Graham Croker

A dominant scrum laid the platform for Sydney University Fourth Grade’s 22-12 win over Gordon in the preliminary final of the Sydney Grade Rugby Union competition played at Pittwater Rugby Park on Sunday.
Fourths will meet the undefeated Randwick in the grand final of the Henderson Cup, to be played at Concord Oval on Saturday. Randwick defeated West Harbour 37-15 to earn a grand final berth.
Sydney University dominated possession and territory for much of the first half at Pittwater and went to the break with seven-nil lead, thanks to a 65-metre effort from winger Will Stow and a sideline conversion from five-eighth Jamie Whelan.
The try came after Gordon put a four-phase assault together and entered the University half for one of the few times in the half. Unfortunately for them a dropped pass in the face of stiff defence was snaffled up by University second-rower Ian Cook and transferred to hooker Simon Kinsey. He off-loaded to prop Joel Rivers, who sent Stow on a long excursion down the starboard touchline.
Gordon mounted another solid assault late in the half, but a promising rolling maul was halted metres from the line. The Students counter-attacked from their own line through outside-centre Andrew Caterson, winger Junior Tuitatia and halfback James Gordon, causing a few palpitations in the Highlanders’ ranks.
Having dominated the first half, the Students suddenly found themselves down 12-7 when Gordon number eight Matt Bourke scored back-to-back tries in the first four minutes of the second half.
The Students failed to clear the ball from the kick-off and Gordon mounted a rolling maul off a lineout in the Students’ quarter. Bourke forced his way over and five-eighth Anton Harris levelled the score with his conversion.
The restart produced another poor return kick from the Students which was fielded by Gordon halfback Mick Ryan. He linked with fullback Kieran Lewis, who sent winger Jeremy Moyle on a run. Moyle kicked ahead as cover defence closed in and Bourke won the race for the ball to score.
The two tries jolted Sydney University into action. Incisive runs from Stow and prop Tim Wonders took the Students to the Gordon quarter line, where number eight Andrew Battishall broke the defensive line off the side of a ruck and sent a nice inside pass to replacement prop John Morellato, who rumbled 20 metres to score next to the posts. Whelan missed the conversion but nailed a difficult penalty goal in the 50th minute to edge the Students ahead 15-12.
As the University scrum began to totally dominate, the Students closed out the preliminary final with a try from busy halfback James Gordon. Having earned a short-arm penalty 35 metres from the Gordon line, fullback Craig Sorbe took a quick tap, linked with flanker Jono Bowman and winger Junior Tuitatia, who sent Gordon on his way to the line. Whelan’s conversion found the mark and a grand final beckoned.
The Students took off their conservative cloak in the closing minutes, and plenty of ball movement almost resulted in a try to Tuitatia as the final whistle sounded.
The winners gave up four lineouts but held sway at the scrum and more than held their own at the breakdowns. Trevor Walsh and Caterson provided a solid midfield defence and occasional snipes from custodian Sorbe and port-side winger Stow kept the Gordon defence busy.
Another cool, calm and collected performance next Saturday could see the Henderson Cup back at the University.

Sydney University 22 (Will Stow, John Morellato, James Gordon tries; Jamie Whelan 2goals, pen goal) d Gordon 12 (Matt Bourke 2 tries; Anton Harris goal).