Sydney University’s tilt at another Shute Shield title came to an end at windy Manly Oval on Saturday when the hosts inflicted a 42-22 result to book a grand final berth against defending premiers Eastwood.
Despite a decade-and-a-half of finals football and seven Shute Shield titles to boot in that time, Sydney University’s record at Manly Oval does not make for pretty reading.
It continued in Saturday’s sudden-death semi-final when the Students held at 14-0 lead midway through the first half and went to the break trailing 18-17 and well in contention.
But as with the previous week, when they gave up a 20-point lead in the qualifying final against Southern Districts, they were over-run in the second half.
Sydney University dominated possession and position in the early stages, resulting in flanker David Hickey crossing under the posts in the fifth minute. Angus Roberts converted for 7-0 lead.
The Students withheld a strong comeback from the hosts before five-eighth Roberts jinked his way over and converted the try for a 14-0 lead in as many minutes.
Manly hit back in the 21st minute when halfback Matt Lucas forced a turnover in a tackle that eventually led to second-rower Caydern Neville scoring in the corner.
The hosts continued to attack and winger Alex Northam was rewarded with a try five minutes later. Lucas added two penalty goals while Roberts landed another for the Students for an 18-17 halftime scoreline. It might have been a different scoreline had a big break from Dave Dennis been stopped just short of the tryline with second of the half remaining.
But the Students regained the lead inside a minute of the restart when winger Matthew Narracott secured a high ball in the midfield and streaked away to score.
Sydney University might have edged further ahead when Hickey was pulled down by winger Richard Hooper just short of the line.
Defence soon turned to attack with Manly’s inside-centre Reece Hodge on the end of a smart pass from number eight Wycliff Palu for a try. Palu had come off the bench early in the second half and had plenty of impact.
Northam crossed for his second try in the 58th minute on the back of a Lucas kick, and fullback BJ Hartmann consolidated the lead with another try minutes later.
Palu put the match beyond doubt when he collected a charge-down and sprinted 60 metres to score.
In the other knock-out semi-final, Eastwood came from 20 points down to defeat a gallant Southern Districts 32-28 at T.G. Millner Field.
The Woodies will defend their title against Manly at Concord Oval on Saturday.
Despite losing First Grade, Third Grade and Fourth Grade on Saturday, Sydney University will still be represented in the grand finals by Second Grade and the three Colts grades, who all recorded wins at the weekend.
NSW Men’s Premier Rugby Union competition – Semi-Finals
First Grade – Shute Shield: Manly 44 (Alexander Northam 2, Cadeyrn Neville, Reece Hodge, Brenden Hartmann, Wycliff Palu tries; Matt Lucas 2 goals, 2 pen goals) d Sydney University 22 (David Hickey 2, Matthew Narracott tries, Angus Roberts 2 goals, pen goals) at Manly Oval on Saturday. Eastwood 32 d Southern Districts 28 at T.G. Milner Field. Grand final: Eastwood v Manly.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Sydney University 21 (Jane Gordon, James McMahon tries; Byron Hodge goal, 3 pen goals) d Manly 14 (Ellis Abrahams, Ben Carolan tries; Ellis Abrahams 2 goals) at Manly Oval on Saturday. Randwick 27 d Eastwood 17. Grand final: Sydney University v Randwick.
Third Grade – J.R. Henderson Shield: Eastern Suburbs 22 (Andrew Ferris 2, Lachlan Piggott tries; Oliver Saunders, Will Maddocks goals; William Maddocks field goal) d Sydney University 19 (Oliver Gresham, John Mokofisi, William Macklin tries; Ben Canon 2 goals) at Manly Oval on Saturday. Eastwood 33 d Northern Suburbs 18. Grand final: Eastern Suburbs v Eastwood.
Fourth Grade – J.R. Henderson Cup: Manly Warringah 16 (Jack Eades try; Cameron Duffus goal, 3 pen goals) d Sydney University 15 at Manly Oval on Saturday. Eastern Suburbs 13 drew with Southern Districts 13. Grand final: Manly Warringah v Eastern Suburbs.
First Grade – W. McMahon Memorial Shield: Sydney University 43 (Declan Moore, Jackson McCalman, Will Davies, Jack Redden, Christian Kagiassis, Guy Porter tries; Christian Kagiassis 5 goals, pen goal) d Eastern Suburbs 26 (Benjamin Vincent, Ted Pye, James Perlowski, Suaesi Tuala Iosua tries; Alex Newsome 2, Jack Maddocks goals) at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday. Randwick 36 d Northern Suburbs 14: Grand final: Sydney University v Randwick.
Second Grade – Shell Trophy: Sydney University 38 (Jack Blair, Peter Fenwicke, Hugh Summerhayes, Lachlan Agiris, Banjo Travers, James Margan tries; James Kane 4 goals) d Northern Suburbs 5 (Dominic Naylor try) at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday. Randwick 35 d Gordon 14. Grand final: Sydney University v Randwick.
Third Grade: Bill Simpson Shield: Sydney University 52 (James Margan 2, Oliver Maxwell, Aidan Brown, Sean Cross, Justin Fish, Thomas McFayden, Patrick Muller tries; Justin Fish 6 goals) d Southern Districts 14 (James Whelan, Tyler Pritchard tries; James Whelan 2 goals) at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday. Randwick 41 d Gordon 14. Grand final: Sydney University v Randwick.
NSW Women’s Premier Rugby Union competition – Round 13
Sydney University 24 d Blacktown 0 at St John’s Oval.