Last Saturday’s clash at Pittwater Rugby Park between the undefeated Warringah and Sydney University was a thrill a minute battle. The signs were ominous for the Students in the second half until a stirring fightback saw them go down by just one point, 31-30.
Warringah’s game plan was to use their fast backs to the full extent, and after three minutes their bullet like winger Sireli scored a runaway try from a diagonal run.
The young University team eventually settled down after the initial jolt. University were able to camp themselves inside the Warringah 22 metre area and strung together phases of continuity. A combination of straight running and quick recycles towards the grandstand saw outside centre James McMahon run off flanker James Nonu-Carling’s left shoulder for a converted try. With an earlier Dan Kelly penalty, University were just ahead at 10-7 after ten minutes of play.
This slender lead was wishful thinking as the Warringah Rats grew in confidence through good field position and a solid platform courtesy of their aggressive forwards. Their backline speed resulted in further tries to dangerous five eighth Hamish Angus and fullback Dave Feltscheer who could easily double as Shaggy from Scooby Do. University continued with penalties kicked by Kelly to stay in touch of Warringah. Warringah were up 21-13 at halftime and supporter from both camps would be fully accustomed that an almighty battle was guaranteed for the second half.
Warringah commenced the second half explosively with another try down the blindside by their fast outside backs. Another Dan Kelly penalty kept the Students within a ten point range. The Green Rat plague continued where no amount of rodenticide in the form of University defence could stop them scoring another try to extend their lead to 31-16 with 20 minutes remaining.
University’s situation was likened to facing an ‘audience’ with Kim Jong-un as things looked bleak. But the experience of centre Tom Carter came through. University were able to mount some phases of play. Carter took a ball inside the 22 metre area and decided to run straight and hard. Carter’s bumping run caused him to drag defenders over the line for a much needed converted try. Time was running out and University had to gamble and spread the ball to salvage a victory.
Some quick passes to the left saw speedy winger Henry Clunies-Ross receive a ball from Carter. With a window of opportunity down the eastern touchline, the rookie winger showed pure speed by stepping, weaving and zig zagging through the Warringah defence to score a try under the posts. Dan Kelly’s conversion saw the scores at 31-30 to Warringah with less than 3 minutes remaining.
From the kick off the ball alternated between both the Students and Warringah. Warringah appeared to be running down the clock through picks and drives, but turnovers and a penalty allowed University to secure the ball with less than a minute to play. University were just outside the 22 metre area and were committed to attack to secure a win. A penalty was awarded to University for a Warringah ruck infringement and all eyes were transfixed on the penultimate kick from Kelly.
Kelly lined up the kick with the irritating heckling of Warringah supporters emanating from the grandstand. Kelly’s strike deviated to the left and the ball hit the upright and bounced back into the field of play. There was a mad scramble for the ball resembling a game of twister but eventually the ball was played dead by Warringah for a full time score of 31-30.
This was no Paul Brickhill’s The Great Escape for the Students but both teams were clapped off the field after a classic contest.