13.07.2008 – Graham Croker
A second half resurgence from Northern Suburbs almost caused a boil-over at University Oval on Saturday, with Sydney University scoring a last-minute try to close out a 35-26 win and maintain the competition lead.
The Students controlled possession, territory and the scoreline in the first half to go to the break leading 28-7 with a bonus point in the bag.
But the tenth-placed Shoreman called the tune in the second half, posting three tries to reduce the margin to 28-26 with four minutes on the clock. Sydney University winger Ed Jenkins put paid to Norths’ hopes in the final minute when he skirted down the left flank, kicked ahead and scored in the corner. Inside-centre Daniel Halangahu landed his 5th conversion from as many attempts in front of a tense home crowd that included former Prime Minister John Howard, who presented players with their jerseys before the match, and England and British Lions representative Derek Rogers.
The win took its toll on the hosts, who lost skipper Tim Davidson with a possible fractured cheekbone and hooker Nathan Charles with broken ribs.
The hosts welcomed the return of Wallaby second-rowers Dan Vickerman and Dean Mumm, but didn’t have it all their own way at the scrum. Both internationals were targeted, with Vickerman and Norths hooker Ryan Dalziel spending 10 minutes in the sin bin after a mid-field altercation, and Mumm on the receiving end of a Tyler Hotson knee that went unpunished.
Five-eighth Dan Kelly opened the scoring in the 7th minute when he worked the short side from a turnover at a breakdown, grubbered ahead, secured a favourable bounce and wrong-footed Norths fullback to Corey Brown to score under the posts.
The Students went 14-nil ahead in the 15th minute when surges from Vickerman, Mumm, flanker Paulisi Taumoepeau and Jenkins took play 40 metres before Kelly sent Charles over under the posts.
Norths were on the wrong end of the penalty count in the first half, with most coming from backs being off-side in defence. While the tactics thwarted the hosts from enterprising attack, they kept the University at the right end of the park and they took advantage from a five-metre lineout in the 30th minute when Mumm jumped at No.2 and dropped the ball down to halfback Matt Schwager, who darted around the front of the lineout for the easiest of tries.
Norths caught the University defence napping soon after when halfback Steve Evans took a quick tap from a penalty 15 metres out and combined with Dalziel to send prop Ben Alexander over for the first of a pair. Five-eighth Chris Burnett landed the conversion for a 21-7 scoreline.
With the first half running out, the Students counter-attacked from a turnover on halfway. Mumm sent Kelly on a long surge before he found Schwager in support for a bonus point try under the posts.
The second half was a different story. The visitors attacked from the kick-off and inside-centre Codie Medway went perilously close to scoring. And another surge featuring halfback Steve Evans, flanker Jason Peseta and Medway almost resulted in Alexander scoring. While that was taking place a brawl erupted back on halfway, resulting in Vickerman and Dalziel being yellow-carded.
With the penalty count evening up and Davidson taken off injured, Norths continued to apply the pressure. Winger Ryno Delport took play to the corner and Alexander steamed over for a try from the resulting maul.
The Shoreman backed that up with a great team try starting with a break down the right from winger Dan Watson Wood. The ball was then shifted back to the left where outside-centre Andrew Smith sent Peseta on a strong run to the corner. Burnett reduced the margin to 28-19 with his angled conversion.
There was more concern in the Student camp six minutes later when Evans produced a chestnut, running the blindside from a five-metre scrum to send Burnett over for the easiest of tries. His sideline conversion put the visitors two points in arrears at 28-26 with the scent of an upset in the air.
But the Students finally regained possession and put together three phases before Kelly found space for Jenkins down the blindside. Operating from 45 metres out, he kicked ahead and won a desperate race for the bouncing ball to score in the grandstand corner. And the Students survived yet again.
The visitors had good performers in Peseta, a late call-up who was one of the best on field, Alexander, Burnett and centres Medway and Smith, while the hosts were well served by halves Schwager – filling in for the injured Nick Haydon – and Kelly, Mumm and Weeks in the forwards and fullback Nathan Trist, who solved the high ball problem that has interested opposition coaches since he has been out injured.
The Students have the scrum and lineout to go all the way, but a failure to penetrate and consolidate in the backline keeps oppositions nipping at their heels.
Next week’s clash against Eastern Suburbs at Woollhara Oval will be the 200th between two of the oldest clubs in the competition. For the record, Sydney University have won 111 and Easts 80, with nine drawn results.
First Grade: Sydney University 35 (Matt Schwager 2, Nathan Charles, Dan P. Kelly, Ed Jenkins tries; Daniel Halangahu 5 goals) d Northern Suburbs 26 (Ben Alexander 2, Jason Peseta, Chris Burnett tries; Chris Burnett 3 goals) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 20 (Tim Aistrope, Julian James tries; Jeremy Atkin 2 goals, 2 pen goals) d Northern Suburbs 10 (James Price 2 tries).
Third Grade: Northern Suburbs 12 (Cheyne Allen, Brad Collins tries; Tom Lee pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Sydney University 12 (Mick Leibmann 2 tries; Jamie Whelan goal) drew with Northern Suburbs 12 (S. Harris, James Donohue tries; Justin Callahan goal).
Redfield 31 d Sydney University 14.
First Grade: Sydney University 38 (6 tries) d Northern Suburbs 0.
Second Grade: Sydney University 97 d Northern Suburbs 7.
Third Grade: Sydney University 47 d Northern Suburbs 0.