Southern Districts’ 26-23 win over Sydney University in their round 5 Shute Shield clash at Forshaw Park on Saturday cost the Students two places on the competition ladder.
While the Rebels maintained second place behind unbeaten Manly, Sydney University dropped from third to fifth in a tightly fought start to the season.
In yet another revamp of the Sydney grade competition, all rungs on the ladder have taken on significance in the 2012 competition, where the 12 teams play each other once before the competition is spilt into a top six and a bottom six.
The two conferences will play separate five-round competitions, with points going on to the same ladder. So teams coming seventh or eighth before the competition is split can conceivably earn maximum points in the divided competition and overtake lower-ranked teams in the top half of the ladder.
Sydney University’s drop to fifth is therefore important, even after just five competition rounds.
Manly (22), Southern Districts (21), Eastwood (19), Eastern Suburbs (19), Sydney University (17) and Parramatta (15) make up the top six, with Northern Suburbs (12), Warringah (12), Gordon (11), West Harbour (6), Randwick (3) and Penrith (2) making up the bottom six.
The Students’ up-and-down season began with a 49-19 win over West Harbour, followed by 28-26 loss to Manly, a 47-7 win over Randwick and a 27-25 last-gasp win over Gordon before Saturday’s loss in the Shire.
Southern Districts began with intent, putting on an extended multi-phase assault that was thwarted by strong University defence.
The teams traded penalty goals and just when the Students looked dangerous, Rebels inside-centre Lester Salanoa pulled in a crucial intercept and sent five-eighth Rohan Saifoloi on a long-distance excursion for the opening try.
He converted and landed another two penalty goals to give the hosts a 16-6 advantage at the break.
The Students hit back early in the second half and eventually spread the ball to winger Tom English who crossed in the corner. University Hooker James Riches levelled the scores when he bagged Sydney University’s second try soon after.
But Southern Districts also continued to move the ball around and winger Nicky Price earned a five-pointer as a result. With Saifoloi landing the conversion and another penalty, the hosts pushed out to a 26-16 lead.
The Students hit back late in proceedings with a try to number eight Trent Dyer that earned a valuable bonus point.
Despite the loss in First Grade, Sydney University maintained their lead on the Club Championship ladder with wins in the other three grades and the three Colts fixtures.
The Students head the Club Championship with 906 points, ahead of Eastwood (786), Eastern Suburbs (761) and Manly (713).
Sydney Grade competition – Round 5
First Grade – Shute Shield: Southern Districts 26 (Rohan Saifoloi, Nicky Price tries; Rohan Saifoloi 2 goals, 4 pen goals) d Sydney University 23 (James Riches, Trent Dyer, Tom English tries; David Fong goal, 2 pen goals) at Forshaw Rugby Park.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 27 (Guy Millar, David Dillon, Mark O’Dare, Willie du Plessis tries; David Dillon 2 goals, pen goal) d Southern Districts 24 (Alex Gibbon, Paulie Tamale tries; Jordan McGregor goal, 4 pen goals).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 51 (Sione Kaivelata 3, Kane Morgan 2, Jack Macklin, Duncan Boyd-Jones, Jack de Guingand, Ollie Gresham tries; Jack Macklin 3 goals) d Southern Districts 10 (R. McDowell try; Chris Morrison goal; Will Oldham pen goal).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 38 (Cameron Lawrence 3, Ben Mercer 2, Julien De Chastienger tries; Cameron Lawrence 4 goals) d Southern Districts 0.
First Grade: Sydney University 36 (5 tries) d Southern Districts 20.
Second Grade: Sydney University 33 (5 tries) d Southern Districts 0.
Third Grade: Sydney University 38 (6 tries) d Southern Districts 9.