Sydney University



By Bruce ‘China’ Lin

11 May 2024

The call “is there a Doctor in the house?” would not have been out of place during the dying stages of last Saturday’s gruelling clash at University. Spectators in the stand especially of the blue and gold faithful were reaching for a defibrillator as the  burly men from the Hunter Wildfires had four minutes of extra time to snatch victory. But like a good fairy tale ending in a Walt Disney movie, the Students came away with a dramatic 38-34 victory.

With weather conditions resembling the plot of Shakespeare’s The Tempest* and the playing surface likened to the mosh pit at music festival Groovin’ the Moo*, University’s pure hard resilience emerged.The game was hardly an advertisement for running rugby. Hard disciplined play was the order of the day.

As if he just continued where he left off last week, big secondrower Clem Halaholo was the human wrecking ball. Young Clem resembled his daddy club character big Bill of yesteryear with his physicality in the department of rucking. By halfway through the first half Clem made an impact with two tries and even being sin binned for protecting his inside centre Eddie Poolman from having his hair ruffled.

But Hunter kept coming back with tries against the run of play and power through five metre lineouts to keep just ahead of the Students. The formula of quick recycling was working and by halftime a try by tight head prop Brad Amituani saw University trail Hunter at half time 22-21.

The second half saw the same hard slogging by both sides. Hunter had luck first. A five metre lineout gave their big hooker Toala the chance to drive over for a 28-22 lead. But University today never threw in the towel. Inside the Hunter quarter University decided to give the ball some width. From a ruck halfback Theo Strang shot the ball wide. When inside centre Eddie Poolman received the ball his timing was impeccable. Veteran outside centre Henry Clunies-Ross sliced through a gap and galloped untouched to score a converted try.

University were still trailing by a point 29-28. But soon they were in front. Another Greco-Roman wrestling exhibition was in front of the goalposts. During this skirmish breakaway Angus Allen scooped up a loose ball and burrowed over for another converted try. Some momentary breathing space with three minutes left came after a high shot on second rower Luke Ratcliff. The Jack Matthews penalty laid a buffer of 38-29 with just over a minute left. But luck was enjoyed by Hunter and a five metre lineout resulted in another try with ten seconds remaining.

From the kickoff it was as if there was a cacodemonomania * hex had been bestowed by unnatural forces on University after fulltime had sounded.

Hunter received lucky penalties and inched from their quarter back to University’s quarter. An attacking lineout looked ominous for University as the big Hunter pack would try and steamroll their way downfield. But the ball was brought down and fumbled at the back of the lineout sounding the end of a heart thumping eighty minutes of gruelling rugby.

The look of relief was etched on the faces of the University fifteen. Sections of the crowd were equally relieved and joyous. The von Appen brothers could be seen cracking open a bottle of Kirschwasser schnapps in the stands . The Bignold clan and extended family were mentioning a big night out at Papas Haberfield was on the cards.

The victory was the perfect entrée before a night of culture and south pacific cuisine at the club’s annual Pasifika night in the function room.

Next week the club ventures to middle earth better known as The Shire to play the Southern District Rebels at their Forshaw Park fortress.


*The Tempest – 1610 Shakespearean play set at sea during a tempest.

*Groovin’ the Moo – Music festivals held in regional centres of Australia.

*Cacodemonomania – Pathological belief that one is inhabited by an evil spirit.