A giant arm wrestle could best describe the battle between last year’s grand finalists University and the taciturn Warringah Rats. Only three points were scored in the second half and unfortunately these points caused University to suffer a narrow defeat of 22-21.
There was a noticeable north easterly breeze coming down from the Terrey Hills alps which the Students took advantage of. Three minutes of the game was played when the blue and gold jerseys commenced to pound the Rats defence inside their five metre zone.
Sure fire recycling was being executed. Eventually five eighth Connor O’Shea scored in the southern corner for a James Kane converted try.
But the stung Rats rallied and soon after attacked down the grandstand blindside. Some quick hands saw a relatively easy try scored through backing up to level the scores at 7-7 apiece. This was the momentum needed by Warringah as midway through the half they struck again. University were defending a series of five metre scrums. Pressure was being applied and University could not hold out finally succumbing to a try. The try could not be converted and University were now behind 12-7.
University refocused to build phases of play. Returning Waratahs half Jake Gordon heralded his 2019 club return with the next try. University once again commenced to hammer the Warringah line. A ruck was allowed to form beneath the posts. A scheming Gordon feigned a pass to the open but instead darted over for an easy try. 14-12 was now favouring the Students but the wounded Rats had other ideas.
The Rats five eighth with the name resembling a cocktail drink – Harley Attwater decided to challenge University. A Warringah lineout was formed just inside the University half. Attwater did not zig or zag but ran straight towards University’s defensive line and busted through to score and convert his own try. This lapse in concentration by University saw the score line change to 19-14 to the Rats. Just when you thought scores could not change again before the break University gave the crowd their money’s worth.
University packed a five metre scrum. The ball was thrown to the open and a crash ball move saw winger James Kane score. Kane’s own conversion saw University go into the break just ahead 21-19. The canteen food queues were lengthening. There was no pies, snags or chips to feed the hungry. A call for Uber eats was required. Only the next forty minutes would calm the hungry horde!
The second half delivered no luck for University . University could not increase their score line. Both sides were literally hammering each other. University introduced two big guns off the bench second rower Matt Philip and tight head technician Chris Talakai who unfortunately later succumbed to a painful rib injury.
A moment of luck befell Warringah when two consecutive penalties favoured them. Again Attwater rose to the moment with his decision for a long range penalty. With a wind behind him Attwater from nearly fifty metres out kicked a goal to edge past University by 22-21. Eight minutes remained on the clock . The play was incredibly fierce akin to battles in history like The War of the Roses, Hatfield’s and McCoy’s or the Newtown Vegans battling the Enmore Pescatarians! Both sides were going full throttle to the final whistle. A late opportunity for a James Kane long range penalty to go ahead skewed aside. University mounted a final rally inside the Rats half but eventually play was bundled into touch to draw the final curtain to the epic game.
University will return to the SUFG next week against the Western Sydney Two Blues.