From the kickoff University were pressing Gordon inside their quarter. The constant bustling from University allowed them to set an attacking ruck inside the Gordon quarter. Rather than spread the ball wide along the backline, halfback Henry Robertson had the sheer guile and ingenuity to run open and then make a dash towards the goal line. Robertson applied a neat change of pace and step that would make the man with the moves Ricky Martin grab the halfback for a video. Robertson literally hoodwinked the defenders to score a converted try.
University did not rest and continued piling the pressure. The big man, Zac Von Appen bustled his way over the line to score after intense rucking five metres from the Gordon line. 14-0 was displayed on the scoreboard and the Students had started the game with a solid platform.
But to think that Gordon would roll over on their home ground would be foolish. A number of missed tackles allowed Gordon to create a midfield bust. Their support play resulted in a try under the posts. 14-7 soon increased to 24-7 with two clinical rolling maul tries to the Students at half time.
It was miraculous that this game could even be played owing the recent deluge experienced by Sydney. The ground surface had the characteristics and consistency of the nearby Mandarin Centre’s yum cha trolley. The surface was likened to a tripe congee whilst it smelt like the centre’s grease trap!
Gordon were the reigning pre-covid Premiers and they were not about to whelve * during the second half. Slowly but surely the Gordon comeback commenced. A rolling five-metre maul was applied to increase their score to 14. This was quickly followed by another try through some applied recycling. University was making mistakes and Gordon could smell a victory if they continued to sweat on University errors.
It truly resembled a game of two halves, Gordon were focused, while University were desperately trying to defend their try-line. A respite arrived when a penalty was awarded to University in front of the Gordon posts. 27-19 with less than ten minutes left on the clock. University were taking deep breaths to hold out the tartan army who had all the momentum.
The unorthodox pregame prayer and arm linking chant led by forwards Coach, Mark Bakewell should be written in the accreditation for all rugby coaches. Asking for the blessing of Gyalwa Rinpoche also known as the 14th Dalai Lama for University to finish triumphant proved significant. How true this became as the Students held the fast-finishing Highlanders out for a victory which was hard and grafting.
The first half was comfortable for University. The second half was one where you take the win and go back across the Harbour Bridge. Head Coach, Sean Hedger was quite aware that luck shone on University. “We were very,very good for the first half. We were under pressure in the second half and were lucky to hang on at the end.”
Next week at University there awaits a gigantic battle between archrivals Eastwood to coincide with a reunion of University’s 2001 Premiership winning team who defeated Eastwood after nearly a four decade drought.
*whelve – To bury something deep or to hide.
Tries – Henry Robertson, Zac Von Appen, Ciaran Loh, Papillon Sevele
Conversions – George Poolman (2)
Penalty Goals – George Poolma