A penalty goal separated Eastwood and Sydney University when the competition frontrunners went hammer and tong in their Shute Shield encounter at Sydney University Oval on Sunday.
In an entertaining affair that went right to the wire, Eastwood, the reigning premiers toppled the 2011 runners-up 32-29, with both sides scoring four tries apiece.
The Students gave up a handful of opportunities to slot penalty goals in their quest for tries – decisions that met with approval from the majority – and they might have had one next to the posts but for a badly-positioned referee.
And they battled with 14 men for a crucial 10 minutes in the second half when skipper and halfback Matt Schwager was sin-binned in mysterious fashion.
But gripes aside, the Students let themselves down, allowing the Woodies to set up a 29-8 lead before they mounted a dramatic late comeback to almost claim the points.
They gave up crucial lineout ball, turned over more possession at the restarts and kicked away possession twice in the final minutes. Eastwood are well coached to feed off those moments, and they did.
With one round to go before the competition splits into two groups, Eastwood head the way on 43 points, with Southern Districts (41), Sydney University (38), Manly (37), Eastern Suburbs (34) and Parramatta (27) making up the top six.
The loss saw Sydney University relinquish the Sir Roden Cutler Shield after holding it for one week. But the Students did maintain their lead in the Club Championship where they sit on 1798 points, ahead of Eastwood (1486), Northern Suburbs (1390) and Manly (1341).
The Sunday round – scheduled to follow a closely-fought Australian-Wales Test match on Saturday – attracted a good crowd, with centre Tom Carter relishing the occasion with a strong display in his 150th club match and winger Nathan Trist celebrating his 101st First Grade match with a great kick-and-chase try in the latter stages.
Sydney Men’s Grade competition – Round 10
First Grade – Shute Shield: Eastwood 32 (Tom Alexander, Michael McDougall, Ben Batger, Cam Mitchell tries; Ben Batger 3 goals, 2 pen goals) d Sydney University 29 (Michael Hodge 2, Ollie Atkins, Nathan Trist tries; Daniel Halangahu 3 goals, pen goal) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 27 (Pieter van der Merwe, Eddie Burrett, Levi Dodd, Mark O’Dare tries; David Fong 2 goals, Dave Dillon field goal) drew with Eastwood 27 (Tim McDonald 2, Shanin Proctor, Jed Gillespie tries; Jai Ayoub 2 goals, pen goal).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Eastwood 27 (Nathan Powyer 2, Pat Hilgendorf, Tyler Spitz tries; Blake Sutton 2 goals, pen goal) d Sydney University 17 (Dan Simpson, Duncan Boyd-Jones, Sione Kaivelata tries; Cam Lawrence goal).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 31 (Duncan Yates 2, Ben Cannon, Dan Mafi, John Stapleton tries; Cale Holmes 3 goals) d Eastwood 0.
First Grade: Sydney 41 d Eastwood 21 at T.G. Millner Field.
Second Grade: Sydney University 36 d Eastwood 12.
Third Grade: Eastwood 20 d Sydney University 18.