Graham Croker

Sydney University toppled competition front-runners Manly 20-14 in atrocious conditions in their Round 10 Shute Shield clash at University No.1 Oval on Saturday.
The win lifted the Students to fourth on the competition ladder and kept intact their home-ground winning run which now stands at 35 matches stretching back to Round 8 in 2005. The Sir Roden Cutler Shield has been in Sydney University’s keeping for that period of time as well.
Although each side scored two tries, the hosts dominated territorially after the first 15 minutes and might have scored at least two more tries with better execution. But credit goes to a dogged Manly defence that had conceded just over 12 points a match until Saturday.
In a land where drought is a defining force, no one knocks rain – indeed Sydney University has a supporter base of farmers from Young and Narrabri who travel to the city each week to see what it looks like, and to watch their sons play rugby – but University ground staff must have been tearing their hair out in recent weeks.
With the installation of new lights at No.1 Oval, SUFC planned well to host an international Under 20 match between Australia and Uruguay on Friday night, followed by a Super Saturday, that was to see the Colts I match played as a curtain-raiser to the Sydney University v Manly match.
Continual rain for over a week turned the cricket wicket area of No.1 Oval into a quagmire of hoggish proportions. The international went ahead in driving rain and the Colts and First Grade fixtures were played in drizzle and fresh mud.
Play inside the inner third of the rugby pitch was confined to a quagmire-quarrel – that’s a mud-wrestle of extreme proportions – a battle of attrition to reach the grassy ends of the ground. The Students excelled in getting to the opposition quarter, thanks to astute kicking from five-eighth Daniel Halangahu off the back of a tough pack that had Dean Mumm back in the ranks.
But the two tries they scored – both excellently engineered by Halangahu – posed the question: why didn’t they score more, given their territorial dominance?
The conditions and the Manly defence don’t provide the full answer.
Manly started the match like competitions leaders, having won eight of their nine matches. And they set the tone of the match, with long periods of possession confined to the forwards. But it was the Students who scored the first points on a rare foray into the opposition half when Halangahu landed a penalty goal.
Such was Manly’s early dominance, by the 15-minutes mark, the Students had made 65 tackles to the visitor’s five.
Having soaked up the pressure, the hosts began applying their own and two minutes before the break Halangahu stabbed a delicate left-foot grubber behind the Manly defence and outside-centre Mitch Inman won the race to score under the posts. Halangahu’s conversion sent the hosts to the break with a 10-0 advantage.
The second half was only minutes old when Manly outside-centre Tyron Smith was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
The Students mounted a promising attack on the back of a strong run from winger Alfi Mafi and a long, touch-finder from Halangahu. But as the resulting play moved out the University backline with the hope of taking advantage of Smith’s absence, Manly winger Leon Bott pulled in an intercept and streaked 70 metres to score under the posts. Fullback Adam D’Arcy converted for a 10-7 scoreline.
Another Halangahu penalty pushed the Students to a 13-7 advantage in the 60th minute and with eight minutes to go they seemingly wrapped up proceedings when the pivot dummied his way through the Manly defence from 15m out and sent fullback Nathan Trist over in the corner. Halangahu converted from the sideline for a 20-7 advantage.
Manly never stopped trying and replied with a very well-taken try from 40 metres out that featured five-eighth Josh Gamgee, Smith and D’Arcy who sent inside-centre Brian Sefanaia over with a minute to go. D’Arcy’s conversion made for a tantalising 20-14 scoreline, but time had run out for the visitors.
The five-pointer showed that dry-weather tries can be scored in the wet. Perhaps the Students might have chance their arm a few more times in the Manly quarter. Trist and Inman each went within a whisker of the line when the pass rather than the kick was utilised.
Despite the conditions and the ball being kept in the forwards for long periods, this was an intriguing encounter that went down to the wire.
Both packs deserve credit at the scrum and the ruck, although in such conditions the old rucking laws would have been welcomed back.
Halangahu and Gamgee executed their game-plans well and Trist and D’Arcy were very competent custodians in trying conditions.
Perhaps the Students were buoyed by the home-ground advantage, the words of David Lyons, who handed out jerseys before the match, and the encouragement of water runner Luke Burgess, who has returned to play for the Students.

Memo: The Shute Shield has a bye round this weekend and Sydney University will be taking the opportunity to visit Melbourne to play a centenary match at Melbourne University. (See separate story).
The following weekend – June 13 – will see Sydney University pitted against Eastwood at T.G. Milner Field.

Shute Shield – Round 10

First Grade: Sydney University 20 (Mitch Inman, Nathan Trist tries; Daniel Halangahu 2 goals, 2 pen goals) d Manly 14 (Brian Sefanaia, Leon Bott tries; Adam D’Arcy 2 goals) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 29 (Michael Hodge 2, Scott Cameron, Anthony Pohlan, Nick Edwards tries; Jacob Taylor 2 goals) d Manly 0.
Third Grade: Sydney University 20 (Dan Lewinski, Richie Finau, Tim Broomham tries; Josh Dillon goal, pen goal) d Manly 3 (Greg White pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Sydney University 29 (Josh Munro, Tom Tombleson, Will Stow, Hayden Bushell, T Stow tries; Hayden Bushell 2 goals) d Manly 0.
First Grade: Sydney University 25 (5 tries) d Manly 7.
Second Grade: Sydney University 5 d Manly 0.
Third Grade: Sydney University 35 (5 tries) d Manly 7.
Women’s Championship
First Grade: Warringah 54 d Sydney University 5.