Ian Evans
Sydney University lost their first match of the 2008 Shute Shield season on Saturday to a determined Randwick side that led the match for just three minutes yet managed to run away with a 26-23 victory at Coogee Oval.
University’s undefeated record this year was put to rest in the dying minutes by a successful penalty conversion from Randwick replacement Toby Browne.
The result was a departure from many of University’s performances this year, where the Blue and Golds have come from behind to defeat their opposition. This time, it was Randwick who finished the strongest and sent a strong sign to the rest of the competition that University are not invincible.
The game commenced in wonderful conditions and with the Galloping Greens on the attack. In just the seventh minute, hooker Antonio Halangahu converted a penalty goal to put Randwick up 3-0.
However, the Students bounced back two minutes later when halfback Nick Haydon chose the blindside route from the scrum and crossed the line for the game’s first try.
Daniel Halangahu, brother of Antonio, made no mistake with the kick and University led 7-3. The University centre, recently named in the Australia A squad to tour Japan and Samoa, added another penalty in the 21st minute to extend the lead to 10-3.
However, a successful penalty conversion just two minutes later to the Greens took the score to 10-6 and it was game on once again.
Randwick received a massive blow in the 30th minute when Brumbies number eight Stephen Hoiles left the field with a rib injury.
A short time later, Daniel Halangahu was rewarded with a penalty kick but failed to convert. University continued their assault on Randwick’s line but the Greens defended gallantly in the closing stages of the first half.
But disaster struck for Randwick when a Patrick Phibbs kick was charged down and University moved the ball quickly and efficiently to the left, rewarded Brumbies centre Leo Afeaki with a great try.
It wasn’t the greatest of afternoons for Phibbs, whose earlier error was followed by a yellow card for a clear holding infringement. Daniel Halangahu converted the penalty and University went into the break with a 17-6 lead. And the Students could also look forward to a one-man advantage for the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Randwick were dealt another blow when Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu could not return to the paddock for the second half. But any advantage University may have had was negated when inspirational skipper Tim Davidson was forced off the field with severe concussion.
The Students were unable to extend their lead while Phibbs was on the field, and in the last play before the Brumbies No.9 returned from the sin bin, Randwick were held up next to the upright.
However, a scrum win and a penalty later, Lotu Taukeiaho crashed over for Randwick while another advantage was being played. While the conversion was being taken University flanker Jono Jenkins was sin binned for a deliberate infringement despite Randwick eventually scoring the try.
Antonio Halangahu kept his perfect conversion record, closing the gap to 13-17 and the Galloping Greens now had the one-man advantage in the 54th minute.
Soon after Randwick conceded a penalty and the successful kick took the margin to a converted try. Daniel Halangahu added another penalty in the 60th minute and Sydney University held a 23-13 lead.
The Wicks lost their third Super 14 player when Josh Valentine left the field, however the home side dug deep and when Metui Maile scored in the 68th minute the margin was back to five.
The Randwick surge continued and Phibbs scored in the corner following a driving maul from the lineout. Antonio Halangahu once again converted and with five minutes to play the score was 23-all.
Randwick dominated field position in the closing stages, and with two minutes remaining University conceded a penalty right in front of the sticks. Replacement back Toby Browne converted the penalty to give the hosts the lead for the first time in the match.
A scuffle ensued in the final ruck of the game which continued after the full-time siren had sounded. Despite the sour ending, Randwick emerged victorious after handing Sydney University their first defeat of the season.
Randwick 26 (Lotu Taukeiaho, Metui Maile, Patrick Phibbs tries; Antonio Halangahu 2 pens, con, Toby Browne pen) d Sydney University 23 (Nick Haydon, Leo Afeaki tries; Daniel Halangahu 3 pens, 2 cons) at Coogee Oval. Half-time Sydney University 17-6: Referee: Damien Mitchelmore.