Mirroring the tenacious come from behind victory of the Waratahs, Sydney University defeated the Warringah Rats 26-23 in a grinding qualifying final last Saturday at Rat Park.
With a freezing 10 degree breeze travelling up the northern peninsula, Warringah took advantage of the conditions for the first half. The Rats five eighth with the Celtic legacy, Hamish Angus, kept his team just ahead with penalties and a conversion after a try to their winger Dixon. But the young Students brigade fought back with tries to winger Dargaville and a sniping run from a splintered ruck to replacement half back Jake Gordon. A nasty leg injury to fullback Angus Roberts reduced the Students’ strike power but galvanised the rest of his team.
University and their band of die-hard supporters saw pegging back the deficit at halftime was not insurmountable at 16-10. University could focus on a game plan for the next half with the wind. This was made easier by the scoreboard now operating as the weekend penalty rates for an attendant was thankfully waived!
The second half saw a reorganisation of the University backline with Jack Macklin moving into fullback and outside centre Jim Stewart now succumbing to a knee injury. Macklin proved his worth with two quick penalties for scores to be even at 16-16. But the cunning green rodents took advantage inside the University quarter after University prop Sam Talakai was sin binned. An ensuing five metre lineout saw Warringah score a try through the rolling maul. With the successful conversion, Warringah led 23-16 with 20 minutes remaining.
University weathered the Warringah barrage whilst a man down. Macklin’s kicking kept the Students in striking distance with another penalty to reduce the scoreline to 23-19. When Talakai returned to the field this was the call to arms for University as they commenced to dominate Warringah inside their quarter.
You could sense something was on the horizon as the Students were commencing to asphyxiate the green Rats. Some enormous pressure near the Warringah tryline saw five eighth Jock Merriman slice through under the posts for a much earned converted try. Just like the big match at Homebush, the clock wound down for University to see the ball kicked out into touch for a backs to the wall 26-23 victory.
The big smiles were shown afterwards throughout the University fellowship from an exhausted coach Nobby Malone inside the dressing room who described the victory as, “the gutsiest win all season” to a beaming father Paul Hickey outside the dressing room who was proudly displaying winning the voluptuous meat raffle for his wife Di to cook!
Another titanic battle looms ahead for next week in the Students mission for a grand final berth.