Universities to battle out Australian club championship

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Sydney University Football Club and Queensland University Football Club will renew an old rivalry when they meet for Australian Club Championship bragging rights at Allianz (Sydney Football) Stadium on Sunday, March 24.

The annual fixture between the premier clubs in the Sydney and Brisbane rugby competitions will kick-off at 1.40pm as a curtain-raiser to the Waratahs v Auckland Blues Super rugby match.

The two universities last met for the Australian crown at the start of the 2011 Super Rugby season after they had won their respective 2010 competitions.

The University of Queensland triumphed at Ballymore on that occasion, winning 42-26, after leading 18-17 at half-time.

Queensland University winger Steve O’Leary racked up 22 points for the afternoon with a try and seven goals in an entertaining and extremely physical encounter played in perfect conditions before a healthy and vocal crowd.

Former Sydney University second-rower David McDuling, who had moved north to join the Queensland Reds Academy, was one of the best players for the winners, while Sydney University halfback and captain Matt Schwager toiled hard in a solid 80-minute display.

The Australian Club Championship was first contested in 1974. But the regular scheduling was abandoned in 1993 when the NSW Rugby Union insisted on playing each match in Sydney, at Concord Oval, rather than on a rotating basis.

After winning the Sydney premierships in 2005 and 2006, Sydney University Football Club pushed for the Australian Championship to be revived by challenging West Brisbane Bulldogs for the 2006 title.

The Sydneysiders duly won that encounter 36-5 in Brisbane and successfully defended the title the following year when they defeated the 2007 Brisbane premiers Sunnybank 24-0.

But SUFC’s shot at a third consecutive Australian Club Championship in 2008 imploded at ANZ Stadium when Brisbane’s East Tigers turned in a stunning second half to win 38-31.

And Brothers defeated Sydney University 36-26 to claim the 2009 championship. Brothers now have five ACCs on their belt. Randwick lead the way with seven ACCs, while Sydney University have two titles.

The Australian Club Championship matches are sanctioned by the Australian Rugby Union and the NSW and Queensland unions.

Sydney University Football Club president, David Mortimer, is a big supporter of the ACC.

“We have been fortunate to contest the Australian Club Championships in recent years and, to us, it is a very important fixture on the club rugby calendar,’” he said. “Our sport continues to face many challenges but we still believe that elite club competitions are critical to the future of the game in Australia.

“We have for some years believed that a national club competition would add considerable value to Australia’s rugby calendar. We will continue to explore possibilities. We also feel strongly about the importance of University rugby in Australia which has a long and proud tradition.

“We see this as an essential component in the Australian domestic rugby program.”