The two heavyweights of Sydney’s Charter Hall Shute Shield, Sydney University and Eastwood squared off last Saturday at Camperdown. The inaugural Robert and Jack Shute Memorial Cup was up for its first engraving and this time University were victors 31-20 in a titanic physical battle.

The initial phase saw both teams trying to secure some field position. The Students defensive wall held firm and when they did manage an attacking lineout inside the Eastwood quarter the enterprise was unleashed.

A lineout was brought down. Rather than drive towards the Eastwood try line University’s halfback Henry Robertson repeated his feat from last week. Robertson ran open and commenced to weave and step through the defenders scoring another clever try.

This 5-0 nil lead soon increased to 12-0 with an incredible try constructed by fullback Will Goddard. Regathering a clearing Eastwood kick, Goddard decided to run the ball. In doing so he made an incredible scything run right through the Eastwood defenders. With winger Angus Bell and inside centre Eddie Poolman on either side of him, Goddard opted for the up and coming GQ magazine model Poolman who ran towards the posts to score. A nice lead of 12-0 which changed shortly after with an Eastwood penalty.

Eastwood were awarded a penalty just outside the University quarter. Their formidable backrower Tuisese saw the University defence were slow to reform and made a quick tap to skirt over untouched. 12-10 and this wake-up call from napping was the cue for the Students to be mindful of their traditional foes.

Eastwood had a slight spring in their step and commenced to spin the ball through their backline. But their confidence was as short lived as Donald J Trump’s presidential reign. The senior citizen of Sydney rugby centre Henry Clunies-Ross anticipated a pass and intercepted it. Clunies-Ross raced  downfield for a welcome try before half time increasing the score line to 19-10.

Today was more significant than ever. It had almost that altermapid *feel to it instead of the recent trend of the Amazon rain forest incessant rain coupled with wet muddy grounds of sludge to play on.  Pristine dry conditions meant the healthy crowd could experience a great afternoon of rugby.   

Eastwood must have added another commandment to the traditional ten at halftime by scoring first when their heavyweight winger Goodall crashed over. 19-17 was the score and there was no letting off the accelerator from these two teams. Eastwood used another awarded penalty to momentarily lead University 20-19.

It was noticeable that University then commenced to really apply their defensive nous with bustling and heavy defence.  This tactic proved fruitful as some telling hits on Eastwood caused them to fumble and turnover the ball. Five eighth Lewis Holland non-chalantly scooped up a turned over ball and skipped away for an easy try under the posts for a lead of 26-20.

University were not content coasting on such a significant day and applied the coup de gras with the try of the day. Another Eastwood kick was received and run down the blindside by the speedy University backs. In spectacular fashion the ball was kept alive along the narrow channel through multiple sets of blue and gold hands. It was almost as if you were watching a sevens match with the rapid ball movement to keep the ball alive. This spectacular raid saw Captain Jack McCalman back up at the end to score in the southwest corner. This was the final score in the team’s best performance to date.

The victory had a number of significant aspects. With up to thirty-three players unavailable through injury or other ailments the wins across the four grades were celebrated. Head Coach, Sean Hedger put everything in perspective, “It was the most physical game this year. Injuries affected us and players had to step up such as newcomers, Mali Manukia and Aidan Wearne. Our set play had improved also.”

Second rower Aidan Wearne’s debut was all the more noteworthy. Usually at this time of the year the Gerringong local would be working at Jamberoo Action Park. But the University brains trust had enough enterprise to drag him away from manning the Funnel Web water slide ride to face the baptism of fire against the brutal Eastwood pack. The Clint Eastwood of Sydney Ruby, forward Coach Mark Bakewell was starting to smile more post game, “We’ve progressed so much and great character was shown.”

The competition goes into a week’s recess which will be welcome owing to the mounting injury toll. Our next battle will be against the abrasive Manly Marlins on June 18 back at the SUFG for another top of the table clash.

*altermapid – the feeling that one lives in the wrong state or country.