Sydney University suffered back-to-back losses when they were put to the sword at T.G. Millner Field on Saturday, with hosts Eastwood running out 13-12 winners.
The 2011 Shute Shield premiers, who have won seven of the past eight encounters with Sydney University, trailed seven-nil at the break but turned in a disciplined second half to grab the lead and the points.
The result piled more pain into the Students camp after their 37-25 loss to Manly the previous week.
With one round to play, Eastwood have the minor premiership in the bag with 62 competition points after 15 rounds. Manly, with a game in hand, are on 56 points, with Sydney University (53), Southern Districts (51), Northern Suburbs (39) and Parramatta (38) making up the top six. (Norths and Parramatta also have a game in hand.)
Armed with a host of Super Rugby players, the Students certainly had the armoury to take on Eastwood on their home patch and they did that for most of the first half, controlling possession and territory.
Winger Michael Hodge scored the only try of the half when the ball was shifted wide off a set play and outside-centre Mitch Inman gave him a saloon passage down the left touchline. Five-eighth Dan Kelly added the extras and the Students went to the break seven-nil leaders.
But the Woodies replied soon after the resumption with a penalty goal from fullback Ben Batger followed by a try from centre Jimmy Hilgendorf, who sent second-rower Tom Alexander through the defensive line and then backed up to score. Replacement back Jai Aboud landed the conversion.
When Hodge went over for his second five-pointer the Students had edged ahead 12-10, but Aboud landed a penalty goal to reclaim the lead again and they held on to claim the points.
The Students will host Southern Districts in the final round of the competition proper on August 18.
While Eastwood will go into the finals as favourites to collect back-to-back Shute Shields, for the first time in some years the rest of the finals contenders are genuine threats of going all the way.
Sydney Grade competition – Round 15
First Grade – Shute Shield: Eastwood 13 (Jimmy Hilgendorf try; Jai Aboud goal, pen goal; Ben Batger pen goal) d Sydney University 12 (Michael Hodge 2 tries; Dan Kelly goal) at T.G. Millner Field.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Eastwood 41 (Nathan Powyer 2, Jai Aboud 2, Joey Afualo, Shane Collins tries: Jai Aboud 3 goals, pen goal, Jordan Goddard goal) d Sydney University 10 (Willie du Plessis try; David Fong goal, pen goal).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 45 (Holoua Tonga 2, Jack Ellis-Flint, Jack Macklin, Zubayr Abrahams, Matt Armour, John Rudd tries; Jack Macklin 5 goals) d Eastwood 7 (Gus McEntyre try; Gus McEntyre goal).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 47 (Cameron Lawrence 3, Sione Kaivelata 2, Ben Cannon, John Rudd tries; Cameron Lawrence 6 goals) d Eastwood 0.
First Grade: Sydney University 70 (11 tries) d Eastwood 12.
Second Grade: Eastwood 28 (4 tries) d Sydney University 27 (5 tries).
Third Grade: Sydney University 29 (5 tries) d Eastwood 12.