Photo Credit: AJF Photography
The Students emphatic 41-3 victory over Manly at the SUFG saw them book a grand final berth next Saturday at North Sydney Oval. The bumper crowd witnessed the University pack shredding Manly, whilst the backline speed was that added flair to their attacking arsenal.
The opening ten minutes was all University, suffocating Manly’s attack with heavy defence. Manly were experiencing immense difficulties just trying to get out of their quarter. Students winger James Kane kicked an early penalty for a 3-0 lead. Stuart Dunbar, University’s five eighth ignited the days scoring soon after. Receiving a Jake Gordon ball from a set piece Dunbar applied a Highland jig to step through the Manly defensive line. Scorching deep into Manly territory Dunbar passed wide to outside centre Guy Porter who continued by scoring near the posts for a converted try.
Having moved from first to second gear the University machine was fully warmed up when a phase of picking and driving saw half Jake Gordon guide second rower Lachie Swinton to crash over. 15-3 registered on the scoreboard and University were in control.
The second half had barely started when Jake Gordon’s scheming mind put second rower Dave McDuling into the open. Big Dave had the tryline 30 metres away. He commenced to lift his knees high, head was pulled back and the big breaths of air were being sucked in however he was brought down just short. But, all was not lost as the ball was recycled and shifted wide for Kane to score. 20-3 and University had raised the tempo to new heights.
Jake Gordon was a class above the opposition and gave a gentle pass for breakaway Brad Wilkin to smash over a few minutes later when University were recycling again in the five metre zone.
Manly were not achieving cohesion and desperate passes were thrown to gain some go forward. This was fatal as a wide pass was gleefully anticipated and intercepted by Stuart Dunbar who raced away for a converted try to increase the score to 34-3.
University had bypassed fifth gear and were now in cruise control during the later stages of the game. The final try was reserved for replacement second rower Jack Sherratt. A five metre lineout was formed and brought down by University. A few gentle rucks saw Sherratt emerge on the other side and he rolled over the line to score. University prevented Manly from scoring and the match ended with Kane kicking the ball dead.
There was back slapping all round the field and afterwards in the changerooms. Coach Rob Taylor reflected on what will be his first Shute Shield Grand Final, “It was a very good performance. Nice to perform like that before a Grand Final.” Big Jack Sherratt was abuzz in his first season of Sydney club rugby, “It means a lot to me this grand final in Sydney.”
Tim Clements couldn’t wipe the grin from his face, “It’s yet to sink in all this hard work. Hopefully we can enjoy the choccies next week,” said the young fullback.
All roads lead to Miller Street North Sydney next week for the 2018 Shute Shield Grand Final. All University supporters whether you’re in Sydney, Canberra, or the UK are encouraged to come to North Sydney next week for the ultimate game of 2018.
Trys: L. Swinton (1), B. Wilkin (1), S. Dunbar (1), J. Kane (1), G. Porter (1), J. Sherratt (1)
Conversions: J. Kane (4)