Sydney University’s First Grade Colts capped off a great afternoon for the club at Concord Oval on Sunday with a 39-5 win over Eastern Suburbs in the season decider.
With Third Grade having come from behind to beat Manly 17-12 after the bell, and Seconds grinding out a 16-9 win over Eastern Suburbs, Firsts ended the season with more authority in a clinical five-try display.
They were one of only two teams – along with Randwick Fourth Grade in the Henderson Cup – to go through the competition undefeated, with 22 competition wins and two wins in the finals.
First Grade Colts amassed 1140 points from their 24 games while conceding 238 – a remarkable effort at elite level.
The three Colts teams each defended their 2007 titles and added back-to-back Colts Club Championships to their bag of booty.
The Firsts began the grand final at pace, with five-eighth Bernard Foley controlling the match off the back of some quality possession from the set pieces and the breakdowns.
In his first season out of school, Foley turned in a mature display, contributing 16 points from a well taken try, four conversions and a penalty goal.
Sydney University’s first try came after just four minutes. They opened proceedings with a 20-metre rolling maul from the kick-off, then put together four quick phases before hooker Clay Brodie scored.
The second try came after number eight Trent Dyer, second-rower Adam Campbell, prop Barry Fa’amausili and second-rower Tevita Tuiloa combined to take play to Easts’ quarter line. Halfback Nick Phipps and flanker Tom Norval continued the surge, before Foley fooled the defence with a dummy and a jink to score untouched. His two conversions and a penalty goal late in the half saw University go to the break with a 17-0 advantage. Easts had hardly been in the University half.
However, they rectified that momentarily five minutes into the second half when winger Arvan Anderson scooped up a loose ball and ran 50 metre to score.
When Eastern Suburbs outside-centre Ed Stubbs was yellow-carded, Foley rubbed salt into the wound by landing a penalty goal. He also converted Dyer’s try, which came about when Phipps took a quick tap from a short-arm penalty, skirted the right touchline and found the number eight in support. Dyer sprinted 40 metres to score under the posts.
With 12 minutes remaining, University fullback Matt Binks worked the blindside of a ruck and sent winger Robert O’Reilly on a 20-metre excursion to the corner. He beat three defenders to score.
The two were in action again two minutes from full-time when they backed up a great break from Norval, who found O’Reilly in support. When the defence closed in he off-loaded to Binks to finish a 50-metre surge. Foley complemented the effort with a successful conversion.
When they had possession, Easts attempted to spread the ball, and they looked dangerous at times. But their backline raids were mostly cut short by University outside-centre Michael Hodge, who pulled off a series of great tackles in a wonderful defensive effort reminiscent of a young Keiran Shepherd – and that’s a compliment.
The University scrum finished well on top, with flanker James McMahon and Dyer turning in non-stop performances.
Seconds grind out another title
Dour is probably the best word to describe the first half of the Second Grade Colts grand final between Sydney University and Eastern Suburbs at Concord Oval on Saturday.
Sydney University trailed 3-6 at the break but went on to defend their 2007 title by accounting for Easts 16-9.
The stark statistics: Eastern Suburbs five-eighth Blake Boulton landed a penalty goal in the 2nd minute, Sydney University five-eighth Ryan Matthews replied with a penalty goal in the 10th minute and Boulton landed another in the 15th minute.
The Students applied most of the pressure in the first 10 minutes, but Easts’ scrum gradually gained the ascendancy and, with a run of penalties, they were able to keep the Students on the backfoot for a big chunk of the half.
Halfback Luke Baker provided fine service and Matthews kept the Students out of trouble with some telling kicks.
When University finally gained some useful possession and position late in the half, number eight Sam Hosking instigated a raid off the back of a scrum. Mathews chipped ahead and the ball was regathered by University winger Tom Coupland, who off-loaded to inside-centre Nick Delaney.
When he was halted, second-rower Oliver Aitkins continued the raid from the ruck and passed to Delaney, who grubber-kicked for the line. Outside-centre James Muir won the race for the ball but the try was disallowed.
All the Students needed for the second half was some possession and some parity with penalties (they were 10-5 against in the first half and finished 14-9 to Easts).
Of significance, the University scrum improved in the second half, along with the controlled rolling maul – a feature of the three University Colts teams during the afternoon.
This allowed the Students to control possession and position from the outset and they finally took an 8-6 lead mid-way through proceedings when Aitkins and second-row partner Sam Carter took play into Easts’ quarter. Mathews continued the surge and crossed the line but the try was disallowed.
Then, from a quickly taken short-arm penalty, the University forwards took matters in hand and a rolling maul resulted in a try to hooker Kieran Wallace.
The lead was short-lived when Boulton edged Easts back in front 9-8 with his third penalty goal.
But the Students regained the lead two minutes later when a loose ball was toed ahead by winger Jack Hammond and Matthews won the race to score. He missed the conversion but landed a telling penalty with just minutes to go.
Easts rallied on the back to three late penalties, but the Students hung on for the title.
The winners had some good performers in backrowers Hosking and Chris Harkins, Carter and Atkins in the second-row and halves Baker and Matthews.
Second Grade won 20 of their 22 competition matches – drawing one and losing one – and their two finals matches to win the minor and major premierships.
Thirds win after bell
The most drama-packed of the three Colts grand finals played at Concord Oval last Sunday was the Third Grade encounter between Sydney University and Manly – with the result being decided after the final bell had sounded.
After trailing 5-12 at half-time, Sydney University levelled the scores at 12-all with a converted try two minutes into the second half.
And there they remained as Manly pounded away to regain the advantage and the University fought backs to the wall.
With two minutes remaining the Students were 10 metres from their own line. The options staring them in the face were defeat or extra time should they hold on to draw.
They chose a third option.
Openside flanker Michael Widdup earned his side a penalty through quick work at the breakdown.
The forwards turned on a 30-metre rolling maul before allowing the backs to advance play a few more metres – without resorting to the kick. Prop Rick Schumacher continued the surge before unloading to five-eighth Doug Chadwick.
He was collared as the final bell sounded, but the Students shunted play for another three phases before Schumacher plunged over for the winning try. It was as drama-charged for the Students as it was demoralising for Manly, who had fought the good fight to put themselves in a winning position. And moreso for their inside-centre Daniel Hall, who was a man-of-the-match contender from a losing side. He broke the line every time he touched the ball and only last-ditch cover defence kept the Students in the hunt.
Sydney University started the game in style and put their rolling maul on show early. Two penalties and two more rolling mauls off the back of lineouts resulted in number eight Oliver Gresham scoring the first points in the 8th minute.
Manly equalised in the 25th minute when second-rower Niumaia Bari broke the defensive line. He off-loaded to winger Chris Raymond who found number eight Harry Bergelin on hand for the try.
Bari put Manly ahead two minutes later when he charged down a kick from Chadwick and raced 50 metres to score under the posts. Hall converted for a 12-5 scoreline to Manly.
The second half was only two minutes old before the Students levelled proceedings. After securing a penalty in Manly’s half from the restart, the Students kicked for touch and turned on a rolling maul off the lineout. On this occasion it didn’t go straight ahead, rather it crabbed across and forward for 25 metres before hooker James Riches grabbed the try. Flanker Gareth Tilse converted and the dog-fight raged until the bell.
Manly held territorial sway and Hall kept things interesting whenever he handled. But the Students trusted their defensive line and when the opportunity arose, they trusted their nerve. That is why they lost just one game through the season and added the major premiership to their minor premiership.
Fourths almost cause boilover
Turning up for a 10am start in 30C conditions and facing an unbeaten opponent averaging over 50 points a match for 2008 is not the ideal way to compete for the Henderson Cup.
But Sydney University’s Fourth Grade not only fronted, they fronted with commitment to take on a Randwick side that had amassed 1100 points for the season and finished 19 points clear as minor premiers.
The Students held Randwick to seven-all at half-time, and when they took a 14-10 lead midway through the second half, a boilover was on the cards.
But one defensive lapse at the ruck allowed the Wicks to regain the lead and a run of nine penalties to four allowed them to maintain field position and possession to run out 24-14 winners.
Along with Sydney University’s First Grade Colts, they were the only team to go through the season undefeated.
The Students held sway for the first 10 minutes at Concord Oval, setting up camp in the Randwick quarter. The pressure turned into points when they stacked the blind-side and number eight Andrew Battishall scored in the corner. Five-eighth Jamie Whelan landed a tough conversion and Sydney University led seven-nil.
Randwick hit back at the 20-minute mark when they launched a sweeping backline play featuring five-eighth Wara Hunita-Paki and centres Lachlan Mackay and Kiti Vasue, who gave winger Matt Lippiat an express run to the line. Mackay converted to lock up the scores.
A Whelan chip to the corner in the final minute of the half almost brought the Students more points, but they would have been glad to go into the break on even terms.
When University botched the kick-off reception to start the second half, a penalty ensued and Whelan’s penalty goal attempt bounced off an upright and the crossbar before collecting three points and the lead.
Despite the penalties running at four to one against them, the Students regained territorial control through a thrust from winger Will Stow.
They then shifted play from the left touchline to the right and back again through four phases before replacement second-rower John Langford (yes, that John Langford) made a midfield thrust and found inside-centre Trevor Walsh in support. He drew the fullback and sent Whelan on a 30-metre run to score under the posts. Whelan converted his own try and the Students were back in front 14-10.
But the lead was short-lived. Randwick halfback Andrew Wing-Kee spotted a hole in the University ruck defence and sprinted 40 metres to score a vital try. Hunita-Paki’s conversion put his team in front, 17-14.
Randwick maintained possession and territory for the rest of proceedings and a three-phase build-up late in the game saw fullback Michael Rugendyke sent A. Hua over for the final try. Hunita-Paki converted for a 24-14 scoreline and the 2008 title.
The Students had some willing contributors across the ranks and a three-try-to-two result was a great effort against a team that had dominated the competition.