Droughts, floods, bushfires and a global pandemic have befallen our vast continent lately. But the winter ritual of sitting in a grandstand watching thirty players on a Saturday afternoon was once again back at the Sydney University Football Ground. The Students had a square off with their academic brethren University of Queensland – UQ the Red Heavies for the Buildcorp Australian Club Championship.
The Students were a mixture of youth and experience. But there was a mantra embedded across their ranks, keep the ball moving.
The opening minutes saw University pressing inside the UQ half. Big winger Ofa Manuofetoa busted through the first line of defence to be grounded inside the UQ quarter. Some ferocious rucking saw the ball later punched into touch five metres out from the maroon goal line.
The Students signature rolling maul received its 2020 debut in the ensuing lineout. The ball was brought down and soon after a phenomenon recently seen in Sydney supermarkets was applied. The University pack latched on and applied a surge reminiscent of a rush for Sorbent three ply at Woolworths Revesby! The wall of human flesh breached the line and hooker Pat O’Doherty came up with a converted try. 7 nil and the blue and gold hoops were looking strong.
UQ soon settled down and were able to press inside the Students quarter. A solid UQ scrum was evident as the crowd were expecting the lads from St Lucia to register their first points. But the Sydney University defence held firm denying UQ a try. UQ could only pot a penalty mid way through the first half for their first points. Sydney University’s confidence was growing and the next try illustrated this.
The Students were rucking just inside the UQ half. That scheming halfback Banjo Travers saw a loosely marked ruck. A few steps to the right and then an inside ball was shuffled to the hard running fullback Tim Clements who raced down the side of the ruck to score a try untouched. The James Kane conversion gave the Students a handy half time lead of 14-3. A ten minute break for a hot snack, a glass of VB or buy a University jacket to rug up. The weather was cold but the rugby was percolating nicely for the next forty minutes to see which Students would be crowned 2020 Australian Club Champions.
The second half started where the first half left off. University were attacking once again and the ball was recycled rapidly through strong rucking. Showing traits of cheek from his leprechaun bloodlines, hooker Pat O’Doherty gave a no look inside ball once again off a loosely marked ruck. This time the recipient was the fast running winger Australia’s version of Channing Tatum, Ricky Gervais and Hugh Jackman rolled into one-James Kane. Kane’s blistering speed saw him tear downfield to score a well applauded try. University were fortunate to have Kane play as he made a dash back from Tashkent Uzbekistan after receiving the Islam Karimov award for best supporting actor in a socialist drama. 19-3 was the scoreline and the Students appeared to be well in control in the cold windy conditions.
Before you could go and order another chicken schnitzel roll, UQ were trying to urgently play catch up and allowed their southern cousins the easiest of tries. A mistimed pass was anticipated by outside centre Henry Clunies-Ross. Young Henry galloped downfield for another Kane converted try to surge ahead 28-3.
UQ were down but not out. To break through the strong Sydney University defence, their fullback Kye Oates decided to diagonally kick to his brother B.J, Oates regathered and commenced to step and jink. With his low centre of gravity, Oates was able to bust over the line . 28-8 remained the score until the final bell.
UQ were outgunned but were noble in defeat. The Students once again had their name etched on the trophy for Australian Club Champions and the Buildcorp Cup. A positive start to a season of uncertainty for sport and life locally and globally.