Australian Club Championship
Sydney University Football Club (SUFC) vs East Brisbane Tigers
Bottomley Park, Coorparoo, Brisbane
22 March 2014
The Sydney University "Students" have kicked off their 2014 campaign in strong fashion, taking out their fourth Australian Club Championship with a gritty 19 to 14 victory over the East Brisbane Tigers.
Leading into the latest Australian Club Championship match, Sydney University Head Coach, Chris Malone, had been expecting a tough contest against the reigning Brisbane champions. "The Tigers have a very good side, and with a handful of players that have been the best in the Brisbane competition in recent seasons, they are sure to provide a very stiff challenge, which is exactly what we need", said Malone.
With the match heavily promoted around the Brisbane area, a large and hostile crowd was on hand to witness the annual fixture between the premier clubs in the Sydney and Brisbane rugby competitions.
Sydney University were off to a flyer. A dominant scrum close to the Tigers line saw scrum-half Jake Gordon pounce on a loose ball to score within the opening 7 minutes of play. The Students were looking sharp early, making metres up the middle and keen to play an expansive game. However, after losing fly-half Stuart Dunbar to a hip injury and with time in possession evening out between the two sides, the Tigers were staring to threaten. The sin binning of University lock Liam Winton, for a ruck infringement, was the catalyst for the Tigers crossing for two converted tries to number eight Johnny Kalavata and centre EJ Fa'aofa to take a 14-5 lead at the 25 minute mark.
As the clock approached the half-time break, Sydney University were able to strike a telling blow in the context of the game. Noticing space out wide, the ball was shifted to winger Sam English, who showed some blistering pace to beat the covering defence on a 40 metre dash to the tryline.
The second half started well for the Students. Dominating field position early, University took advantage of an overlap out wide with former Australian Under 20's winger James Dargaville crossing in the corner. A brilliant sideline conversion from lock Bryon Hodge (a tall and skilful player in the John Eales mould), gave the Students a 5 point buffer.
The Students had numerous chances to put the result beyond doubt, however the Tigers were able to scramble well in defence to keep them in the contest. Needing a converted try to win the match and with only minutes to play, Easts threw everything at the young University team. But with strong defence and a dropped ball out wide by the home side metres from the tryline, Sydney University were able to make it back to back Australian Rugby Club Champions with a spirited and deserved victory.
"To show the determination to fight for the result, with some desperate defence, was pleasing and shows that a young group of guys have worked hard, and are willing to work hard for each other" said Malone.
For the Students, skipper Tom Boidin was once again a standout performer, providing valuable leadership to a vastly inexperienced team. Up front, retuning prop Sam Talakai bolstered the front row well, with openside breakaway Benn Melrose solid all game. Before being replaced due to injury, Liam Winton was making his presence felt. Out wide, James Dargaville was always threatening and hard to stop, full-back Jack Macklin once more showed glimpses of potential while Sam English well and truly punched above his weight.
"It's a huge honour to be crowned Australian Club Champions", said Malone. "Our attention now turns to the rest of our 2014 campaign".
Sydney University take on Penrith in Round 1 of the Shute Shield competition on 29 March 2014.
Sydney University 19 (Jake Gordon, Sam English, James Dargaville tries; Byron Hodge 2 cons) def East Brisbane 14 (Johnny Kalavata, EJ Fa'aofa tries; Matt Brandon 2 cons).
Images courtesy of AJF Photography.