Sydney University Football Club’s tilt at another Shute Shield title came unstuck at a greasy North Sydney Oval on Saturday when the hosts broke a 41-year drought with a 28-15 result in the season-ender.
Norths led 10-3 at the break, but trailed 15-13 midway through the second half before sealing the issue with two late tries, the last of which went unconverted when their fans invaded the pitch to share the joys of a long-awaited title. Their last grand final appearance was in 1998 and their last title was a dour 9-6 win over Parramatta in 1975.
The Students put together some come-from-behind wins at the end of the season to claim the 2016 minor premiership and hopefully follow that up with an eighth title in the past 11 seasons. But it wasn’t to be. Norths took the title on the back of their own 13-game winning streak.
And they did it with a dominant first half scrum which partly led to an overall 16-7 penalty count.
Sydney University’s scrum has been solid all season, but they were outmuscled in the first half on Saturday. They wilted in the first engagement and cracked in the 25th minute when Norths put them under the pump on their own line, resulting in a penalty try. Five-eighth Angus Sinclair added the conversion to an earlier penalty goal for a 10-3 lead.
He extended that to 13-3 with another penalty goal early in the second half.
The Students’ scrum improved after the break and a solid engagement in the 58th minute led to their first try. Five-eighth Stuart Dunbar surged to within five metres of the line and captain Tom Carter hit the line off the edge of the ensuing ruck to score near the posts. Winger Christian Kagiassis landed the conversion and they were back in the hunt.
Sydney University’s mini revival continued from the restart with some excellent phase play which resulted in a try to prop Silatolu Latu and a 15-13 lead.
But it was short-lived. Another Sinclair penalty put Norths ahead 16-15 in the 71st minute and they consolidated minutes later off the back of a mid-field bomb from University fullback Angus Roberts.
Northern Suburbs number eight Hugh Sinclair, the man-of-the-match, defused the kick and instigated an attacking raid that resulted in a try to winger Richard Woolfe which Sinclair converted.
With a minute on the clock, Norths received their 16th penalty, kicked to the corner and instigated a rolling maul from the lineout, which resulted in a try to replacement forward William Weeks.
The winners defended well, made fewer errors on the day, seemingly played with more urgency and dominated the telling scrums. They’re some of the key ingredients to winning grand finals.
Despite losing the Shute Shield decider, Sydney University came away with titles in Third Grade and Fourth grades and First and Third grade Colts. They lost the Second Grade Colts grand final and dipped out of Second Grade in the semi-finals.
Sydney University also won the Club Championship and the Colts Club Championship for 2016.
And Sydney University’s women’s First XV made it back-to-back titles with a 25-24 win over Parramatta in the 2016 decider at Wills Ground, Earlwood on Saturday.
Sydney Men’s Premier Grade rugby competition – Grand Finals
First Grade – Shute Shield: Northern Suburbs 28 (Pen try, Richard Woolfe, Williams Weeks tries; Angus Sinclair 2 goals, 3 pen goals) defeated Sydney University 15 (Tom Carter, Silatolu Latu tries; Christian Kagiassis goal, pen goal) at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 20 (Ben Carolan, William Davies, Jack McCalman tries; Ben Cannon goal, pen goal) defeated Warringah 12 (Finlay Hillicks, Daniel Saggus tries; Calum Blyth goal) at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 24 (Nick Burden, William Macklin tries; Tom Wilson goal, 4 pen goals) defeated Eastwood 10 (David Sutton try, goal, pen goal) at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.
First Grade: Sydney University 26 (Pen try, Harry Johnson Holmes 2, Tim Clements tries; James Kane 3 goals) defeated Northern Suburbs 21 (Evan Pritchard, Connor Winchester tries; Connor Winchester goal, 3 pen goals) at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday.
Second Grade: Randwick 34defeated Sydney University 27 (James Widders-Leece, Tim McCutcheon, Harry Potter tries; Harry Potter 2 goals, 2 pen goals, Daniel Poletto goal) at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday.
Third Grade: Sydney University 25 (Sean O’Byrne, Connor Farnell, Tom Farnell tries; Daniel Poletto goal, 2 pen goals) defeated Eastern Suburbs 5 at Forshaw Rugby Park on Sunday.
Sydney Women’s Premier grade competition – Grand Final
Sydney University 25 defeated Parramatta 24 at Waverley Oval on Saturday.