Manly triumphed 14-10 in the Round 4 clash of the undefeated Shute Shield competition leaders at Sydney University Oval on Saturday, with their committed defensive effort keeping the Students to one try.
Despite the low scoreline, both sides were dangerous when they kept the ball in hand and the match swept from end-to-end as the lead changed hands.
Manly took an early seven-nil lead in the ninth minute when winger Alex Northam angled through a chasm at the back of a lineout in the Marlins quarter.
Operating at pace and with intent, he charged 60m downfield before offloading to halfback Matt Lucas when the last line of defence closed in. Lucas gave kicker Shaun Treweek an easy conversion.
The Students dominated possession and territory for long periods but were thwarted from scoring by several misdirected passes and Manly’s efforts to slow down the ball at the breakdown; a tactic that allowed them to set up an impregnable defensive line.
Five-eighth Dan Kelly narrowed the score to 7-3 with a close range penalty goal in the 15th minute and the Students took the lead in the 28th minute with a 65m effort.
Flanker Tom Heslop started the move with a pass to fullback Stuart Dunbar who split the defence and sent hard-running winger James Dargaville on a 45m excursion to the line. He was ankle-tapped five metres out but managed to get to his feet again and dive over. Kelly’s conversion gave the Students 1 10-7 advantage which they took into the break.
While the lead was handy, the Students would have been frustrated at not having put more points on the board through lack of finishing finesse, while the visitors would have been happy that their defensive tactics had worked. Indeed, they might have gone to the break level-pegging had Treweek nailed a very kickable penalty goal attempt late in the half.
The Students started the second half with a series of multi-phase attacks that looked threatening but failed to amount to points.
Manly’s first long sortie into the host’s territory resulted in journeyman five-eighth Marshall Milroy strolling over next to the posts off a ruck near the University line. Centre Scott Garuda added the extras and that’s where the scoreline stayed for the next half an hour of hard-nose attack and defence.
“People think club rugby is dead but how good was that for a game of footy?” Sydney University inside-centre Tom Carter enthused. “End-to-end stuff, they’ve got an abrasive forward pack and some electrifying backs and it was just one of those days where we couldn’t take our chances and they took theirs. It was two tries to one and it was finals footy in April.”
Manly coach Phil Blake was appreciative of each side’s defensive prowess. “It’s exactly what we thought it was going to be,” he said. “They unsettled us for a time there but in the end we found a way to get ourselves in front and finish it off.
“Our first half was probably the most disappointing of the whole year. We weren’t allowed to play, we had no rhythm due to their defensive pressure and we were turning the ball over on early phases and they were a bit similar. Both sides were pretty good defensively and forced a lot of turnovers.”
While University coach Chris Malone will rue some handling and passing lapses and the odd ill-time and ill-directed kick, he will be happy with the University scrum. It was rock-solid; just the weapon defending premiers need in their arsenal.
The Students have another tough day at the office this Saturday when they travel to Pittwater Rugby Park to take on unbeaten Warringah.
The Rats head the Shute Shield ladder with 20 points from four wins and four bonus points. Eastwood (19), Manly (19), Sydney University (15), Randwick (15) and Northern Suburbs (9) make up the top six.
Sydney Men’s Grade competition – Round 4
First Grade – Shute Shield: Manly 14 (Matt Lucas, Marshall Milroy tries; Scott Daruda, Shaun Treweek goals) d Sydney University 10 (James Dargaville try; Dan Kelly goal, pen goals) at Sydney University No.1 Oval.
Second Grade – Colin Caird Shield: Manly 45 (Dane Chisholm 2, Andrew Collins, Mark Swanepoel, Kayse Greer, Malietoa Hingano, BJ Hartmann tries; Dane Chisholm 5 goals) d Sydney University 20 (Tim Reid, Jock Merriman, Cameron Mason, Jack Macklin tries).
Third Grade – Henderson Shield: Sydney University 34 (Jason Hofmeyr 2, J Sullivan 2, Angus Pulver, Stewart Nutt tries; Jason Hofmeyr 2 goals) d Manly 30 (Tom Chesters 2, Ryan Squires, Chris Yarrington, John Mokofisi tries; Tom Chesters goal, pen goal).
Fourth Grade – Henderson Cup: Sydney University 19 (David Pohlen, David Fong, J Parker tries; David Fong 2 goals) d Manly 7 (A Agius try; Pete Squires goal).
First Grade – W. McMahon Memorial Shield: Sydney University 45 (7 tries) d Manly 26 at Manly Oval.
Second Grade – Shell Trophy: Sydney University 43 (7 tries) d Manly 26 (4 tries).
Third Grade – Bill Simpson Shield: Sydney University 33 (5 tries) d Manly 12.