In 1993 American comedian Bill Murray starred in the iconic Groundhog Day where he had to relive 2 February repeatedly. We witnessed a similar scenario last Saturday at Forshaw Rugby Park. University, with less than five minutes left were down to thirteen men having received another red card and a yellow card respectively. However, on this occasion University survived a last ditch onslaught to literally sneak away with a 28-22 victory.
Ten minutes it took for University’s first points. Attacking inside the Rebels quarter an unmarked blindside was exploited by University winger Simon Kennewell. Kennewell’s weaving run saw an inside ball to the supporting halfback Henry Robertson who scored in the eastern corner for a converted try.
University running with a Westfields Miranda Fair breeze from the south were finding their rhythm and soon after they struck again. A five-metre lineout was set. After it was brought down the ball was shifted to Captain, Jack McCalman instead of being retained where the player brought it down. This precise tactic developed in the test laboratories of University’s School of Physics confused the Rebels defenders. Captain, McCalman surged over with minimal resistance. Fullback, Will Goddard converted the try and University were now ahead 14-0.
The Rebels were finding the going hard against the wind. University were punishing them with their style of rucking particularly inside their quarter. Second rowers Luke Ratcliff and Zac von Appen were thriving in the heavy exchanges ripping and tearing like hunter gatherers. Five metres out from the South’s line University were recycling intensely when flanker Hugh Bokenham scooped up the ball and found a crack in the Rebels marking to burrow over for another seven points.
Despite their position on the table the men from the Shire never gave up. Just before halftime Souths attacked down the clubhouse touchline. Their winger chipped ahead and a combination of a lucky bounce and some speed saw him score in the corner. The try was not converted and at the break University had a handy lead of 21-5.
University were clearly the dominant party to the first half. Spectators might have thought a moment of schadenfreude* was likely for the second half. This was not the case as the first part of the second half was a hard slog. Souths were trying to find some continuity whilst the Students were doing it extra hard to repel the Souths attack. The Rebels luck changed for the better. Inside the University half an attack was mounted seeing the ball spread wide again. A looping wide pass thrown so forward it could have reached Tom Ugly’s bridge at Sylvania saw a try scored alongside the ladies’ day marquee. 21-10 and with the wind behind their backs Souths had finally achieved some momentum.
University on the other hand had other plans. To gain that extra buffer a rolling maul try was scored to extend their lead to 28-10. But twelve minutes from the end your worst nightmare like not eating your vegetables befell on University. Number eight Mitch Whiteley went for a charge down but received a red card for an alleged late hit on Souths five eighth former University player Christian Kagiassis. With the numerical advantage the Rebels could see an opening had emerged. This came to fruition when inside the University five metre zone Souths commenced to bash their way to the University posts. University could not stem the Rebels tide and a converted try was scored. 28-17 soon became 28-22 when another raid inside the five metre zone saw Kagiassis convert his own try. Things were looking darker for University than being lost in Pyongyang North Korea when winger Angus Bell was sin binned for a high covering tackle. Flash back to the Manly game University with minutes remaining were now down by two men. Souths were surging ahead deep inside University’s quarter. University were desperately trying to halt the barrage of attacking waves. A try was held up over the line in the dying minute of the half. From the goal line drop out Souths had one more roll of the dice to punish University.
The ball was kept alive and with gaps appearing everywhere with a tiring University looking like David Copperfield to get out of this predicament. Souths attackers spread the ball to the open and then a collective sigh echoed across the ground. The ball had been dropped to end the game. University with no energy left had defeated the resurgent Souths.
Head Coach, Sean Hedger was incredibly proud of the team’s performance. “It was a gutsy win and character building. We had moments where our technique was incorrect but to have two sent from the field and hold on was good.”
A victory such as this was enough for players and supporters alike to just escape with a narrow victory. But a visit to the deep south has to be absorbed and appreciated. Seen dining at a local establishment was the elder McCalman’s Andy and Claudia eating some local cuisine whilst sipping a Tasmanian gin.
Next week the birthplace hosts the Rats of Warringah.
*schadenfreude – satisfaction of pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.
Tries: Henry Robertson, Jack McCalman, Hugh Bokenham, Ciaran Loh
Conversion: Will Goddard (4)