Sydney Uni Lions overcame difficult conditions at the Square on Saturday night to post an impressive 52-14 win over the West Sydney Pirates in a re-match of the championship game from last season.

The rain came down early, but so too did the boom lowered by the Lions defence. Sydney Uni’s defence stopped the Pirates cold on their first two possessions and allowed only seven net yards rushing on 27 attempts for the game.

By contrast, the Lions offensive line of Brad McManus (#77), Justin Schnurstein (#61), Alex Davies (#55), Luke Dickson (#78) and Tsuyoshi Kittaka (#62) ground out a solid run game. Fullback Alex Watson (#40) made the tough yards on the ground when the ball was wet and hard to throw, churning out 120 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns on the night.

Watson went over for the game’s first score and then powered the ball down to the 11-yard line on the team’s second possession, where quarterback Kiernan Dorney (#11) linked up with Wide Receiver Justin Klein (#36) for the Lions’ second touchdown and a 12-0 lead.

The Lions then gave up a soft touchdown on a long throw but held their poise to drive back for another score, this time Running Back Andrew Smart (#29) showing good speed and balance to slice in for the touchdown.

The defence then got some of its own retribution, with defensive captain Keenan Mackett (#9) making an outstanding play to jump a screen pass and take the interception all the way back for a touchdown.

The defence held on the Pirates’ next possession too, giving the ball back to the Lions’ offence with enough time on the clock before the end of the half to drive the field and punch the ball into the endzone on a 28-yard run from Watson. That score saw the Lions go to the break well in control with a 31-6 lead.

There would be no let up in the second half. The Lions defensive line, featuring Scott Thompson (#38), Devin Lagorio (#44), Fady Aoun (#79), Martin Balada (#74) and Bola Labulo (#53), continued to close down the run and pressure the Pirates’ quarterback.

Balada led the tackle count with nine tackles, two for loss and two sacks, while, in the secondary, Mackett picked off another pass to finish the game with two interceptions and strong safety AJ Oliviero (#18) rounded out the night with a third interception.

On offence, the game saw the emergence of quarterback Joe Thompson (#1) with an impressive display in throwing a slippery ball, completing six of nine passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns. Thompson’s first ever touchdown throw for the Lions was a picture perfect long ball to wide receiver Sam Darcy (#84), who took the reception 59 yards to the endzone.

The Lions scored three more touchdowns in the second half to post an impressive final score of 52-14 and move to a 4-0 record to start the season. The Lions now have a bye week before travelling to Corrimal on October 10 to play their traditional rivals, the UNSW Raiders, for the Foundation Shovel – the trophy held by the winner of the game between the last two foundation clubs of Gridiron NSW.