With finals places on the line, our Chief Sports Writer Graham Croker provides a snapshot of the season so far for our Rugby Union sides.
Despite being in a season of transition, Sydney University Football Club can still make the finals and retain the Club Championship.
That’s the belief of Rob Taylor, the club’s Rugby Performance Manager and Colts Head Coach.
“It’s going to be a very tight finish for a lot of the clubs in First Grade, particularly those in the top six who are drawn to play each other in the remaining rounds,” Taylor said.
This season saw plenty of youngsters making their First Grade and grade debuts after the club lost a host of players from 2016.
“We were a very stable team for most of the 2016 season, particularly down the spine,” Taylor said. “But we lost Stu Dunbar (five-eighth), Jim Stewart (centre), Angus Roberts (fullback) and Matt Philip (halfback) for this season. Plus Tolu Latu, Tom Robinson, Matthew Philip and Jake Gordon moved up to Super Rugby ranks.”
“In the first six rounds of 2017 we fielded four different halfbacks and four different five-eighths.”
“We’ve blooded plenty of Colts in First Grade this year, including Theo Strang, who played games at halfback and five-eighth, Banjo Travers (halfback), Tom Horton (hooker), Harry Johnson-Holmes (prop), Lachie Swinton (second-row), Daniel Calavassy (halfback) and Tim Clements (fullback), who has played three games and won the Michael Griffin Cup on debut,” Taylor said.
“In a year of transition and with an eye to the future, we’ve deliberately blooded other Colts in the lower grades to give them a taste of senior football.”
Taylor said the loss of key players from 2016 and the need to develop new combinations resulted in a “few splutters” at the start of the 2017 Shute Shield season when First Grade were leaking too many points.
“That was partly due to the number of combinations we were cycling through,” Taylor said. “We have a team of good tacklers, but decision making in defence takes time to develop.”
“We’ve certainly worked on our defence and over the past six weeks we’ve been very physical in the contact zone. The players have been working hard to get off the ground and make another tackle. The return of the Waratahs in the win over Norths helped with that continuity. The younger players really benefited from the experience.”
With the number of players we’ve blooded and the strength of the Colts program, over the next two or three years the club is building for a bright future,” Taylor stated.
Sydney University remain well in the hunt for the Club Championship, though Eastwood are neck and neck. In the Colts ranks, Sydney University are undefeated in First Grade at the time this issue of ROAR went to press, with Second and Third Grade also well placed on the ladder.
The Students currently lead the Colts Club Championship with Randwick and Eastwood in pursuit.
In another outstanding year, our Sydney University Women’s Rugby Club remain far and away the benchmark side in the Jack Scott Cup competition. Undefeated so far, the side is averaging a phenomenal 40 points a match with many of those games being won conceding no points at all. The defending premiers look imposing favourites for 2017 if they can maintain their stellar form.