Sydney University rounded out the Shute Shield season proper with a resounding 81-7 win over Eastwood at University Oval on Saturday. But it came at a price.
The minor premiers lost fullback Nathan Trist and flanker Pat McCutcheon with knee injuries, while the Woodies lost fullback Ray Isara (ankle), prop Matt Dunning (head knock), hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and halfback Chris O’Young.
The Students have a fortnight off before contesting the preliminary final, while Eastwood will meet Manly in an elimination semi-final next Sunday.
The 12 tries to one shellacking was a record for Sydney University against Eastwood and was marked by inside-centre Tom Carter playing his 100th First Grade match for the club and five-eighth Daniel Halangahu passing 900 points for the club in the senior grade.
Sydney University finished the competition on 88 points (with 19 wins from 22 outings), ahead of Randwick (80), Gordon (71), Manly (69), Eastwood (68) and Warringah (67). Gordon will meet Warringah in the other elimination semi-final on Saturday.
Despite the one-sided scoreline, Eastwood played plenty of football inside the University quarter, but well-organised and ferocious defence and the scavenging skills of flanker Phil Waugh kept the visitors at bay. Their one try well into the second half came off an intercept from five-eighth James Foote who sent winger John Grant on a 30-metre run to the line.
Blindside flanker McCutcheon, who was vying for man-of-the-match honours before he succumbed to injury, started and finished the movement for the University’s opening try in the 7th minute. His bullocking run down the left flank was followed by five close-quarter phases before Carter delivered an around-the-corner pass for the flanker to score in the corner. Halangahu converted from the sideline.
Trist scored the next, in the 13th minute when he took a quick tap from a penalty and dashed 30 metres to the line and Halangahu edged the score to 15-nil with a penalty in the 22nd minute.
Jono Jenkins replaced McCutcheon and Peter Betham replaced Trist midway through the half, while Dunning departed for Eastwood. His absence was soon felt when referee Stuart Dickinson awarded the Students a penalty try from a five-metre scrum that was edging forward when the visitors took it down. A melee resulted before Halangahu converted for a 22-nil lead.
The lead was ominous, but not insurmountable, until the hosts put on three tries in the last five-minutes of the half to go the break with a 41-nil advantage. A kick chase from winger Nick Edwards, who had a whale of a game, resulted in Carter bagging the first of a pair; Halangahu and winger Jacob Taylor combined to send Edwards over in the 38th minute; and Halangahu, Carter and number eight Tim Davidson combined to put Betham over under the posts in the 40th minute.
The Woodies had staged half-a-dozen multi-phase visits inside the University quarter during the first 40 minutes but were confronted with a patient and resolute defence that eventually isolated a player and forced a turn-over, usually with Waugh at the forefront. In contrast, a number of the Students’ tries came from long-range build-ups.
The Students almost scored from the restart when Halangahu threaded his way downfield and found replacement hooker Nathan Charles, but the pass went to ground.
Eastwood replied with a 10-phase passage that saw them lose ground as the hosts’ defence stood firm.
The scoreboard finally ticked over again in the 59th minute when second-rower Dave Dennis scored off good work from prop Patrick Ryan, Betham, Taylor, Davidson and Jenkins.
A barnstorming surge from second-rower Ben McCalman (another in the running for man-of-the-match) resulted in Waugh scoring, and a charge-down from outside-centre Mitch Inman resulted in Edwards scoring his second and the scoreline push out to 60-nil at a point-a-minute.
Halangahu was given a rest with Matt Schwager taking over at halfback and Scott Stumbles moving to five-eighth. He soon provided good service for Carter and Inman to combine to send Taylor over after he had dragged in a one-hand catch to secure possession at pace. He converted his own try.
Grant put the visitors on the board after Foote’s intercept, but the Students replied through Schwager, who picked up a loose ball at the breakdown and turned defenders inside-out with a 40-metre zig-zagging run to the line. Stumbles rewarded the effort with a conversion and a 74-7 scoreline.
McCalman made another great surge from the restart and the Students saved the best until last with an ensemble play that resulted in replacement second-rower Sam Carter scoring. Tom Carter celebrated his century of first grade matches with a conversion.
The hosts had the edge at the scrum, stole several lineouts, created plenty of turn-overs at the breakdown and might have kept the Woodies scoreless, but for a wayward pass. Injuries had some affect on the visitors, who put themselves in the red zone plenty of times but couldn’t crack the defence.
Coaches Damien Hill and Greg Mumm will be closely monitoring the health of Trist and McCutcheon, two of Sydney University’s most consistent performers through the season.
First Grade: Sydney University 81 (Nick Edwards 2, Tom Carter 2, Pat McCutcheon, Nathan Trist, Peter Betham, Dave Dennis, Phil Waugh, Matt Schwager, Sam Carter tries; penalty try; Daniel Halangahu 6 goals, pen goal, Jacob Taylor goal, Scott Stumbles goal, Tom Carter goal) d Eastwood 7 (John Grant try; James Foote goal) at University No.1 Oval. Referee: Nathan Pearce.
Sydney University finished minor premiers.
Second Grade: Sydney University 26 (Nathan Charles, Sam Carter, Anthony Pohlen, Peter Betham tries; Hayden Bushell 3 goals) d Eastwood 0. Sydney University finished minor premiers.
Third Grade: Sydney University 31 (Tim Broomham 2, Dan Lewinski, James McMahon, Dave Burnett tries; Matt Stewart 3 goals) d Eastwood 0.
Fourth Grade: Sydney University 31 (Simon Kinsey, Ian Hilliard, James Lee-Warner, Hugh Caterson, Takahiro Yoshida tries; Will Stow 3 goals) d Eastwood 7 (pen try; Pat Hilgendorf goal).
First Grade: Sydney University 68 (10 tries) d Eastwood 12. Sydney University finished minor premiers.
Second Grade: Sydney University 18 d Eastwood 14. Sydney University finished minor premiers.
Third Grade: Sydney University 52 (8 tries) d Eastwood 10. Sydney University finished minor premiers.
Shute Shield elimination semi-finals
Saturday, September 12
Gordon v Warringah at Rat Park.
Sunday, September 13
Manly v Eastwood at Forshaw Rugby Park