The Lions knocked the UTS Gators from the ranks of the unbeaten in a comprehensive 40 -19 victory on Saturday, 1 November, and went to the top of the Gridiron NSW table in the process.
Sydney Uni holds a stranglehold over the series against the university just one long pass down Broadway, boasting the incredible record of never having lost to UTS in over 20 years of competition. And if the Gators thought their undefeated start to the 2014 season would intimidate the Lions, then they were sadly mistaken.
Sydney Uni took hold of the game from the outset, with Lions cornerback Suren Wickramasinghe taking an interception on the third play of the game and the Lions offence driving in for touchdown to running back Alex Watson on a controlled 48 yard drive in 12 plays. Watson would be the lynch-pin of the Lions offence on the day, rushing for 184 yards on 37 carries in a powerhouse performance.
After exchanging a couple of possessions, Sydney Uni eventually took advantage of better field position after the Gators were forced to punt from inside their own red zone. Mazen Safkouni returned the kick all the way back to the 1 yard line and then punched the ball into the end zone himself on the next play. After missing with a 2 point conversion attempt, the Lions held a 12-0 lead.
Sydney Uni extended its lead to 19-0 shortly before halftime, grinding the UTS defence down with a relentless rushing attack. With it being difficult to pass due to high winds and a wet ball from a severe lightning storm which disrupted the game, the Lions relied on their offensive line of Tsuyoshi Kittaka, Chris Peel, James Gifford, Fady Aoun and Nicolai Hansen to pave the way on the ground. This time the Lions drove 62 yards in 11 plays for the score, with all but 4 of those yards being made on the ground, including a 7 yard touchdown run by Mazen Safkouni.
However, the Gators struck back in the shadow of half time, converting on 4th and 13 with a receiver option pass and then running in a touchdown from 25 yards out with a reverse on the last play of the half. The Lions shut down the 2 point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 19-6 to Sydney Uni at halftime.
Sydney Uni received the ball from the second half kickoff and were determined to keep tightening the screws on UTS. Again, the offence drove the length of the field, this time scoring on a 5 yard pass from quarterback Kiernan Dorney to receiver Sam Darcy on 4th down. And the game was all but wrapped up on the next attacking drive, when the Lions repeated the dose by controlling the ball on the ground before unleashing Brandon Austley for a 29 yard touchdown on a receiver screen. With the score now at 33-6, the Lions were well in control.
The teams traded touchdowns for the rest of the way, with Lions receiver Justin Klein holding a diving grab over the middle for a 13 yard touchdown to complete the scoring for Sydney Uni. The Lions’ defence kept the Gators in check all day and mention should be made of the Sydney Uni defensive secondary of Kevin Trinh, Suren Wickramasinghe, Keenan Mackett, Nick Olive and Liam Erby, who picked off 4 interceptions between them to defuse the Gators’ passing threat.
The 40-19 win restored Sydney Uni to the top of the Gridiron NSW standings with only three more regular season games to be played before the start of the playoffs. However, the Lions cannot rest, with a match-up this Saturday against a Wollongong Mustangs team fighting for a playoff spot.
The Lions will meet the Mustangs at Craik Park, Austral, on Saturday, 8 November, with the kickoff at 3.30pm.