University’s 2022 regular season was completed at Manly Oval last Saturday with a heart thumping 24-20 victory over an abrasive Manly Marlins.
Before a healthy crowd and blue skies , University’s discipline in the second half got them home. However, the Students early enterprise with a try was stifled by some moments where discipline went missing placing them under unnecessary pressure.
University attacked down the eastern touchline for an early converted try only for Manly to hit back with a try after identifying a short undefended blindside. Manly kept on staying a nose ahead through the accurate boot of their No.10, Valetini. A strong breeze was behind Manly and they were taking full advantage of it. When University Captain, Jack McCalman was sin binned for a high tackle those die-hard University supporters sensed melancholy. The big land based Marlins had now the perfect opportunity to unleash noyade * upon the visiting Students.
However, a bit of luck allowed University to hold on and keep the Marlins out while down to 14-men, at the break Manly were ahead 13-7.
If WD 40 fixes jammed parts then the University coaches should patent their half time spray. It seemed to work as the discipline came back into their play for the second half. Not to be overwhelmed with an early Manly try, University managed score three rolling maul tries and a hattrick to Ciaran Loh to finally take back the lead, 24-20.
The Marlins were hurting. University on the other hand had to play smart and pin Manly inside their quarter by using the breeze to secure field position. Changes were being made by both sides. University’s introduction of tight head prop Sam Talakai proved telling. Manly’s scrum felt the pressure once Talakai packed down which saw penalties awarded to University for scrum infringements.
The clock was winding down and University had to finish the game without extra time to catch the 5.20pm ferry from Manly wharf back to Circular Quay. Manly was raising the heat with ball movements from all corners of the ground. University were holding firm only for another heart palpitation to envelope their supporters.
A University lineout was turned over inside their half. Manly had the final hurrah to extract a victory. Manly rucked and mauled deep inside the University quarter. Any missed tackle or penalty would deliver victory to Manly. Inside the University five metre zone Manly were picking and driving. The bell had sounded but play continued for at least three more rucks. Manly were sweating near the Corso corner and the Manly supporters were going hoarse from cheering on their team. University somehow secured a turnover and half back Henry Roberston assigned the ball over the touchline with a kick to end a dramatic finish to the game.
University had reversed the first round defeat and ended the season in second place with semi finals next week.
A relieved Head Coach, Sean Hedger was glad this game was over. “In the first half we were ill disciplined for the first time this year. We started to control the game in the second half and we got those tries.”
Forwards coach, Mark Bakewell the man that would make Hollywood tough guy actor Jack Palance scared also mentioned the first half was below expectations. “We fell down in the first half and had eight penalties awarded against us for offside. The second half was much better with our set piece laying the foundations to punish Manly.”
Scrum Coach, Laurie Weeks saw the benefits with strategic replacements. “We introduced Sam Talakai from the bench which will be good coming into the finals.”
Next week the start of the semi finals series will see University with a home semi final against arch rivals Randwick.
*noyade- An execution carried out by drowning.
Tries: McCalman, Loh (3)
Conversions: Goddard (2)