Graham Croker

A second-half blitzkrieg saw defending Shute Shield champions Sydney University defeat Randwick 55-22 in what was billed as a grand final preview at Sydney University No.1 Oval on Saturday.
After scoring two first-half tries to lead 12-10 at the break, the Students ran in another six in a dominant second 40 minutes.
Fullback Nathan Trist crossed for three of them to join his Manly counterpart Adam D’Arcy at the head of the Shute Shield try-scoring list with 19 apiece.
With four rounds of the competition proper remaining, Sydney University head the ladder on 70 points from Manly (68), Randwick (61), Eastwood (59), Gordon (56) and Eastern Suburbs (55).
It was the Students second biggest win over Randwick since the 41-3 effort in 1953 and extended their home ground winning streak to 40 – since Round 6 in 2005.
And it came about after Randwick led seven-nil after four minutes of play, thanks to outside-centre Tim Wright, who swerved around the University mid-field defence before careering back infield to score under the posts. Fullback Marshall Milroy added the extras as many in the biggest crowd of the season were still taking their seats.
The visitors dominated the early exchanges and might have scored another two but for University skipper Tim Davidson, who defused a chip and chase from Randwick five-eighth Tim Walsh, and a courageous corner post tackle from Trist to deny massive winger Ratu Nasiganiyavi a touchdown.
With both sides guilty of handling mistakes, the game drifted between the quarters until the 20th minute when University halfback Scott Stumbles and five-eighth Daniel Halangahu busted the Randwick defence to set up a scrum in front of the visitor’s posts.
The Students ventured for three phases before Davidson ran off a Halangahu pass to storm over. Halangahu landed the first of his five goals, along with a penalty goal, to level the scores.
The Students took a 12-7 lead soon after the resumption when Davidson collected a deflected pass off Randwick flanker Dave Parsons – on the University quarter line – and set sail upfield before linking with outside-centre Tom Carter, who ran the last 50 metres to score.
A Milroy penalty at the 30-minute mark rounded out the first half scoring.
Randwick had the better of most scrums in the first half – they finished with two tightheads from a strike and a wheel – while the hosts had the better of the lineouts, finishing with three steals.
Both sides were guilty of spilling high balls or letting them bounce and both sets of backs had their moments in attack. But there was no indication of what was to unfold in the second stanza.
The Students set up a rolling maul off the restart, allowing Stumbles to hoist a high ball which Randwick let bounce. It was regathered by debut University inside-centre Richie Finau. He linked with flanker David Haigh who sent compatriot Pat McCutcheon on a 40-metre run for the line.
Halangahu converted from the touchline and minutes later landed penalty from the same spot to give the hosts a 22-10 lead.
They extended that to 29-10 in the 11th minute when second-rower Dave Dennis intercepted a Milroy pass and outpaced the defence in a 50-metre run to the line. After two injury-interrupted seasons, Dennis has improved in commitment, technique and work-rate with each game since his comeback and the bonus point five-pointer was just reward for his dedication.
Back-to-back short-arm penalties saw Randwick hit back with quick tap plays resulting in Milroy stepping off his right foot to score after a silky run to the line. He then missed the easiest of conversions.
The Students replied from the restart when a huge Halangahu bomb was fumbled by Randwick halfback Tony Luxford in a contest with McCutcheon. Trist was on hand to grab the ball out of thin air and sprint 30 metres for the first of his treble.
A big McCutcheon tackle midway through the half resulted in a turnover of possession to the hosts. Replacement flanker Jono Owen, second-rower Ben McCalman and prop Paddy Ryan combined to shift the ball to left winger Jacob Taylor, who grubbered past his opposite David Dillon then beat him in a run to the line for a skilful try in the corner.
Trist scored his second after strong lead-up from the Big Macs – McCutcheon and McCalman – and Davidson, and his third after Stumbles and Taylor attacked the short side of a ruck to send him on his way.
They were interspersed by a try from Walsh, who rewarded a nine-phase Randwick build-up in the University quarter with an elusive snipe from 15 metres out.
This was a rollicking affair that featured good counter-attack and strong defence, particularly from McCalman, whose rib-tickler on Nasiganiyavi had Richter needles quavering.
Davidson said the University brains-trust had fine-tuned their tactics at halftime to give Halangahu more options to create space – which he did.
While Randwick flanker Ben Mowen said silly mistakes and not catching high balls had cost the visitors dearly.
The Students went into the match without prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa and centre Mitch Inman.
In the wash-up, while both sides could go away knowing they can play better. That is good news for Randwick, but better news for the Students.
And let’s hear it for former international referee Steve Walsh who has adjudicated the past two University matches which have both been entertaining affairs.
Meanwhile, Sydney University has three players in the Wallaby squad in South Africa for the Tri-Nations tournament. Halfback Luke Burgess and flankers Phil Waugh and Dean Mumm will be hoping to add to their caps on the two-Test tour.
And, from the good news and bad news desk, former Sydney University prop John Manenti has been appointed senior coach of the Australian women’s team, the Wallaroos, who are playing for a berth in the next World Cup, while utility back Alfi Mafi is believed to have broken a leg in a game on the Brumbies development tour of France, effectively ruling him out of Sydney University’s finals commitments.

Shute Shield – Round 18

First Grade: Sydney University 55 (Nathan Trist 3, Tom Carter, Jacob Taylor, Tim Davidson, Pat McCutcheon, Dave Dennis tries; Daniel Halangahu 5 goals, pen goal, Scott Stumbles goal) d Randwick 22 (Tim Walsh, Tim Wright, Marshall Milroy tries; Marshall Milroy 2 goal, pen goal) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 22 (Duncan Hardy, Jono Jenkins, Robert O’Reilly tries; Justin Bosilkovski 2 goals, pen goal) d Randwick 14 (Serevi Ratu 2 tries; Toby Browne 2 goals).
Third Grade: Sydney University 20 (Tony L’Estrange, Hayden Bushell, Dave Burnett tries; Hayden Bushell goal, pen goal) d Randwick 15 (Kemble Leasusu 2 tries; Dale Lindsay goal, pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Randwick 5 (Ewan Wyllie try) d Sydney University 0.
First Grade: Sydney University 65 (9 tries) d Randwick 12 at Coogee Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 50 (8 tries) d Randwick 17.
Third Grade: Sydney University 31 (5 tries) d Randwick 7.