Sydney University’s belated surge to defend the Shute Shield took on added importance at Forshaw Park on Saturday when they ran in five tries to one to defeat competition leaders Southern Districts 43-10.
The Students dominated possession in both halves, running in two tries in the first stanza to lead 22-3 at the break, and continuing the onslaught in the second term with another three touchdowns and a vital bonus point.
The win relegated Southern Districts to second on the ladder after 14 rounds. Manly are the new leaders on 58 points, with Southern Districts (55), Eastwood (55), Eastern Suburbs (47) and Randwick (42) making up the top five ahead of the sixth-placed Students on 36 points.
With Tim Davidson back at the helm – shooting for a sixth successive title as captain – the Students dominated territory from the outset on Saturday, resulting in fullback Julian Huxley landing three early penalty goals for a 9-nil lead.
The Students really made their intentions clear in the 10th minute when the hosts hoisted a ball in the University half and winger Peter Betham counter-attacked. After stepping his way through a swag of Rebels defenders, he linked with centre Tom Carter, who drew the defence and sent intern Nathan Trist over in the corner. Julian Huxley missed the conversion but with the score at 14-0 there was an aura of confidence in the air.
The hosts put themselves on the scoreboard at the 30-minute mark when former University halfback Nathan Sievert, now donning the Rebels colours, potted a penalty.
With seven minutes left in the opening term, the Students attacked in the Southern Districts quarter and swift passing along the backline resulted in flanker Pat McCutcheon scoring in the corner. Huxley missed the conversion, but two minutes from the break the custodian retrieved a wayward Rebels kick near halfway and unleashed a long-range field goal to send the scoreline out to 22-3 and an upset was on the cards.
Urged on at halftime by coach Greg Mumm to maintain the successful formula of controlling possession and being disciplined in their approach, the Students opened the second term as they had the first. Having rucked and mauled their way into Southern Districts’ quarter, five-eighth Dan Kelly exploited the short side to score near the uprights. Huxley’s conversion pushed the scoreline to 29-3 and the possibility of a fourth try bonus point.
That came about 10 minutes into the half when strapping second-rower Dave McDuling showed powerful leg drive to break through the opposition defence. He found support in Betham who tip-toed along the clubhouse touchline before sending the ball inside to hooker Nathan Charles, who scored near the uprights. Huxley landed another conversion for a 36-3 scoreline.
Southern Districts finally cracked the University defence in the 53rd minute when fullback Nicky Price chipped ahead and regathered to post the Rebels only try for the afternoon. Sievert’s conversion took the score to 36-10.
The relentless pressure mounted by University throughout the game resulted in Southern Districts making a series of errors in their quarter as the game wore on. And when the Students’ scrum won a tight-head scrum near the host’s line, number eight Davidson picked up the ball and drove forward. After a series of pick and drives, Commonwealth Games bound Sevens halfback Nick Phipps darted over for University’s fifth try. Huxley’s conversion ended proceedings for the afternoon.
While the win posed some questions for teams ahead of the Students in the run to the finals, it also cemented a big day for Sydney University in the Club Championship, with Seconds, Thirds and the three Colts teams all recording big wins.
Sydney Grade competition – Round 14
First Grade: Sydney University 43 (Nathan Charles, Pat McCutcheon, Nick Phipps, Dan Kelly, Nathan Trist tries; Julian Huxley 3 goals, 3 pen goals, field goal) d Southern Districts 10 (Nicky Price try; Nathan Sievert goal, pen goal) at Forshaw Rugby Park.
Second Grade: Sydney University 51 (Eddie Bredenhann, Bernard Foley, Chris Chapman, Jeremy Atkin, Greg Joloudev, Jacob Taylor tries; Bernard Foley 5 goals, 3 pen goals, Jacob Taylor goal) d Southern Districts 21 (Ben Connolly 2, Marshall Milroy tries; Marshall Milroy 3 goals).
Third Grade: Sydney University 27 (Fava Sailosi, Lance Alaalatoa, Justin Bosilkovski tries; Justin Bosilkovski 3 goals) d Southern Districts 8 (James Beaufils try; David Longbottom pen goal).
Fourth Grade: Southern Districts 14 (Matt Tink, Darren Kapene tries; Josh Sund 2 goals) d Sydney University 7 (Ally Maclay try; Hayden Bushell goal).
First Grade: Sydney University 61 (9 tries) d Southern Districts 9.
Second Grade: Sydney 64 (10 tries) d Southern Districts 5.
Third Grade: Sydney University 36 (6 tries) d Southern Districts 0.