Gallant Uni better for the experience

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An injury-ravaged Sydney Uni succumbed 18-10 to UTS in the round-seven Sydney Metro League clash at Leichhardt’s Blackmore Oval on Saturday. 

Despite the loss, it was a welcome return to the paddock and nice to be able to see clearly on a sunny winter’s day. Rain and red tape have disrupted Uni’s season, and injuries compounded those problems for the game against UTS.

Uni went into the game missing key players, coach and halfback Jake Vrahnos, captain Myles Fowler, props Ben WorkmanKade Spear, and Josh Hayes, backrower Christian Maini, and centre Zac Rokuru.

Still, there were no excuses. Vrahnos is capably building a solid squad and imparting significant rugby league IQ. He confidently threw the halfback reins to Storm Burazer to guide the team around. Front-rowers Angus Bowen and Dom Wesbury took it upon themselves to lead the pack in Fowler’s absence.

Both teams squandered chances for points and pressure for much of the first half. Uni couldn’t take advantage of some useful penalties that provided field position and failed to nail last-play options. UTS, on the other hand, thought they were playing on a rhombus-shaped field instead of a rectangle, but fortunately, the ref knew his geometry and pulled up their forward passes.

Uni scored first after 25 minutes through a determined effort from Tom McCarthy after they kept their cool long enough to maintain pressure. Max Linden-Smith added the extras, and at 6-0, the Lions looked in a mood to continue feasting. 

But Uni lost co-captain, and ball-playing lock Harry Croker to injury not long after and then form forward John Downes to the sin-bin closer to “oranges”. It was during this period UTS scored two converted tries.  

UTS received the bulk of the penalties at the back end of the first half. This, combined with the loss of Uni’s experienced backrowers, took its toll and allowed UTS to go to the break with a 12-6 lead.

Sydney Metro League’s “timeless quality” is worth highlighting again, though. The last report – of the game against TAFE – noted the “extended” second half that enabled the Polecats to get home. In the game against TAFE, officials stopped the clock while the home side took their kicks at goal, but not when Uni lined up for conversions. 

Vrahnos had no excuses, though. His succinct summation: “We weren’t direct enough.”

UTS extended their lead to 18-6 midway through the second half, their third converted try coming on the back of a line-drop out.  

It was to Uni’s credit that their spirit never dropped. They captured the ball from their kick-off but didn’t have the finesse to capitalise. Importantly, their defence stayed strong and, ultimately, they scored the try of the afternoon.

From a last-tackle kick just inside their own territory Oscar Linden-Smith soared Suaalii-like to regain possession and quickly onloaded to Will Schofield, who had the presence of mind to send Keegan Whall on a 35-metre dash to the line. Josh Addo-Carr would not have rounded him up.

It was a deserved finish for Uni. At 18-10 with nine minutes to go they were still a show, but manufacturing wins relies on solid combinations, and this was always going to be Uni’s Achilles’ heel for the day. While combinations may have been lacking, popular clubman Ashley Johnson was a welcome sight on his return to the wing for his first game of 2022 after a lengthy hiatus, as was fan favourite, utility back Connor Puletua, back from injury.

Uni showed commendable spirit, especially in defence, and with five minutes to go, Taipan made his anticipated debut. Clubmates on the sideline were vocal in their support – another sign this group of Lions are growing together and destined for some big kills sooner rather than later.        

 Uni man of the match: Angus Bowen

(Uni players’ player points: Angus Bowen 3, Dom Wesbury 2, Keegan Whall 1).

 UTS 18 beat Sydney University 10 (McCarthyWhall tries; Linden-Smith conv)

Report thanks to Halage Media.