Sydney University opened the 2013 Sydney Premier rugby season with a clean sweep of Parramatta in the four grade and three Colts matches, highlighted by a 44-21 disposal of the Two Blues in the First Grade encounter at Merrylands RSL Rugby Park.
Skipper Tim Davidson fittingly opened the scoring in the club’s 150th anniversary season as the defending Shute Shield premiers ran in seven tries to three, earning a bonus point for their efforts.
Operating at pace off third phase play, the University number eight shrugged off several defenders dive over. Five-eighth Jock Merriman, one of six players on debut for the Students, converted and landed a penalty minutes later to open up a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes.
The hosts never wilted from the challenge and reduced the margin to 10-7 when skipper and breakaway Andrew Cox scored next to the uprights after a sustained attack, with Tom Woods landing the first of three conversions.
The Students hit back with three tries to lead 29-7 at the break. The first came from outside-centre Michael Hodge, who bamboozled the defence with some neat stepping and a swerve, while the other two were scored by newcomer Fetuli Talanoa, a winger who has moved codes from the South Sydney Rabbitohs. His first was from a bust down the right flank and the second from a diagonal kick to the wing which he caught on the full and touched down unopposed.
The second half opened in similar fashion to the first, with early tries to inside-centre Tom Carter and Merriman, who reaped the rewards of a break by winger Levi Dodd and a Carter transfer.
Converted tries from Cox and Myles Huncan pegged the score back to 39-21, but giant second-rower Will Skelton, another on debut for the Students, had the last say when he left a trail of defenders in a 40-metre surge to the line.
New First Grade coach Chris Malone said he was pleased to come away with the points from the season opener, particularly away from home. “It can be hostile territory at Parramatta and they are a much improved outfit,” he said. “So it was a decent first-up performance, considering we had two eligible Colts at halfback (Jake Gordon) and five-eighth (Jock Merriman).
“But they were covered with some experienced campaigners in Tom Carter, (fullback) Nathan Trist and (second-rower) Liam Winton.
“There were plenty of positives to come out of the game and, in terms of the season, it was a good first building block.”
The coach said he had already turned his attention to next weekend’s block-buster against Eastwood at Sydney University No.1 Oval – a match preceding the club’s 150th anniversary dinner.
“Eastwood always provide us with a tough challenge, and I’m sure this weekend will be no different,” said Malone.
Sydney Grade competition – Round 1
First Grade – Shute Shield: Sydney University 44 (Fetuli Talonoa 2, Michael Hodge, Tom Carter, Jock Merriman, Tim Davidson, Will Skelton tries; Jock Merriman 3 cons, pen) d Parramatta 21 (Andrew Cox 2, Myles Huncan tries; Tom Woods 3 cons) with a bonus point at Merrylands RSL Club Rugby Park. Referee William Houston.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 28 d Parramatta 22.
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 50 d Parramatta 0.
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 33 d Parramatta 5.
First Grade – W. McMahon Memorial Shield: Sydney University 59 d Parramatta 9
Second Grade – Shell Trophy: Sydney University 34 d Parramatta 0.
Third Grade – Eric Spilsted Shield: Sydney University 27 d Parramatta 0.