By Greg Giannini
Sydney University Lions returned to the winner’s circle in Division One with a solid 32-16 victory over University of Canberra Grizzlies in Round 11 of the NSW Tertiary Rugby League clash at Henson Park on Saturday.
The match marked the return of Adam Hansen, Jay Parker and Adam Harber, who all made major contributions, with Hansen scoring two tries. Matthew Colgrave was also impressive, making his Division One debut for the Lions.
The Lions got off to a tremendous start, opening the scoring after just four minutes of play with great exhibition of attacking footy.
Half-back Morrison Mong popped a short ball to hard-running front-rower Ryan Barton, who managed to poke his nose through the defensive line and provide a magical ball to Tom Williams, who streaked away only to be pulled down just short of the goal line. Clever dummy half play by Colgrave allowed Mong and David Turner to organise a swift backline movement which resulted in a brilliant try to winger Steve Tziotis in the corner. Mong added the extras to lead 6-0.
The Lions were settling into their work with some aggressive defending led by Greg Ale, Dillion Johnson and Adam Harber. Attacking combinations on the right edge between Joe Andrews, Tom Williams and Caine Trindall were also a feature.
The Grizzlies hit back with a well-constructed try in the 18th minute to level the scores at 6-6 but it didn’t take long for the Lions to hit the front again three minutes later when they marched down field with powerful runs by Barton, Ale and Johnson and some second phase play fracturing the Grizzlies’ defence to set up a brilliant play by Adam Vrahnos, who grubber-kicked behind the defence, regathered and offloaded to Parker to score an excellent try close to the posts. Mong converted for a 12-6 lead.
Some unforced errors and back-to-back penalties allowed the Grizzlies to mount pressure and finished off the half by scoring a try against the run of play to reduce the deficit to 12-10 at the half time break.
The Grizzlies failed to complete the first set of the second half and the Lions used their field position to take full advantage with a superb try to Joe Andrew three minutes after the resumption. Turner swept the ball out the back to find Andrews, who used some fancy footwork to leave defenders grabbing thin air and, with excellent support play by Barton, Andrews used his pace to get around the fullback to score and extend the lead to 16-10.
The Lions struck again in the 50th minute when Adam Vrahnos put his stamp on the game with a powerful line-break and a big fend to race 40m to score under the sticks. Daniel Lambert added the extras for a 22-10 lead.
The Grizzlies bounced back with a converted try in the 55th minute to set up a nail-biting finish. With 15 minutes left on the clock the scores were 22-16 with the Grizzlies showing plenty of intent and looking to cause an upset and take away two valuable competition points.
However, the Lions’ big men took control once again with Barton and Ale providing some good carries along with Jack Lambert, Daniel Lambert, Adam Hansen and Kingston Nicholson all doing their part.
In the 63rd minute some clever dummy-half play by Nicholson skirting wide of the ruck found Daniel Lambert with an inside pass. He sliced through the defence like a hot knife through butter but was brought down 10m short of the goal line. Mong took control of the next play and put in a pinpoint cross-field kick to find Hansen, who made a two-handed grab and planted the ball over the try line to take the scoreline to 26-16.
On the stroke of fulltime the Lions put the result to bed when Hansen put the exclamation mark on a classy individual performance with his second try. Tziotis added the extras to seal the result.
“It was good, solid performance, especially in the second half,” Lions coach Steve Freeborn said. “We stuck to our game plan and worked on our discipline and we finished off strongly.”
Freeborn wants his team to concentrate on improving support play, ball security and repeat attacking sets. He also praised the efforts of Joe Andrews and Ryan Barton who had great games.
Adam Vrahnos picked up the Kobe Jones man-of-the-match award.
Congratulations to the four Lions who were selected to represent NSW: Junior Taupo, Myles Fowler, Scott Bunch and Jake Vrahnos. The NSW Tertiary Student representative team left Sydney on July 9, bound for Vancouver, Canada, where they will play three matches against British Columbia competition combined Open and Under 23 sides and local competition club Surrey Beavers.
Round 12 of the Tertiary Cup competition, on July 25, will see Sydney University Lions take on UTS Tigers at Blackmore Oval, with First Division kicking off at 3pm and Second Division starting at 1.15pm.
NSW Tertiary Cup competition – Round 11
Division 1: Sydney University 32 (Adam Hansen 2, Steve Tziotis, Jay Parker, Joe Andrews, Adam Vrahnos tries; Morrison Mong 2 goals, Daniel Lambert, Steve Tziotis goals) defeated University of Canberra Grizzlies 16.
Division 2: Bye