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Graham Croker

Sydney University maintained the Shute Shield competition lead when they ran in 11 tries in a 69-3 demolition of Northern Suburbs at North Sydney Oval on Saturday.
The Students have now scored 87 tries for the season. Five-eighth Daniel Halangahu has been the main beneficiary, rattling up 119 points since his return to club football after a strong Super 14 campaign. He collected 19 points on Saturday with a try and seven conversions.
With Wallabies Dean Mumm and Luke Burgess back in the ranks, Sydney University fielded an imposing XV, and they played that way once they overcame some early brick wall defence from the hosts.
Halangahu eventually cracked the defence with a cross-field kick from a scrum. Winger Jacob Taylor fielded the ball just inside the left touchline and passed infield to fullback Nathan Trist who scored his 16th try for the season.
A strong run from second-rower Dave Dennis set the Students in position for the second try. The ball was shifted along the second phase line through Halangahu, inside-centre Tom Carter and Pat McCutcheon, who sent fellow flanker Mumm over in the corner in the 21st minute.
Carter grabbed the third five minutes later when a Taylor grubber up the flank was gathered in by outside-centre Mitch Inman, who passed infield for Carter to score a skillful try in the left corner.
Another ensemble play in the 30th minute featuring Halangahu, Carter, Inman, McCutcheon and Taylor resulted in Burgess sniping over from a ruck near Norths’ line.
A backline raid in the 38th minute resulted in a try to Inman, who injured his shoulder in the effort and was replaced by Richie Finau.
Halangahu rounded out the first half scoring with a trademark step off the left foot on the back of a dominant scrum in Norths’ quarter. His conversion from in front took the score to 38-nil.
The Students had dominated possession and territory and once again had a bonus point in the bag at the break.
An early penalty goal from Norths’ five-eight Chris Burnett took the score to 38-3, but it was all Sydney University from that point.
Number eight Tim Davidson scored the first of a second half pair when he peeled off the back of another strong scrum near the Norths’ line in the 51st minute.
Strong running from Carter and man-of-the-match McCutcheon set the Students up for another backline raid featuring Halangahu, winger Nick Edwards and Trist, who sent Taylor over in the corner. The try featured decoy runners and precision passing at pace.
When Halangahu sent replacement flanker David Haigh on a searching run, Finau was on hand to finish the move with a try.
A surge from Dennis in the 75th minute allowed replacement back Scott Stumbles to dart down the blindside of a ruck for a try, and skipper Davidson fittingly finished off proceedings when he took a quick tap penalty and carried three defenders over the line for the final five-pointer.
The Students were not only dominant in attack, they kept the hosts tryless with some strong defence at the start of each half. The Macs – McCutcheon and second-rower Ben McCalman – each pulled some important tackles, not for the first time this season.
All roads lead to Sydney University No.1 Oval this Saturday when the Students take on third-placed Randwick in what many believe will be a grand final rehearsal.

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