Sydney University Lions’ push for a 23rd Gridiron NSW Waratah Bowl ended in disappointment at Brookvale Oval on Saturday when they lost the season decider 48-25 to their 2023 season nemesis, UNSW Raiders.
The Raiders defeated the Lions 44-14 in Round 2 and backed that up with a 44-7 result in their Round 8 encounter while going through the 11-round season proper undefeated to claim the minor premiership on 20 points. The Lions finished second on 12, with Wollongong Mustangs (8) and UTS (8) making up the top four.
The Lions then held on to defeat the Mustangs 22-21 in a nail-biter play-off at Woollahra Oval to secure a finals berth, while the Raiders accounted for UTS to earn their place in the season decider. Their form throughout the season held strong as they prevailed on Saturday.
The Josh Lawton coached Lions were making their 32nd finals appearance when they contested Waratah Bowl XXXIX on Saturday and were chasing a three-peat. They had claimed the 2020 title with a 25-12 result over the UTS Gators and the 2022 title with a 35-0 result over the Northern Sydney Rebels. The 2021 season was canceled due to Covid-19.
They were known as the Sydney University Stormtroopers when they were beaten 19-7 by the Canterbury Cougars in the inaugural competition in 1984. But on advice from Sydney University Sport, they were the Sydney University Lions when they won their first title the following season and defended it in 1986 on the back of a 26-game winning streak. They backed that up with further titles in 1992 and 1995 before going on an amazing 16-title streak from 2003 to 2018.
During the intervening years, the Lions went down to the Bondi Raiders in 1989, 1990 and 1991 season deciders, lost to Manly Redbacks in the 1993 decider and ACT Astros in the 1996 grand final; lost to Sutherland Seahawks in the 2000 and 2001 deciders and lost to UWS Outlaws in 2003.
Bring on Waratah Bowl XXXX