Sydney University claimed the 2016 Shute Shield minor premiership with a 35-12 win over Parramatta in the final round of the premier Sydney rugby union competition proper at the campus football ground on Saturday.
The Students had already claimed the Club Championship for a 13th consecutive season and the Colts Club Championship for a 12th year in a row when they produced a clean sweep in the three Colts and four grade matches against West Harbour the previous week.
Sydney University finished on 69 points with 13 wins, a draw and four losses (and 15 bonus points), with Southern Districts (68), Northern Suburbs (67), Warringah (63), Randwick (61) and Eastwood (61) making up a very tight top six.
In one of the most closely contested Shute Shields for many years, Manly (58) and Eastern Suburbs (54) were still contenders until the final four rounds. On their day any of the top eight sides could have beaten each other and the term ‘upset’ would not have been mentioned.
The qualifying finals this weekend will see the Students up against Eastwood at the Sydney University Football Ground, Southern Districts hosting Randwick at Forshaw Rugby Park, and Northern Suburbs hosting Warringah at North Sydney Oval.
Saturday’s five try to two win was a gutsy effort from the hosts, who were out-scrummed for one of the few times this season, on the wrong end of 14-9 penalty count, had limited possession and, as a result, territorial sway, and were mostly physically smaller across the park.
But they defended well and put points on the board on the few occasions they counter-attacked or were allowed to build phases. And that augers well for finals football where teams must make the most of their chances and defend their line.
The Students went to the break leading 14-nil, having posted two converted tries on the rare occasions they touched the ball in light of an 8-1 first half penalty count.
Five-eighth Stuart Dunbar scored the first after he found fullback Angus Roberts with an inside pass and backed up to place the ball under the posts.
The second was scored by hooker Folau Fainga’a, a number 10 in a number 2’s body. Outside-centre Chris Ingate made big inroads with a bustling run and, from the ensuing ruck, the Dunbars, Stuart and flanker Hamish combined to send Fainga’a on his way. Winger Christian Kagiassis converted both tries.
Prop Al Ryan scored soon after the break on a pick-and-drive assault after inside-centre Tom Carter had taken play close to the line. Kagiassis converted for a 21-0 scoreline.
The Two Blues finally put their scrum dominance to use 15 minutes into the second half when five-eighth Robbie Mate looped blindside winger Robbie Duff to send openside winger Josh Minhinnick over in the corner in a well-worked move.
But the Students his back immediately when Roberts and Kagiassis combined to send Ingate over for a well-deserved five-pointer. Kagiassis did the honours once again.
With 10 minutes to go, Parramatta posted their second try when hooker Aaron Blacklock took a quick tap from a penalty near the line and sent second-rower Senio Toleafoa over.
The hosts had the final say when Roberts fielded a kick 60 metres out and blazed a trail through the defence using speed and guile for a fitting finale.
In an unusual sight during the second half, Parramatta fielded Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota Nau at blindside flanker in what might be his final appearance for the club, and Sydney University fielded Folau Fainga’a in the same position after a scrum reshuffle. Neither were out of place.
First Grade (Shute Shield)
First Grade: Sydney University 35 (Folau Fainga’a 2, Stuart Dunbar, Chris Ingate, Alastair Ryan tries; Christian Kagiassis 4 goals, Angus Roberts goal) defeated Parramatta 12 (Senio Toleafoa, Josh Minhinnick) at Sydney University Football Ground Oval on Saturday.