Sydney University’s dour 14-9 win over Parramatta at Merrylands Regional Park on Saturday night leap-frogged them over Randwick to the top of the Shute Shield ladder.
With eight wins from their 10 games and eight bonus points, the Students sit on 40 competition points, ahead of Randwick and Eastwood on 37, Southern Districts (36), Eastern Suburbs (35) and Manly (32).
And with a clean-sweep in their seven games on Saturday, the Students also jumped to the top of the Club Championship on 1583 points, ahead of Randwick (1586), Eastern Suburbs (1522) and Eastwood (1507).
Defence and a solid scrum at key times were once again the backbone to the win at Merrylands, with the Two Blues kept tryless despite a fair swag of possession.
The Students only managed two tries to take a 14-6 lead at the break, with the only second half points coming from the boot of Parramatta fullback Tom Woods, who added another penalty goal to the two he kicked in the first half.
The first University try came off the back of a rock-solid scrum 30m out, with blindside winger Christian Kagiassis running off five-eighth Ben Hughes to take play to within metres of the Parramatta line. From the ensuing ruck, halfback Jake Gordon’s flat pass found centre Tom Carter, who strolled two metres to score next to the posts.
The other try came in the 48th minute of a 50-minute long first half, and it was again off the back of a solid scrum. Hughes found fullback Angus Roberts with a nice ball near the Students’ quarter line. He breached the defence and kicked ahead when the cover defence arrived. Winger Matthew Narracott chased and was favoured with a good bounce to race away to score. Roberts landed the two conversions. Both tries came off the back of set pieces, with players running into gaps at pace; one close to the scrum, the other two passes wide. It can be done.
When Woods’ penalty goal took the Two Blues to within a converted try midway through the second half, the pressure mounted on the visitors. No more so than when they defended a batch of scrums on their line with a seven-man pack – flanker Jackson McCalman had been yellow-carded. It was a gripping five minutes, full of ticker and technique.
With time off for injuries, 25 penalties, a plethora of scrums on the back of too much dropped ball, and a fair smattering of lineouts, the match lingered on into the night.
Those who like solid defence, particularly some bell-ringers from University backrowers Calum Buckling and Jake Wainwright, and a great contest at the scrum, would have come away happy.
The Students will host 11th placed Gordon at Sydney University Football Ground this Saturday.