The sun was shining, the air was clean the grass was like a bowling green. A bumper crowd comprised of locals and those from the big city saw two heavyweights of Sydney club rugby slug it out at Mudgee’s Glen Willow Stadium last Saturday. Unfortunately University could not reach the final hurdle and went down to Eastwood 27-21.

Eastwood had effectively applied a boa constrictor game plan on University starving them of possession for the majority of the first half. The Eastwood five eighth Taylor Adams was pivotal in turning back University through judicious kicking. The constant Eastwood pressure resulted in Adams scoring a try. Soon after a set move diagonal kick saw their nimble footed winger Ratu score in the corner. Taylor like a high school pimple that the Clearasil wouldn’t remove, further compounded the Students plight with a further penalty to register a 15-0 score line nearly thirty minutes into the first half. 

Savoring a Mudgee Robert Stein sauvignon blanc post game seemed like a wishful thought but University number eight Mitch Whiteley gave University the impetus they desperately needed. Whiteley made a bust into the Eastwood twenty two area. Some rapid rucking saw a recycling of the ball to the flanks. Reprising his critically acclaimed role in Jurag Jakubisko’s sequel to the Slovakian classic Freckled Max and the Spooks, fullback James Kane made the extra man score in the corner and kick a difficult wide conversion.  

With a sniff of a fracture in the Eastwood veneer, University started to apply some pressure. A University five metre rolling maul surged towards the Eastwood try line eventually resulting in hooker Pat O’Doherty planting the ball over the line. Again Kane kicked the conversion and the Students were soon only one point behind.

But the positive thoughts soon dissipated. Eastwood were camped just outside the Student’s  quarter when a turnover was made by University. Again Adams saw an opportunity and channeled the ball to the far right where another try was scored in the corner. University finished the first half down 20-14. A frustrating end to forty minutes of intense rugby.

The second half could have spelt a quick disaster for University after second rower Jack Sherratt was sin binned for over aggressive play. University showed character by weathering Eastwood with a man down and not conceding any points. When equal numbers were restored there was no respite from Eastwood. Some broken field play could not be countered by the Students after Adams again flicked a pass to the flying Fijian Ratu who splintered the defence to score a converted try.

University were under no illusions that their backs were up against the wall and commenced to attack full throttle. Deft chip and chases and some bursts down the middle were spectacular but at the end failed to produce any scores. The clock was winding down. Eastwood’s defence was strong but University were determined not to go down without a fight. University kept punching hard into the Eastwood twenty two metre zone. Pick and drives were required and soon replacement breakaway Hugh Summerhayes crashed over. The Kane conversion saw the score line narrow to 27-21 and time was nearly up give or take some extra time. University were trying to orchestrate a great escape when a lucky penalty saw a five metre lineout. The ball was brought down and University commenced to pound the Eastwood line. Every University supporter in the stand had their heart rate elevated. University were millimetres from achieving victory when a final knock on heard a collective “No…” murmur through the grandstand”. Eastwood had won another pulsating battle between two traditional rivals.

Although defeated the University faithful ensconsed in the Woolpack Hotel were not despondent and continued post match social activities. Notable chief social director was the happy hooker Pat O’Doherty’s mother Margaret who cleaned the pub cellars of Black 2016 Pinot Gris and gave a mean lip synch of that native Northern Irishman Van Morrison’s tunes.   

The University club wishes to thank the Mid Western Council, the Mudgee Wombats Rugby Club and the local community who all contributed to making the day such a wonderful event.

Next week University are back in Sydney to do battle with Gordon at Chatswood Oval.