Queensland too strong in club championship

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Graham Croker

Sydney University Football Club’s dominance in the Sydney grade competition for the past six years has not translated to the Australian Club Championship – played for by the winners of the Sydney and Brisbane premier club competitions.

SUFC met 2010 Brisbane club champions, the University of Queensland, at Ballymore on Sunday afternoon, with the hosts winning 42-26, after leading 18-17 at half-time.

UQ winger Steve O’Leary racked up 22 points for the afternoon with a try and seven goals in an entertaining and extremely physical encounter played in perfect conditions before a healthy and vocal crowd.

Former Sydney University second-rower David McDuling, who is  now with the Queensland Reds Academy, was one of the best players for the winners, while SU halfback and captain  Matt Schwager toiled hard in a solid 80-minute display.

QU centre Ryan Gilliman opened the scoring with a try in the 15th minute, before the visitors – with the wind at their backs – edged ahead with tries to James McMahon and Willie du Plessis.

But the hosts took a one-point lead into the break with tries to hooker Scott Kelly and winger Simon Morahan.

Both teams traded tries and penalty goals in the second half before a length-of-the-field intercept try to QU replacement Tom McQueen capped win.

The victory was the third straight by Queensland teams in the ACC with Brothers and Easts beating Sydney University the previous two years.

The Australian Club Championship was first contested in 1974. But the regular scheduling was abandoned in 1993 when the NSW Rugby Union insisted on playing each match in Sydney, at Concord Oval, rather than on a rotating basis.

After winning the Sydney premiership in 2005 and 2006, Sydney University Football Club pushed for the Australian Championship to be revived by challenging West Brisbane Bulldogs for the 2006 title.

The Sydneysiders duly won that encounter 36-5 in Brisbane and successfully defended the title the following year when they defeated the 2007 Brisbane premiers Sunnybank 24-0.

But SUFC’s shot at a third consecutive Australian Club Championship imploded at ANZ Stadium when Brisbane’s East Tigers turned in a stunning second half to win 38-31.

And Brothers defeated Sydney University 36-26 to claim the 2009 championship. Brothers now have five ACCs on their belt. Randwick lead the way with seven ACCs, while Sydney University have two titles.

The Australian Club Championship matches are sanctioned by the Australian Rugby Union and the NSW and Queensland unions.

Sydney University Football Club president, David Mortimer, is a big supporter of the ACC. “We have been fortunate to contest each of the Australian Club Championships in recent years and, to us, it is a very important fixture on the club rugby calendar’” he said. “Our sport continues to face many challenges but we still believe that elite club competitions are critical to the future of the game in Australia.

“We have for some years believed that a national club competition would add considerable value to Australia’s rugby calendar but, with such busy international and Super 15 seasons, this now looks unlikely.

“We will continue to explore possibilities. We also feel strongly about the importance of University rugby in Australia which has a long and proud tradition. We see this as an essential component in the Australian domestic rugby program. We are looking to develop an inter-varsity competition which, if successful, could include international sides.”

Sydney University’s push for a sixth consecutive tilt at an Australian Club Championship will begin this Saturday when they play round one of the 2011 Sydney grade competition against Parramatta at Granville Park.

Scoreboard

University of Queensland 42 (Ryan Gilliman, Steve O’Leary, Scott Kelly, Simon Morahan, Tom McQueen tries, Steve O’Leary 4 cons, 3 pen goals) d Sydney University 26 (James McMahon, Willie du Plessis, Harry Marples tries, Angus Roberts con, pen, Danny Kroll 2 pen goals).

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