Sydney University’s 27-23 win over Southern Districts at Forshaw Rugby Park on Saturday was built on a solid defensive effort that restricted the hosts to just two tries.
The Students crossed for four tries despite conceding a mountain of possession and position to the hosts who, as with Norths the previous week, found it hard to breach the Students’ line.
The win kept Sydney University at the top of the Shute Shield ladder with Randwick on 36 points, with Manly (31), Eastwood (31), Southern Districts (31) and Eastern Suburbs (31) making up the top six.
And in a tight Round 9 weekend where Southern Districts won three of the seven contests, the Students held their position at the top of the Club Championship on 1483 points, ahead of Randwick (1452) and Eastern Suburbs (1314).
Southern Districts winger Matt Teki and Sydney University fullback Angus Roberts traded early penalty goals on Saturday before the hosts skipped away to a 10-3 lead in the 24th minute when winger Luke Smart collected a loose pass to score after s sustained period in the University quarter.
The hosts increased their lead to 17-3 in the 30th minute when inside-centre Rohan Saifoloi busted two tackles to send Teki on an uninterrupted run to the line. Teki converted both tries and added a penalty goal soon after for a 20-3 lead.
But the Students hit back on the stroke of halftime when five-eighth Ben Hughes and Roberts combined to send winger Christian Yassmin over in the corner for a 20-8 scoreline at the break.
The try came on the back of a dominant University scrum and another clean lineout possession, two areas the Students dominated throughout despite being behind on the scoreboard and the possession stakes.
The Students continued to claw back the deficit straight after the break when inside-centre Tom Carter made a break down the blindside of a ruck 60m out and turned the ball inside to ever-present halfback Jake Gordon, who found Hughes on hand to score. Roberts goaled for a 20-15 scoreline.
Openside flanker Jack McCalman levelled proceedings at 20-all in the 50th minute when he retrieved the ball from a ruck 20m out and scooted away to score without a defender in sight. Roberts’ conversion edged the Students in front for the first time in the match.
But it only lasted several minutes when the Students lost possession from the restart and Souths gained territory and a penalty for Teki to land another penalty goal. Restarts have been a perennial problem for the Students for the past dozen years and they presented possession to the Rebels on a number of occasions on Saturday.
Sydney University regained the lead in the 70th minute when skipper Carter made another long surge down the right flank, found support in busy hooker Silatolu Latu, who sent outside-centre Jim Stewart over for the match-winning try.
It was a tough slog for both sides, but a win the Students will savour given their record against the Rebels in recent years.
The Students travel west this Saturday to take on Parramatta in a Round 10 clash at Merrylands RSL Rugby Park.
Sydney Men’s Premier Grade rugby competition – Round 9
First Grade – Shute Shield: Sydney University 27 (Jackson McCalman, Ben Hughes, Jim Stewart, Christian Yassmin tries; Angus Roberts 2 goals, pen goal) defeated Southern Districts 23 (Dewet Roos, Luke Smart tries; Matthew Teki 2 goals, 3 pen goals) at Forshaw Rugby Park.