The Sir Roden Cutler Shield is back in the hands of last year’s minor premiers following a comprehensive 45-27 victory over the Students at the picturesque University No. 1 Oval. In perfect conditions for round 2 of the Shute Shield, Eastwood ran riot with a six tries to three performance, earning a bonus point win to cement their place at the top of the Sydney Premier Rugby competition.
Despite the Students bolstered by the return of Australian Rugby 7’s representative Bernard Foley and Waratahs debutant Paddy Ryan, they were no match for the experienced Eastwood outfit, who were coming off an impressive win in the previous round against the highly fancied Southern Districts. The Woodies were well led throughout the day by open-side breakaway Hugh Perrett and fullback Ben Batger, each rewarded by bagging a try for their efforts.
The match started well for University with Eastwood dropping the ball from the kick-off and shortly after scrum-half Eddie Brendenhann, starting the game in place of injured skipper Matt Schwager, slotted through a penalty from 30 metres out after referee Jamie McGregor caught Eastwood off-side at the ruck. However it wouldn’t take long for Eastwood to get on the board.
In the 10th minute, a sweeping back-line move saw the ball go through several sets of hands before outside-centre Tim Bennetts barged over in the corner. Despite missing the difficult conversion, captain Ben Batger put Eastwood further ahead in the 16th minute after University were penalised for not rolling away. With University struggling to sustain any real momentum, a clearing Eastwood kick saw Danny Kroll unable to secure possession and with winger Cameron Mitchell hot on his heels, was able to toe the ball ahead and pounce on the loose ball to put the Woodies up 13-3 at the 20-minute mark.
Although Eddie Brendenhann was able to momentarily reduce the deficit for the Students with his second penalty conversion, Eastwood didn’t have to wait long for their third try. Receiving the ball from 20 metres out, barnstorming inside-centre Sione Piukala burst through some paper-thin defence and suddenly, it appeared University were struggling to stay in the contest. This was further compounded just before half time when speedster John Grant took advantage of an overlap and motored down the sideline to crash over in the corner and secure a bonus point for the Woodies. A brilliant conversion from Batger saw Eastwood go into half time leading 27-6 and with all the ascendancy.
Trailing by 21 points, the Students would have been well aware of the importance of being the first try scorers in the second stanza. Some early sustained pressure on the Eastwood try line was rewarded when Brendenhann sliced through to reduce the deficit to 14. However any hope of a fight back was short lived, as University were guilty of making too many errors playing catch-up football.
Tongan international Pierre Hola was given the goal kicking responsibilities after the break and showed he possesses a strong technique, kicking his first 3 pointer following a scrum penalty to Eastwood. Soon after, Ben Batger easily broke through the tiring University defence to stretch the lead to 37-13 with a quarter of the match still to go. Sensing University were wounded, the Woodies were eager to keep the scoreboard ticking over. With 15 minutes left on the clock, controlled possession and repeated phase play led to Eastwood spinning the ball wide to the ever present Hugh Perrett who showed a clean pair of heels to beat the cover defence and score in the Grandstand corner of the ground.
With the game all but over, University were able to salvage two late tries to fly-half Bernard Foley and flanker Jack de Guingand.
For the Students, it wasn’t a perfect start James McMahon, who was captaining the premiers for the maiden time. Sydney University were unable to get regular clean ball from the lineout, struggled to maintain possession, and were constantly challenged by their enthusiastic opponents. They seemed to miss livewire breakaway David Hickey, who was a late scratching after he sustained a corked thigh at training during the week.
After the match Todd Dammers, Director of Rugby at Sydney University, although disappointed with the overall result was focussing rather on some of the positives of the game. “We actually ended up winning the second half and I thought there was a noticeable improved effort. To their credit, the boys never gave up. There were some good signs which hopefully we can build on for next week”, Dammers said. As legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi famously said, “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up”.
In some consolation for the Students, all lower grades and Colts had strong wins, with 2nd grade finishing strongly to record a 33-22 victory in a highly entertaining game.
Before the 1st Grade game a moving tribute was paid to the late David Clarke, who passed away on Friday. In addition to David’s enormous contribution to the business world, through Macquarie Bank and other organisations, and his behind the scenes work with philanthropic organisations, David was a passionate rugby supporter, former player and former President of the Australian Rugby Union. David was the force behind the establishment of the Sydney University Football Club Foundation.
David enjoyed nothing more than coming down to No. 1 Oval to watch the Club play and kick a ball with his grandson. David loved Sydney University Rugby and he will be sorely missed.
FIRST GRADE: Eastwood 45 (Hugh Perrett, John Grant, Sione Piukala, Tim Bennetts, Cameron Mitchell, Ben Batger tries; Pierre Hola 2 cons, 2 pens, Ben Batger con, pen) d Sydney University 27 (Jack de Guingand, Eddie Bredenhann, Bernard Foley tries; Eddie Bredenhann 3 cons, 2 pens) at University Oval No.1. Half-time: Eastwood 27-6. Referee: Jamie McGregor.
With renowned club reporter ‘China’ on secondment, this week’s match report is compiled by ‘The Sideline Eye’.