Four months of an enforced hiatus was discarded at Woollahra Oval last Saturday. In cold overcast conditions, the Covid -19 handbrake was finally released seeing University fall to a fast finishing Easts. Playing the entire game one man short from the kickoff would always prove a hard assignment for the Students.

The vocal Woollahra Oval crowd perched along the golf course touch line were estatic that University were punished. For some reason they took particular delight in stirring returning Aussie sevens winger Matthew Hood at every opportunity. Hood responded with only one way by scoring a try on the eastern flank.

University’s scrum held firm despite the numerical disadvantage. The tactic now was for a quick feed from set pieces to avoid being shunted by the Easts pack. Halfback, Banjo Travers was channeling the ball rapidly for the speedy backs to unleash.

There were no signs of lethargy from the lockdown as both packs engaged in niggle and ferocious hits. Flanker, Nick Champion de Crespigny liberated from last year’s Grand Final sentence was prominent in the physical confrontations.

University were at one stage before halftime down to thirteen men as outside centre Henry Clunies-Ross was sin binned for a late hit. Still University were able to keep just in front of Easts going into the half time break.

Four months of essentially home detention brought out the resilience in people. People worked and studied at home now. Thinking out of the square was needed to survive. Unable to pull beer at his local the Longueville Hotel to put himself through his studies, prop, Sinophile and Club Captain Tom Osborne brought out his inner entrepreneur streak. The big O’s new cottage industry making pork and chive dumplings 餃子 for farmers markets was a hit! At $30 for a bag of hundred plump morsels what a bargain!

University were still ahead half way through the second half when super sub breakaway Jack McCalman was brought off the bench and made an immediate impact. Attacking inside the Easts half University were rucking rapidly keeping the ball alive. Nick Champion de Crespigny saw a gap and burst through causing a deep incision into the Easts quarter. The big fella offloaded inside to his support in the trailing McCalman who crashed over the tryline with Easts bodies dragged along with him.

Easts must have felt stung by this try with their one man advantage they proceeded to mount some field position. Coupled with their extra man the boys from Bellevue Hill piled on some quick tries against the outnumbered Students.

University playing catch up commenced to drop ball in the final minutes which was enough for Easts to run down the clock for a narrow victory of 21-17.

A negative can be turned into a positive. A solid hit out such as this game will benefit the team for their 2020 campaign after such a long lay off.

Next Saturday the amended 2020 competition kicks off in a Grand Final rematch against the Warringah Rats at Rat Park, Warriewood.