The sun was shining, the ladies were perched along the eastern boundary and the grandstand was packed to the rafters with colourful identities from both clubs. The only thing missing was a victory. University were comprehensively defeated by Eastern Suburbs last Saturday at University 49-28 to commence round one of the 2019 Shute shield.
A pumped up Easts steamrolled University in the second half with some cleverly engineered tries. Waratah Mack Mason at five eighth appeared pivotal throughout the game.
University actually enjoyed the majority of field position during the first half. The Students were suffocating Easts inside their quarter. A series of sleep inducing scrum resets for ten minutes had all the nail biting excitement of seeing if Ines would continue in the commitment ceremony with Bronson on channel nine’s Married at First Sight. No penalty try despite a yellow card given for repeated scrum infringements. Another reset saw a quick ball shunt to the blind for winger Harry Potter scoot over in the corner like a Hogwarts owl. Fullback James Kane converted for a 7-0 lead.
The Students lead was short lived as parity was achieved when a turnover was delivered to Mason who saw a gap and took off down the centre scoring under the posts.
University settled back into their groove and were later again picking and driving inside the Easts quarter. The crowd was thinking a University forward would burrow over but it was Captain and outside centre Guy Porter who delivered the points. The ball was passed to the open and Porter running deep at pace splintered the defence to score a crash ball try. Another conversion saw a Students lead of 14-7. But Easts like a persistent mosquito kept annoying University to come out at the end of the first half leading 16-14 courtesy of Mason’s accurate penalties.
There was a big crowd on hand. It was noticeable the increased clientele for Luke Mitchell’s hot food were causing long queues and overloading in the kitchen. Everyone was after a hot chicken souvlaki roll until the kitchen sold out and the alternative was Luke’s all time favourite Splinantero*
The second half was not quite three minutes old when Easts struck first with a try by their fast winger Donato. University settled down and worked their structured play inside the Easts five metre area. Big second rower Jack Sherratt ground his way under the posts for a converted try and University were just trailing 21-23.
University were back focused and the next try drew a double for Guy Porter and University’s bonus point. Five eighth Stuart Dunbar drew the defence and then passed inside to Porter who was running hard onto the ball. Through a half gap Porter splintered the defence and darted downfield to score under the posts. University were now leading 28-23. However for a reason which will rank up there with hooker Tom Horton’s barber’s name-one of the great mysteries of the world, the Students took their foot off the pedal!
Easts to their credit started to use the flanks Mason was throwing the ball wide or directing strategic angled kicks. University seemed to be a man short. Soon Easts scoreline surpassed University’s and near the end the blue and gold were down 44-28. Right on the fulltime bell Easts exploited loose marking down the grandstand corner and crashed over for a try.49-28 was the final score and the University faithful were left scratching their heads.
An early wake up call perhaps and one to learn from. A long season lies ahead and University’s 2019 campaign will no doubt see other clubs bolstered lift and take the challenge up to us.
Next week University ventures out to the old Lidcombe Oval to take on the former Parramatta now re branded as the Western Sydney Two Blues.
*Splinantero: Spleen sausage made from mutton in the region of Thessaly, Greece, cooked on charcoal fire.