30.06.2008 – Graham Croker

Despite a below par performance, Sydney University maintained their outright lead of the Shute Shield with a nail-biting 25-20 win over a determined West Harbour at University No.1 Oval on Saturday.

After 13 rounds, the Students head the table on 56 points, with Gordon (53), Randwick (47), West Harbour (44), Eastwood (40) and Warringah (38) making up the top six.

Saturday’s effort was a mixed bag from Sydney University, who trailed 17-15 at the break and left some nervous supporters on the edge of their seats as they took some strange options in the closing minutes in holding on to win.

Perhaps the strangest option came with two minutes left on the clock when five-eighth Dan Kelly unleashed a bomb from inside his own quarter, giving West Harbour fullback Ben Martin the chance to counter attack. The former Sydney University custodian did just that and two phases later flanker James King almost scored in the corner. It was that close.

Despite that lapse in concentration, Kelly played a large part in the win, with two tries from 20-metre snipes to go with two conversions and two penalty goals for a 20-point haul.

The Students took an early 10-nil lead from a penalty goal and a converted try that came off the back of a three phase assault. Outside-centre Leo Afeaki, fullback Lachlan Mitchell, hooker Nathan Charles and prop Laurie Weeks combined on the first phase that was continued by inside-centre Mitch Inman, before Kelly jinked through the defence to score under the posts. It was clinical, but unfortunately similar phases invariably broke down through bad handling, indecision or turn-overs at the breakdown.

The Pirates reduced the margin to 10-7 in the 10th minute when inside-centre Lester Salanoa chipped over the defensive line and watched on as Martin regathered and sent King over under the posts for Martin to convert.

The visitors controlled possession and territory for the next 10 minutes and took the lead when busy halfback Steve Massey took a quick tap from a penalty 30 metres out and fired a long pass to winger John Sinisa, who sent Salanoa over in the corner. Martin’s sideline conversion found the mark for a 14-10 scoreline.

They might have scored again soon after when Martin sent King on a long run down the left flank. Mitchell’s try-saving tackle proved to be a game-saver in the final wash-up.

The Students regained the lead in freakish fashion when a dropped ball from Salanoa was toed ahead by Kelly. Young second-rower David Fungalei led the charge, regained possession and sprinted 30 metres to score for a 15-14 advantage.

But the lead was short-lived when Martin slotted a penalty from near touch for a 17-15 lead in the 35th minute. Kelly almost regained the lead for the Students a minute before the break when he chipped ahead on the back of a three-phase passage but wasn’t favoured with a good bounce.

As the scoreline indicates, it had been an even tussle with both backlines chancing their arm and the University scrum holding a slight ascendency.

Despite messing up the restart, the Students controlled possession and territory for the early part of the second half and regained the lead in the 47th minute through a Kelly try after good lead-up work from prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa, flanker Jono Jenkins and number eight Tim Davidson. Kelly’s conversion put the hosts in front 22-17 but they had another half-hour to maintain the advantage. Bad passing, dropped ball and some wayward kicking made it a very long 30 minutes.

Wests hit back courtesy of Massey, who sent King close to the line. And a penalty attempt from Martin failed to level the scores.

Having weathered the storm, strong runs from winger Ed Jenkins and his brother Jono, who dummied his way through the defence, kept the Students on even terms.

Wests upped the ante in the closing 10 minutes and controlled possession with two turn-overs and a lineout steal, but the University defence kept their line intact. Another Jono Jenkins bust put them in scoring position and with five minutes remaining Kelly slotted a penalty goal for a 25-20 advantage.

Wayward kicks from Inman and Kelly allowed the Pirates to pressure the University line in the closing stages and the final siren was a welcome sound for the hosts. It should be an interesting tussle should they meet again in the finals, hopefully with a penalty count better than the 14-7 effort that favoured the visitors on Saturday.

West Harbour had good performers in captain Martin, flankers King and Mark Porpiglia, halves Massey and Dave Paurini and winger Nick Riley, Wests’ answer to Michael Griffin.

The McCutcheon brothers, Lachlan and Patrick were prominent in the University pack, along with Davidson and Jono Jenkins, who was strong in attack and defence. And Kelly’s contribution can’t be underestimated.
The Students trek to Parramatta for round 14.

First Grade: Sydney University 25 (Dan P. Kelly 2, David Fungalei tries; Dan P. Kelly 2 goals, 2 pen goals) d West Harbour 20 (James King, Lester Salanoa tries; Ben Martin 2 goals, 2 pen goals) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.

Second Grade: Sydney University 46 (Nathan Trist 2, Matt Battishall, Hugh Hawkins, Jacob Taylor, Adam Watson tries; Jeremy Atkin 5 goals, 2 pen goals) d West Harbour 19 (Dan Thomas, David Tautaiolefue, Todd Lubinskas tries; Brady Engert 2 goals).

Third Grade: Sydney University 35 (Julian James 3, Tim Bitch, Nick Wolfe tries; Scott Stumbles 5 goals) d West Harbour 26 (Pat Cherington, Lewis Farrar, Matt Helou, Peter Taulaga tries; Matt Heloe 3 goals).

Fourth Grade: Sydney University 22 (Nick Wolfe, Brian Green, Joab Hull, Darren Amituania tries; Darren Amituania goal) d West Harbour 10 (Terry Langi try; Luke Stewart goal, pen goal).

Meldrum Cup: Sydney University 31 d Burraneer 3.


First Grade: Sydney University 29 (4 tries) d West Harbour 5.
Second Grade: Sydney University 15 drew with West Harbour 15.
Third Grade: Sydney University 48 (8 tries) d West Harbour 15.

Women’s Championship

Sydney University 57 d Waverley 5.