-12 in Second Grade, while Thirds and Fourths were postponed to Tuesday night.

The Colts kept their unbeaten season intact, with Firsts scoring four tries in a 32-3 win over Easts; Seconds winning 13-5 and Thirds winning 12-5.