The thoughts of a relaxing Sunday afternoon absorbing the tranquillity of University Oval were far from the truth. In a see sawing agonising battle, Southern Districts defeated University with a long range penalty at fulltime for a 27-25 victory for a berth in next Saturdays grand final against Eastwood.
Souths had the slightly better of the first half courtesy of five eighth Volavola’s penalty kicks and conversions. University scored tries by the man faster than speed dating, winger Henry Clunies-Ross and a particularly bruising hit, spin and crawl try to breakaway David Hickey.
However every coach’s bad dream, a try before halftime occurred when a turnover was pounced on by the speedy Souths back Pakalani to set up his support breakaway Black for a try. The converted try saw a 21-12 lead to the Rebels and a thorough debrief was in store for University inside the dressing rooms for the half time break.
The second half saw an injection of new players to the Students with prop Paddy Ryan and new Wallaby squad member hooker Tolu Latu. Unfortunately young Tolu only lasted a few minutes after succumbing to a suspected broken wrist. Coupled with concussion to five eighth Dan Kelly, University were not enjoying a salubrious Sunday afternoon.
But Stuart Dunbar, Kelly’s replacement kept University in touch with a penalty to place University in striking distance of Souths. When centre Jim Stewart finished off a break from University to score a converted try, University were just a nose ahead at 22-21.
Volavola missed some penalty kicks but a successful one allowed his team to be just ahead at 24-22. The remainder of the game was an arm wrestle as Souths were frantic to bustle University to force errors or concede penalties. University appeared to enjoy some valuable momentum and took another opportunity to stay ahead when Dunbar kicked a penalty for a 25-24 lead.
The clock was winding down and University were weathering Souths hitting them with everything in their arsenal. With 49 seconds remaining, Souths were attacking on University’s 10 metre line when the referee Mr Lees blew a penalty to Souths for University not rolling away from the ruck. Time was virtually up, and Volavola took the gamble to attempt a long range shot from out wide. All eyes were fixated on Volavola who would be crowned the unofficial mayor of the Shire and University’s party pooper with a successful penultimate kick.
The siren had sounded while the kick was lined up. Volavola steadied himself, approached the ball and tapped it. There was a collective cheer and sound of melancholy from the Souths and University camps as the kick won Souths the game in an absolute heart stopper. Congratulations to Souths who may culminate their season in a fairytale ending?
There was no hiding University’s disappointment not joining their club mates in the other grades for next weekend. But with such a young side, the hallmarks are still positive for University to learn and regroup for 2015. Best of luck to all the grade and colts teams in their quest next week.
With the maiden Buildcorp National Rugby Championships about to start this month, exciting times are ahead with the Sydney Stars joint venture laden with University players and some more showcasing their talents!