How apt were the words from the Stan Sports commentator to describe the ending of last Saturday’s square off against Eastwood, “an absurd game of rugby”. Sydney University defeated Eastwood in extra time by 49-44 at the magnificent rugby arena Glen Willow Stadium Mudgee for Country Round.
It was a beautiful day at the picturesque mid western hamlet of Mudgee. The town was abuzz with the pubs and cafes serving the city folk descending sampling ales, local shiraz or a cut of Angus beef. There was even a hot air balloon looking majestic decked out in blue and gold colours hovering over Glen Willow early on Saturday morning. Perhaps an omen of things to come? There was no disappointment in eighty minutes of Shute shield action later that afternoon.
Barely six minutes had elapsed when University scored a converted try. University were pressuring Eastwood inside their quarter. Most at the ground thought a five metre pushover try was likely but the ball instead was flicked to fast finishing winger Eddy King who crashed over in the corner.
This was the appetiser before the entrée which arrived soon after. University’s deceptive fullback Tim Clements chimed into the back splitting the Eastwood defence. Shadowing him was outside centre a beneficiary of two Wills Henry Clunies-Ross receiving an inside ball from Clements to streak away and score. 14-3 and the Students were yet to serve up the main course.
Clunies-Ross could not keep still and soon after served the main. Again using his speed in the backline Clunies-Ross splintered the Eastwood defence. This time he combined with his namesake halfback Waratah Henry Robertson who scored and forged the genesis of a new boutique brand of beer the Two Henry’s. 21-3 soon increased to 28-3 after hooker Declan Moore latched onto a rolling maul to continue his greedy run of tries- five so far after three rounds. The forwards were steadfast and providing the platform for backs this afternoon being lovely fellows according to a University player’s mother.
Unless the referee was using a knock off Omega watch from a Denpasar market, the match continued for two extra minutes which was just enough for Eastwood to score a try when the Students dropped their guard. 28-10 was the halftime score. If there was anything predictable in encounters between University and Eastwood is that both sides will never throw in the towel.
Without a doubt this annual trek just over three hours from Sydney is becoming popular on the rugby calendar. The time of the year is perfect for rugby and a spot of relaxation and sightseeing around beautiful Mudgee. University supporters should plan well ahead next year to book accommodation and enjoy Mudgee during autumn.
That period five minutes before and after halftime is every coaches nightmare and the University brains trust must have ground more teeth just after halftime. Barely two minutes had been played and Eastwood caught the Students napping scoring a converted try. The game was truly on after another Eastwood try exploiting a University defensive lapse saw the score narrow to 28-24.
To create some breathing space Tim Clements regathered a loose Eastwood ball from a Garryowen kick. A desperate Eastwood defence were attempting to hold back a tide of University rucking but could not stem the tide seeing hooker Declan Moore once again score. 35-24 score line but enough breathing space? There was still twenty seven minutes left in the game for anything to happen.
Eastwood’s English five eighth Bell was kicking sweetly and opted for a penalty kick from halfway to maintain striking distance with the Students. Students were a whisker ahead at 35-30. The game was then a virtual yo yo game with sides scoring and replying with more. Eastwood led 37-35 and University secured a penalty try to lead once again 42-37.
With less than two minutes left and Eastwood’s lineout deep inside the Students quarter, the ball was spread to the open. Their heavy weight winger Goodall bumped through crashing over with a mountain of blue and gold jerseys clinging to him. Bell’s easy conversion saw just over a minute left on the game clock. However there was a conference between referee Mr Kellahan and the two Assistant referees more intense than Donald Trump meeting Kim Jong-un. Soon after the hero Goodall was made a villain by being yellow carded for an indiscretion post try. Eastwood were now down by two men.
University kicked for touch and commenced their last attacking raid. A lineout was spread wide and University were attempting to keep the ball alive. University lost the ball but Eastwood’s Bell gave University a last minute heart defibrillator. The ball was received by Eddy King who took the ball up. The clock was well over eighty minutes. If the ball went dead that was the end of the game. But somehow a bit of luck shone over the blue and gold. The ball went right then left through the backline. Even replacement prop Chris Talakai got into the act with a well tined pass to King. King drew his man and passed inside to Tim Clements who went into overdrive. Entering the in-goal area Clements tip toed along the in goal line which showed his auditioning for Billy Elliot by his mother Belinda proving that it was not all in vain. Connor O’Shea converted the try to the ecstatic applause of the players and crowd. A truly remarkable ending to a fantastic game.
Amongst the back slapping and shakes head coach Robert Taylor was drained but still had some final words to say. “It’s ecstatic for the guys to fight back like that. I am so happy for all the supporters who came out to the country to support us and see this game.”
On that note the University club is indebted to the Mudgee community, the Mudgee Wombats Rugby Club and Mayor Des Kennedy for helping us host this annual game. Gratitude is extended to the ball boys who wear their Akubras, RM boots and ties with pride to make them the sharpest looking ball boys in rugby. Bring on Country Round for 2022!
Next week University are at Nepean Rugby Park against the Penrith Emus.