21.07.2008 – Graham Croker
A 17-point haul from Eastern Suburbs fullback Gavin Debartolo helped his side to a 27-18 win over competition leaders Sydney University in front of a big Ladies Day crowds at Woollahra Oval on Saturday.
Debartolo scored two tries and landed two conversions and a penalty goal as the enthusiastic hosts raced to a 27-8 half-time lead.
While the Students mounted a spirited second-half comeback, stiff Eastern Suburbs defence and busy work at the breakdown kept the visitors in check for their second loss of the season.
Despite the loss, Sydney University remain at the Shute Shield helm, with Warringah defeating second-placed Gordon in a 20-18 boilover on Saturday.
But next Saturday’s encounter against Gordon at University Oval is shaping as a minor premiership showdown. The Students will also be trying to extend their home-ground winning streak to 30 games, dating back to Round 6, 2005.
The Students began well at Woollahra with a nine-phase assault almost ending in a try. But it all went awry in the eighth minute when Easts’ halfback Luke Irwin pounced on a kick return and sent Debartolo on a 65-metre excursion up the left flank for a try which he duly converted.
The Students hit back with a breakout through winger Ed Jenkins, fullback Nathan Trist and halfback Nick Haydon. Flanker Dean Mumm continued the surge over the quarter line and Haydon explored the blindside to send inside-centre Daniel Halangahu over in the corner.
The dangerous Easts backline clicked from a tap penalty in the 15th minute, with outside-centre Anton Lavin and winger Clyde Rathbone each handling twice in a 40-metre move resulting in a Rathbone try in the corner.
Debartolo missed the conversion but landed a penalty goal in the 25th minute for a 15-5 scoreline.
The big custodian bagged his second try in the 33rd minute when he dummied his way through soft defence after Irwin had operated the short side from a ruck close to the line.
The hosts put another nail in the University coffin straight after the restart when University five-eighth Dan Kelly’s clearing kick was charged down by inside-centre Tom Azar, who regained the crumbs and dashed 30 metres to score next to the posts for Debartolo to convert.
Having turned down shooting for a penalty in kicking range midway through the half, the Students took the option with half-time nigh and Halangahu took the score to 27-8.
The University backline clicked into gear early in the second half. Lachlan Rosengreen, one of the Students best on the day, came in from the blindside wing to thread a hole in the Easts defence. The chestnut move that helped bag Peter Playford 28 tries two seasons ago almost paid dividends again, having been in the kitbag all season. And a counter-attack from Trist, winger Ed Jenkins, outside-centre Leo Afeaki and Rosengreen caused more problems.
Then a three-phase surge starting with number eight Pauliasi Taumpoepeau, and continued by Kelly and Jenkins, saw Kelly send Halangahu over for his second try. He converted from the sideline and added a penalty goal in the 52nd minute for a 27-18 scoreline.
The Students had plenty of possession during the half, but turnovers and solid defence denied them any more points, although a surge from hooker Nick Hensley had the pulses racing.
The bottom line: Easts were too good on the day, with Debartolo and centres Azar and Lavin strong in the backs and Tom Egan, the McGann brothers Matt and Tim and Ed Brenac playing solidly in defence and at the breakdown.
The Students were well served by Rosengreen, Haydon and Trist in the backs, and the scrum was strong. And Pat McCutcheon and Mumm pulled off some bell-ringers in defence.
Maybe the Students lacked the leadership of Tim Davidson, who was out injured. The number eight, who has captained Sydney University to the past three premierships, has been at the helm on 65 occasions for 59 wins and six losses.
He became the 29th player in the club to rack up 100 First Grades when he ran on against Parramatta two weeks ago.
Those at the ground early enough would have witnessed two great wingers tries in Second Grade, where Sydney University caused an upset in defeating competition leaders Eastern Suburbs 29-17.
Nick Edwards and Julian James each scored 70-metre gems, with both players using footwork and dummies to get past five and six defenders.
It was an important win for the seconds on their climb into the top four.
Shute Shield – Round 16
First Grade: Eastern Suburbs 27 (Gavin Debartolo 2, Tom Azer, Clyde Rathbone tries; Gavin Debartolo 2 goals, pen goal) d Sydney University 18 (Daniel Halangahu 2 tries, goal, 2 pen goals) at Woollahra Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 29 (Matt Battishall, Jeremy Atkin, Nick Edwards, Mitch Inman tries; Jeremy Atkin 3 goals, pen goal) d Eastern Suburbs 17 (Rhys Ward, Pat Smith tries; Warwick Percival 2 goals, pen goal).
Third Grade: Eastern Suburbs 27 (Tom Keady, Billy Scott, Ken Iwamoto, Joe Azar tries; James McSeveny 2 goals, pen goal) d Sydney University 13 (Dan C. Kelly, Junior Tuitaria tries; Dan C. Kelly pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Sydney University 49 (Ismail Khan 2,Andrew Caterson 2, Tim Wonders, John Langford, Jamie Whelan tries; Jamie Whelan 7 goals) d Eastern Suburbs 7 (Campbell Aitken try, goal).
First Grade: Sydney University 38 (6 tries) d Eastern Suburbs 21.
Second Grade: Sydney University 27 (4 tries) d Eastern Suburbs 7.
Third Grade: Sydney University 47 (7 tries) d Eastern Suburbs 0.
First Grade: Sydney University 49 d Banks town 5.