Sydney University vs. Manly
Saturday 8th July
By Jack Standford

Round 14 of the Shute Shield saw a raucous Sydney University crowd host Manly on ‘Back to Uni’ Day at the New Birthplace of Australian Rugby. The ladder-leading Marlins dismantled University in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, and Tim Davidson’s young side understood they would have a tough time containing the visiting team. A 1st Grade debut for prop Harry Johnson-Holmes was reward for a strong campaign with the Australian U20 team and good form in Colts, he was joined in the front row by Wallaby Tolu Latu, who was on sabbatical from representative duties. 

Christian Kagiassis opened the scoring for the Students with his precise goal kicking, punishing some Manly ill-discipline to take the score to 3-0. Manly were quick to respond, however, with their inside centre carving through the Uni defence before offloading to halfback Tim Donlan to score under the posts, allowing a simple conversion for Sam Lane to adjust the score to 7-3. Lane extended the lead to seven points after the Students were caught bending the rules at the breakdown. 

Chris Ingate took it upon himself to galvanise the Students and did so with a barnstorming ball carry down the right flank. After swatting away his opposite number and bumping off a few more defenders for good measure, the man known as CC showed a clean pair of heels to stride away and score the try to close the gap to 10-8. Whilst Kagiassis missed the conversion, he didn’t have to wait long to have another chance at the sticks after another Manly indiscretion help make amends to regain the lead 11-10.

Some aimless midfield kicking from the Students was punished by the lethal Manly back three, with Josh Turner and Cam Bailey linking magnificently and exchanging multiple passes down the right wing to score in the corner. Sam Lane again was unwavering from the kicking tee and converted the try to take the lead with a score-line of 17-11. After Lane was sin binned as a result of repeated team infringements, the Students mounted a raid on the Manly defence and applied the pressure for several phases before the debutant Johnson-Holmes burrowed his way over the line to tip the see-sawing encounter back into University’s favour with the almost automatic Kagiassis conversion, score now 18-17.

The re-entry of Lane to the playing field and two successful penalty goals for the Marlins looked ominous for the Students as the scoreline swayed again and now favoured the visitors 23-18. Manly blindside flanker Bergelin was also sentenced to a spell on the sideline for cynical play, and the numerical advantage to the Students at scrum time proved insurmountable for the Marlins, with Theo Strang able to capitalise and sneak in to score in the corner and even the score at 23 apiece.

In order to break the deadlock, University called upon a few of its finest men to come up with a special piece of play the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place in the Test arena. Jock Merriman supplied the evergreen captain Tom Carter who shaped to pass before tucking the ball under his wing and breaking through the line, offloading to Greg Jeloudev who hit the ball at speed perilously close to the touchline and upon being reeled in by the defender found a charging Tolu Latu on his inside. Tolu used his trademark agility to then turn the fullback inside out and score untouched to take University out to a 30-23 lead with the Kagiassis conversion. 

Whilst Tolu was menacing around the park, his errant line out throwing proved costly late in the game with Manly stealing the ball and spreading it to Dennis Pili-Gaitau who stepped his way through the defence to score a try and give Sam Lane an opportunity to level the scores with the conversion. Lane didn’t have any trouble with the kick and the 30-30 score-line with a couple of minutes to play laid the platform for a match winner to emerge. The Students looked set to take advantage of such a platform but were unable to control the football and referee Richard Goswell blew his whistle for the final time to end the match a 30-all draw. 

A fitting result for an exhilarating day of rugby and one that will instil some much needed belief in the Students that they are more than capable of competing with the best in the competition in their quest to play finals football.

The Students head to the Northern beaches this weekend to face second placed Warringah for a Super Saturday.