Sydney University have wrapped up five of the seven minor premierships on offer in the 2009 NSW Shute Shield rugby competition and could make it six depending on results in the final round next Saturday.
The Students laid claim to the First Grade minor premiership with a hard-fought 30-25 win over Manly at Manly Oval on Saturday to add to the minor premierships won by Second Grade and the three Colts grades.
Third Grade are second on the ladder on 79 points behind Gordon (83), but the Highlanders should secure the minor premiership with a final round match against Penrith. Sydney University Fourth Grade sit third on the ladder and will also secure a place in the finals.
Sydney University had to battle until the final whistle to become the first visiting First Grade team to win at Manly Oval this season, but the result only added mystery to what might eventuate in coming weeks.
Manly led the competition for much of the season and have a good record at home against the Students in recent years. They controlled possession for long periods and ended up dominating at the scrum. And they matched the three tries scored by the Students with three of their own, along with a disallowed effort.
But for a team that rattled up over 50 tries in their previous seven outings, the Students seemed content to keep their powder dry. And both sides adopted the Springbok bomb and chase approach too often.
Manly dominated possession for the first 10 minutes and posted as many points through a penalty goal from fullback Adam D’Arcy and a converted try that eventuated off a 12-phase build-up. The final raid featured five-eight Josh Gamgee, flanker Cristobal Westenek, number eight Wycliffe Palu and prop Tim Fairbrother combining to send winger Luke Johnson over in the corner.
Sydney University five-eighth Daniel Halangahu landed a penalty goal in the 10th minute but the hosts extended their lead to 15-3 when Gamgee and centres Brian Sefanaia and Tyrone Smith combined to send D’Arcy over in the corner.
With a quarter of the match gone, the Students finally secured some possession and took the lead with back-to-back converted tries. The first came off a scrum 20 metres out. With inside-centre Tom Carter running a decoy line, Halangahu found straight-running outside-centre Mitch Inman with a precision pass. He scored next to the posts.
The Students backed that up from the restart when Halangahu launched a towering bomb. D’Arcy mishandled the ball under pressure from Inman and University fullback Nathan Trist was on hand to pluck the rebound out of the air and run 50 metres to score under the posts.
With halftime looming referee Stuart Dickinson awarded Manly a penalty in front of the posts and D’Arcy sent the hosts to the break with an 18-17 lead. At that stage they also led the penalty count 9-4. Manly lost winger Leon Bott on a 10-minute yellow card break either side of the half-time.
Halangahu edged the Students to a 23-18 lead with penalties in the 45th and 52nd minutes as the dog-fight continued.
The visitors eventually gained some breathing space in the 60th minute when Carter scored under the posts off an inside ball from Halangahu, who had dummied his way through the defensive line. With the conversion successful, the Students seemed to have the match in the bag at 30-18.
But Manly had other ideas and attacked the University line for the final 10 minutes. Flanker Will Brahm was held up over the line, but the University defence finally cracked after three dominant five-metre scrums from the hosts when Gamgee and Sefanaia combined to send replacement back John Payne over. D’Arcy’s conversion put Manly within striking range and it took a superb defensive display from University to hold them out in the final minutes.
Manly won the battle at the scrum, the Students stole one crucial lineout and the backlines went tit for tat. Gamgee and Halangahu staged one battle, D’Arcy and Trist staged another. The centre pairings marked up effectively, though Sefanaia posed danger at times. The backrows had a ding-dong battle and Paul emerged as player of the day.
Sydney University will host Eastwood in the final competition round.
Shute Shield – Round 21
First Grade: Sydney University 30 (Tom Carter, Mitch Inman, Nathan Trist tries; Daniel Halangahu 3 goals, 3 pen goals) d Manly 25 (Luke Johnson, John Payne, Adam D’Arcy tries; Adam D’Arcy 2 goals, 2 pen goals) at Manly Oval.
Second Grade: Sydney University 20 (Richie Finau, Peter Betham tries; Toby L’Estrange goal; Dan Kelly goal, 2 pen goals) d Manly 12 (Chris Yarrington, John Payne tries; Ben Seymour goal).
Third Grade: Sydney University 19 (Michael Woodward, Dan Lewinski, Josh Dillon tries; Hayden Bushell 2 goals) d Manly 8 (J. White try, Corey Murphy pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Manly 15 (Andrew Wookey, Adam Powell tries; Simon Campbell goal, pen goal) d Sydney University 5 (Will Stow try).
First Grade: Sydney University 31 (5 tries) d Manly 13.
Second Grade: Sydney University 54 (8 tries) d Manly 5.
Third Grade: 35 (5 tries) d Manly 5.
Decade of excellence
The First XV’s record since 1999 is:
1999: Lost Shute Shield grand final 34-17 to Eastwood.
2000: Lost grand final 34-33 to Randwick.
2001: Won Shute Shield grand final 27-20 over Eastwood.
2002: Lost Shute Shield grand final 19-15 to Eastwood.
2003: Lost Shute Shield final 32-25 to Randwick.
2004: Lost Shute Shield minor semi-final 35-nil to Manly.
2005: Lost Shute Shield grand final 29-23 to Warringah.
Won Tooheys Cup grand final 41-5 over Eastwood.
2006: Lost Shute Shield grand final 17-10 to Eastwood.
Won Tooheys Cup grand final 16-10 over Randwick.
2007: Won Tooheys New Shute Shield grand final 34-11 over Eastern Suburbs.
2008: Won Tooheys New Shute Shield grand final 45-20 over Randwick.
The first time Sydney University won three premierships in a row was in 1926-1927 and 1928. The club repeated the effort in 1954, 1955 and 1956. The club achieved back-to-back premierships in 1919 and 1920, in 1923 and 1924, and in 1961 and 1962.