Southern Districts end University’s rugby reign

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A penalty goal from the sideline, after the final bell, ended Sydney University’s decade of dominance in Sydney’s premier rugby union competition, the Shute Shield, at Sydney University No.1 Oval on Saturday.

Southern Districts five-eighth Ben Volavola elected to take the shot, into a breeze, when University were penalised 30m out with seconds to play in the semi-final to determine who would meet Eastwood in next Saturday’s grand final.

It was a brave decision. While Volavola didn’t look missing when he landed a conversion and three penalty goals with his first four kicks in the first half, he missed a conversion and three penalty goal attempts from easier positions each side of halftime. He then landed a penalty from under the posts with 12 minutes to play before becoming the hero of the day with his after-the-bell effort to end the day with six from 10 attempts.

Defending premiers Sydney University looked to be heading for a 10th consecutive grand final appearance when they clawed their way to a 25-24 lead with 10 minutes remaining, but Southern Districts had other ideas.

In the see-sawing final stages, they gained field position and with it, the vital penalty to earn a courageous win, albeit on the back of a 12-5 penalty count from referee Andrew Lees.

Volavola set the tone for the match when he landed two early penalties to put the visitors six-nil up in as many minutes before University replied in the 17th minute with the first of their three tries.

A bust from winger James Dargaville resulted in five-eight Dan Kelly, prop Sam Talakai and hooker Gerard Ellis sending winger Henry Clunie-Ross over in the corner. Kelly’s conversion attempt, from the same spot Volavola was to later perform his heroics, fell under the crossbar.

A break from the restart from Sydney University inside-centre Tom Carter should have led to a try but came unstuck with a bad pass and a dropped ball. Souths counter-attacked with winger Alex Gibbon backing up on the right-hand side of the field to send flanker Kieran Black over in the corner. Volavola’s conversion gave the visitors a 13-5 advantage.

Sydney University forced a lineout from the restart and Carter made another significant break to send outside-centre Jim Stewart close to the line. After three pick-and-drives, flanker David Hickey broke three tackles to score University’s second try. Kelly converted for a 13-10 scoreline.

Volavola responded with another penalty goal and with eight minutes to the break Souths played their trump card when they dominated a scrum 40 metres out and set their backs loose. Blindside winger Afa Pakalani entered the fray off a Volavola pass and made a long, angled run to link with Gibbon, who scored wide out. Volavola missed the conversion and Souths went to the break with a 21-12 advantage.

As the penalties continued to flow Souths way – they were 8-1 at the break – Volavola missed kickable goals in the 51st, 55th and 60th minutes, while Kelly reduced the margin to 21-15 with a penalty goal for University.

The Students finally took the lead in the 65th minute with a great ensemble try that began with a Dargaville break. He found Hickey in support and backed up the flanker to send Stewart over for the host’s third try. Replacement five-eighth Stuart Dunbar landed the extras for a 22-21 scoreline.

But when Southern Districts dominated a scrum on the University quarter-line, Volavola put his side ahead 24-22 with a penalty goal.

The Students weren’t to be denied and fought their way back to earn a penalty 35m out in front. Dunbar stepped up to the plate and nailed the goal for a 25-24 scoreline and a nail-biting finish. Volavola thenkept his nerve – and his cuticles – to kick Southern Districts to a grand final appointment with Eastwood.

Wile Sydney University just failed to replicate their 2013 efforts when all grade and Colts teams made it through to the grand finals, they will be represented in the Second, Third and Fourth grades, and First, Second and Third grade Colts in next Saturday’s deciders.

It was a tough day at the office for the Sydney University women First XV who lost the 2014 decider 19-7 to Rockdale at Granville Oval


Sydney Premier grade competition – Semi-Finals

First Grade: Southern Districts 27 (Kieran Black, Alex Gibbon tries; Ben Volavola goal, 5 pen goals) d Sydney University 25 (Henry Clunies-Ross, David Hickey, Jim Stewart tries; Dan Kelly goal, pen goal, Stuart Dunbar goal, pen goal) at Sydney University No.1 Oval on Sunday. Southern Districts to meet Eastwood in the 2014 Shute Shield grand final at Concord Oval on Saturday.

Second Grade: Sydney University 32 (Jake Gordon 2, Michael Tyler, Oliver L’Estrange tries; Byron Hodge 3 goals, 2 pen goals) d Eastwood 28 (Jackson Larkin 2, Blake Sutton, Ben Coady tries; James Martin 4 goals) at Manly Oval on Saturday. Sydney University to meet Manly in the grand final.

Third Grade: Sydney University 50 (Pen try, Alasdair King, Thomas Heslop, Michael Whiteley, Jack Sullivan, Ben Murray, Jason Hofmeyr tries; Dave Dillon 6 goals, pen goal) d Manly 14 (Rory O’Connor, Vinnie Baranyi tries; Tom Chesters 2 goals) at Sydney University No.1 Oval on Sunday. Sydney University to meet Warringah in the grand final.

Fourth Grade: Sydney University 27 (Kodie Drury-Hawkins 2, John Mokofisi, Richard Trepant tries; William Macklin 2 goals, pen goal) d Warringah 10 (Patrick Beck try; Ben Bryant goal, pen goal) at Sydney University No.1 Oval. Sydney University to meet Eastwood in the grand final.


First Grade: Sydney University 51 d Northern Suburbs 19 at Forshaw Rugby Park at Forshaw Rugby Park on Saturday. Sydney University to meet Randwick in the grand final.

Second Grade: Sydney University 31 d Eastwood 30 on Sunday. Sydney University to meet Manly in the grand final.

Third Grade: Sydney University 14 d Southern Districts 12 at Forshaw Rugby Park on Saturday. Sydney University to meet Manly in the grand final.

Sydney Women’s Premier Grade competition – Grand Final

Rockdale 19 d Sydney University 7 at Granville Oval on Saturday.