Sydney University transformed from benefactors to tight-wads in claiming their seventh Shute Shield in eight seasons with a gripping 15-14 grand final win over gutsy Southern Districts at Concord Oval on Saturday.
The charitable Students handed over possession with gay abandon in the first half, with poor handling and sub-standard kicking high on the mistake list, before taking stock of the football for the last half-hour of the match to overturn an 11-3 half-time deficit.
Fullback Angus Roberts was the hero of the day for Sydney University, scoring a try in the dying stages and converting it from the sideline to edge the Students past the men from the Shire.
The final pass from centre Tom Carter to his fullback had a touch of controversy about it, with Southern Districts coach Cameron Blades pondering on its legality, while the recipient Roberts claimed it travelled two metres backwards. Somewhere in between was the general consensus.
“It looked like it was borderline,” Blades said. “There’s nothing much I can do about that but it is obviously something I’ll look at and if [the officials] have got it horribly wrong, I’ll put it in my match review report. But at the end of the day, University have just held the Shute Shield.”
The win saw University skipper Tim Davidson raise the Shield for the seventh time in his eight-year reign – a record that will take some beating given he flew under the Super rugby radar for some seasons and has remained mostly injury-free come finals time.
The win also saw Sydney University join Randwick on 28 premierships apiece. The Students had equalled Randwick’s run of six consecutive titles (1978-82) when they claimed the 2005-10 titles before losing to Eastwood in the 2011 decider.
Roberts, taking over the goalkicking duties for the day from five-eighth Dan Kelly, opened the scoring with a penalty goal early in the action before Southern Districts took control on the back of an inept opposition and their own enthusiasm in chasing a first Shute Shield title.
They consolidated their possession with a penalty goal from fullback Ben Volavola followed by a try from Wallabies hopeful Nick Cummins. Volavola missed the crucial conversion but added another penalty for an 11-3 lead.
The Students had scoring chances either side of the break. Second-rower Ollie Atkins must be still wondering why his effort was disallowed, but the Students learned that controlling possession might be the way to go.
“We knew in the first half we went away from what we should have done,” Roberts said. “In the second half, we came out firing and just played tight footy and we grinded and grinded and eventually it came off for us.”
Long periods of defence eventually took their toll on the tiring Rebels and University hooker Nathan Charles charged over from a sustained assault to take the score to 14-8.
When Roberts careered around the defence down the right touch to score in the corner, the game hung in the balance before his trusty boot secured a one-point win.
As the philosophical Blades said: “To be so close yet so far is gut-wrenching. There were some moments in the game when we could have closed it out but it was a good life lesson for these young men.”
Sydney University also secured the Second Grade, Third Grade and Fifth Grade titles to go with the First and Second Grade Colts titles.
Shute Shield teams:
Sydney University: 1. Jeremy Tilse, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Paddy Ryan; 4. Liam Winton, 5. Ollie Atkins; 6. Trent Dyer, 7. David Hickey, 8. Tim Davidson [c]; 9. Nic Stirzaker, 10. Dan Kelly; 11. Michael Hodge, 12. Tom Carter, 13. Mitch Inman, 14. Tom Kingston; 15. Angus Roberts.
Southern Districts: 1. Tetera Faulkner, 2. John Ulugia [c], 3. Tim Metcher; 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Andrew Leota; 6. Matt Swann, 7. Jono Hayes, 8. Lopeti Timani; 9. Grayson Hart, 10. Rohan Saifolio; 11. Ben Connolly, 12. Apo Latunipulu, 13. Nic Cummins, 14. Atieli Pakalani; 15. Ben Volalvola.
Referee: Steve Walsh
Sydney Grade competition – Grand Finals
First Grade – Shute Shield: Sydney University 15 (Nathan Charles, Angus Roberts tries; Angus Roberts goal, pen goal) d Southern Districts 14 (Nic Cummins try; Ben Volavola 3 pen goals) at Concord Oval.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 45 (Dane McCarthy 2, Nathan Trist 2, Dave Dillon, Jack De Guingand tries; David Fong 6 goals, pen goal) d West Harbour 28 (Joe Tuvitu 2, Will Hannam, Graeme Kolomalu tries; Kiwi Kapene-Eleher goal, 2 pen goals).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 27 (Mark O’Dare 2, Harry Marples, John Rudd, Zubayr Abrahams tries; Jack Macklin goal) d Manly 19 (John Wunder try; Marty McNamara goal, 4 pen goals).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Northern Suburbs 20 d Manly 0.
Fifth Grade – Grand Final: Sydney University 29 d Northern Suburbs 10 at Sydney University.
Sydney Women’s grade competition – Grand Final
First Grade: Warringah 7 d Sydney University 3 at Granville Rugby Park.
Colts – Grand Finals
First Grade – W. McMahon Memorial Shield: Sydney University 27 (Tim Reid, Sam Quinn, James Nonu-Carling, James Dargaville tries; Jonathon Vaux 2 goals, pen goal) d Northern Suburbs 15 (Max Jones, Jack Cameron tries; Jack Grant goal, pen goal) at Forshaw Park.
Second Grade – Shell Trophy: Sydney University 41 (Jack O’Connor 3, Finlay McDonald, Richard Draper, Tom Shaw tries; C Mason 4 goals, pen goal) d Eastwood 7 (Matt Parkinson try; Daniel Be Santis goal).
Third Grade: Randwick 17 (Sam Tooth, Cameron Terry, Tom Windeatt tries; S Tooth goal) d Sydney University 5 (George Hudd try).
Club Championship 2012 – Gregor George Trophy: Sydney University.
Colts Club Championship 2012 – Eric Spilstead Trophy: Sydney University.