Sydney University saved their best for last when they won an eighth Shute Shield in their past nine outings with a 51-6 effort over Eastwood at Concord Oval on Saturday.
It was a fitting end to an unsurpassed captaincy reign by Sydney University skipper Tim Davidson, and inside-centre Tom Carter, who announced their retirement after the game.
Davidson has captained the Students in 11 grand finals – nine Shute Shields and two Tooheys Cups (in 2005 and 2006) – for nine titles, an effort that is unlikely to be rivalled for eons. His lifelong friend and playing partner Carter, has shared the grand final spoils.
It was also a fitting end to Sydney University Football Club’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The Students appeared in every grand final at Colts and grade levels and came away with premierships in First and Second grade Colts, and in First, Second, Fourth and Fifth grades. The club’s women’s XV bowed out in the semi-finals chasing a third straight title. Sydney University also won the Club Championship and the Colts Club Championship.
It was Sydney University’s 29th title – a record – since 1901 when they were joint premiers with Glebe, and it was the first time two clubs have contested all four grade finals since the finals system was introduced back in 1932.
“Not much has separated the teams all year and Eastwood, I can’t speak higher of the players they have, how they played and how they’re led,” a gracious Davidson said in his victory speech. “I don’t think it was a fair reflection of their season today.
“I was really proud of our boys and the way they applied themselves this week. We had a strong build up and it showed today how we wanted to play, which is great. I couldn’t be happier.”
The skipper bows out with 161 First Grade games under his belt and a 91 per cent winning ratio as captain.
It was also a fitting end for Carter, who has shared in all of the premierships while also putting together a 10-season stint with NSW Waratahs. He has played 151 First Grade games for the Students and retired on 84 games for NSW.
Sydney University have been threatening to run up big scores in the latter stages of the competition and they clicked into gear on Saturday.
Operating off a dominant scrum they looked dangerous with the ball in hand, mixing width-of-the-field plays with short inside balls to test the Woodies defence. And they mixed it with strong defence when Eastwood threatened, forcing a number of telling turnovers.
It was the perfect scenario for five-eighth Bernard Foley to show his wares and he delivered in spades, adding seven goals from eight attempts to a strong running and passing game as the Students ran in seven tries while keeping their line intact. Halfback Nick Phipps was also dynamic throughout.
Perhaps the most telling play of the game came just before the break when University fullback Tom Kingston scored a grand solo try to edge his side out to a 17-6 halftime lead.
Sydney University had enjoyed the perfect start to the grand final, piling on 10 points in the opening 10 minutes, with Foley landing a penalty goal and then converting a try for winger Lachlan Mitchell which he engineered with a cut-out pass after a sustained build-up.
The Woodies clawed their way back with possession and position and fullback Ben Batger rewarded the efforts with penalty goals in 20th and 23rd minutes to reduce the margin to 10-6. But Kingston’s effort, with a trademark dive, broke their backs.
While they played with aggression early in the second half and established a beachhead, Batger failed to capitalise, missing two penalty goal attempts before the Students retaliated and dominated the final half hour with another six tries.
Kingston grabbed a second, outside-centre Tom English also scored a brace, while winger Greg Jeloudev, and hooker Tolu Latu also crossed for five-pointers. Latu’s effort resulted from a multi-phase build-up, with the No.2 taking the final pass on the wing and incorporating a side-step in his run for the line.
Carter was more than happy with the effort of the Students and to finish in fairytale manner.
“Eastwood has been a great side and we haven’t beaten them in three years,” he said. “To play like that and to come out here on the biggest stage and take the win is really pleasing.
“You get on the horse and ride off into the sunset. I feel really privileged to finish as a winner. There will never be another Tim Davidson. I feel really fortunate to have met so many amazing people – Phil Waugh, Lote Tuqiri, Dan Vickerman. To walk in the footsteps of legends of the game that has given me so much is special.
“I know I polarise people, and people don’t like me, but deep down I want to thank the fans, and more importantly to my family and my wife for everything they’ve given me.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some incredible highs this year, the Lions game, the Waratahs game in Perth, and I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell.”
Davidson also singled out his parents, who travel from Young to watch most games during the season, and his wife, who has been living in Melbourne this year while he has travelled back and forth.
“They’ve just been outstanding, in the past 12 years I don’t think there have been too many games my parents have missed,” Davidson said. “They travel 400km up the Hume Highway, and if Mum’s got things on Dad will drive up and drive back the same day. You don’t really understand what that support means until you look back.
“And I can’t even imagine how tough it’s been on my wife this year, living down in Melbourne by herself. She’s been very supportive, to allow me to experience this. She knows how important it is for me.”
Davidson and Carter leave some big boots to be filled.
Sydney Men’s Grade competition – Grand Finals
First Grade – Shute Shield: Sydney University 51 (Tom English 2, Tom Kingston 2, Tolu Latu, Greg Jeloudev, Lachlan Mitchell tries; Bernard Foley 5 goals, 2 pen goals) d Eastwood 6 (Ben Batger 2 pen goals) at Concord Oval.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 41 (Stuart Dunbar 2, Jack Dargaville, Nathan Trist goals; Byron Hodge 3 goals, 5 pen goals) d Eastwood 22 (TannousFerris, George Kent, Nathan Powyer tries; Jai Ayoub 2 goals, pen goal).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Eastwood 23 (Alex Del Moro, Fili Pinono tries; Dave Sutton 2 goals, 3 pen goals) d Sydney University 22 (Harry Marples 2, John Rudd tries; Jack Macklin 2 goals, pen goals).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 31 (Michael Pollastri 2, Charles Boyce, James Swan, Duncan Boyd-Jones tries; David Fong 2 goals, C Mason goal) d Eastwood 10 (Paul Cividen, Ben Coady tries).
Fifth Grade: Sydney University 50 d Randwick 10.
Colts – Grand Finals
First Grade – W. McMahon Memorial Shield: Sydney University 36 (Jim Stewart 2, Eveni Hunt, Matt Narracott, Jake Gordon, Harry Randell tries; S McDonald 3 goals) d Manly 35 (Alex Northam 3, Rory O’Connor tries; Ryan Squires 2 goals, 2 pen goals, Vinnie Baranyi goal, Reece Hodge pen goal) at Forshaw Rugby Park.
Second Grade – Shell Trophy: Sydney University 25 (Jack Redden, Ben Hughes, Tyne Holmes tries; Tianua Poto 2 goals, 2 pen goals) d Eastwood 12 (Conor O’Gorman, Tim Bartlett tries; Daniel De Santis goal).
Third Grade – Bill Simpson Shield: Eastern Suburbs 21 (BJ Edwards, Charlie Drayton tries; Will Maddocks goal, 3 pen goals) d Sydney University 15 (Nick Burdon, Jack Ledger-Ryan tries; Chris O’Donnell goal, pen goal).
Sydney University’s Shute Shield and Tooheys Cup record since 1999
1999: Eastwood d Sydney University 34-17
2000: Randwick d Sydney University 36-30
2001: Sydney University d Eastwood 27-20
2002: Eastwood d Sydney University 19-15
2005: Sydney University d Eastwood 41-5
2005 Tooheys Cup: Warringah d Sydney University 29-23
2006: Sydney University d Randwick 16-10
2006 Tooheys Cup: Sydney University d Eastwood 17-10
2007: Sydney University d Eastern Suburbs 34-11
2008: Sydney University d Randwick 45-20
2009: Sydney University d Randwick 24-19
2010: Sydney University d Randwick 46-6
2011: Eastwood d Sydney University 19-16
2012: Sydney University d Southern Districts 15-14
2013: Sydney University 51 v Eastwood 6