Climate change, currently the hot topic on the political front, was apparent at Woollahra Oval last Saturday. In atrocious conditions, where driving wind and rain stifled any free flowing rugby, Sydney University narrowly lost to Eastern Suburbs 17-13 in their round 3 Shute Shield clash.
The boot of Easts five eighth Kurt Morath proved the difference after kicking 4 penalties during the first half. The students five eighth Dan Kelly returning from the Melbourne Rebels, kicked a penalty for an Easts indiscretion. However, playing against a strong southerly buster was always going to be a difficult assignment for University as the half time scoreline of 12-3 reflected the dour nature of the first stanza.
With the wind behind their backs during the second half, University commenced scoring when Easts were penalised for not releasing the ball at the ruck. Fullback Alex Rokobaro kicked a penalty inside the Easts quarter for a slender lead to Easts of 12-6.
While trying to mount some continuity in attack, University spilled the ball in their half. The Easts backs quickly regathered the ball and some quick passing saw the ball shifted to their right flank where Anton Lavin was positioned. With the advantage of an overlap, Lavin raced down the sideline. The desperate University covering defence was unable to stop Lavin scoring near the uprights. Morath failed to convert Lavin’s try and University were looking at a deficit of 17-6.
10 minutes of the second half heralded the return of University’s Melbourne Rebels winger, the dynamic Peter Betham. Reported in media circles as about to leave University for another club, Betham decided to remain with the students once his representative commitments are over.
Regathering a spilled Easts ball inside their half, University inside centre and Captain James McMahon cut down the left flank. Drawing the defence, McMahon passed inside to a supporting Betham who strolled over the line to score under the posts untouched. Rokobaro converted and the score was now only 17-13 to the Easts Beasts.
The remainder of the game was a mirror image of the first half as both sides attempted to mount some constructive attack in the extreme conditions. The frustration of both sides was evident when there was a prolonged skirmish between openside side breakaways Andrew Shaw and University’s ‘World Wrestling Federation’ contestant, Dave Hickey. Referee Mr O’Neill, as the presiding magistrate, sentenced both offenders to 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The remainder of the game saw University press Easts line however, some resolute defence and a degree of luck saw Easts hold out for a 17-13 victory.
Although it was a hard day at the office for University, one bonus point was salvaged and their performance was a noticeable improvement from their defeat against Eastwood.
The lower grades were all close scores with University victorious in 4th grade 9-8. 4ths expatriate Polynesian pack, led by the ‘Happy Hooker’ Matt Mafi, secured the victory with their strong work at the mauls and rucks. Third grade continues to improve with a hard fought 17-11 victory. University breakaway James ‘Fingers’ Willan was non-stop in driving his forward pack through the boggy conditions. University’s 2nd grade experienced “the one that got away” when a penalty on the bell to Easts saw the penalty kick result in a 13-12 victory.
With the entire day affected by the adverse weather, two examples of club spirit stood out. Volunteer touch judge, young Helmut Gebels, resplendent in his characteristic Foreign Legion bicycle cap, ran the line from 4th grade to 2nd grade. And, injured Waratah and Wallaby five eighth Berrick Barnes also came down to watch his Club mates. Both men could be excused to stay dry at home but chose to support their Club and should be praised.