Brothers have overpowered a resilient Sydney Uni side to be crowned this year’s Australian Club Champions in Brisbane. In what was an end-to-end affair and a great advertisement of the need for a third tier competition, Brothers greater combinations in key areas proved the difference between the two teams.
While you can argue about the merits of playing such a game in early March instead of late September, the fact remains that Queensland teams have now won the club champs for two years running.
The game was barely 5 minutes old when Brothers half-back, Sam Grasso, fielded a poor Uni clearance and fed former Australian 7’s representative, Damon Murphy, on the Brothers 40 metre line.
Murphy showed his class with a sixty metre solo run that saw him cross for a try carrying two Uni defenders with him. The try was not converted by his brother Dallan, however the locals were away and looking dangerous.
Uni got on the board with a penalty goal to fullback Joshua Bosilkovski in the 9th minute but they were struggling under the weight of the defensive pressure the Brethren were able to apply.
As the game progressed Uni became more composed and fly-half Joshua Dillon was able to slice through his opposite number Dallan Murphy on several occasions, however Uni failed to capitalise.
Uni kept the effort up and were rewarded when some avant-garde play from Brothers lead to a knock-on under their own sticks and from the following scrum, Uni were awarded a penalty only 25 metres out which Bosilkovski drained.
Incongruously, this gave Uni the lead 6-5 after 15 mins.
Both teams continued to test each other with plenty of ball in hand rugby and working phase play nicely. As the game progressed Uni were becoming the better team with tireless number 6, Hugh Hawkins and half-back Matthew Schwager playing some great rugby while for Brothers imposing number 13 James Harvey and hooker Andrew Coady were all business.
Uni had their best chance of a try on the 20 minute mark when a dropped ball from a Brothers backline error was toed through by the busy Dillon. Dillon dashed into the Brothers half however was unable to link with his faster men out wide and was corralled by Dallan Murphy.
A penalty to Brothers resulted from the ensuing ruck however the locals were under pressure and on notice.
This seemed to spark Brothers whose backrow dominated the next period of play as Uni faded out of the game with their the new look backline struggling for timing.
On the 28th minute mark Damon Murphy was at it again after another poor kick by Uni. This time Murphy exposed some lazy chasers by scooting down the touchline just inside his own half. From there he stepped inside some more ineffective Uni defence and made his way inside the 22.
Murphy offloaded to the trailing number 8, Ben McCormack, who managed to pop a lovely offload as he hit the ground in a tackle to lock, Trent Jones, who crashed over from close range. Dallan Murphy converted and Brothers were up 12-6.
Brothers were playing all the rugby from that point on and were nearly in again on the 35 minute mark when Coady knocked on close to the line, it was as if the half time whistle couldn’t come quick enough for the Students.
Uni received a penalty just before oranges which the impressive Bosilkovski converted from 38 out metres out to go to halftime only trailing by 3 points.
Just as the 1st half had started badly for Uni, so did the 2nd with Harvey taking an intercept to run 50 metres and dot down under the poles in the 41st minute. The extras were added by Dallan Murphy and Brothers skipped to a 19-9 lead.
Uni fought back strongly after this with Schwager again leading the way however poor execution while on attack was letting them down and cruelling their scoring chances.
In the 52th minute Uni finally managed to break the Brothers defence as Schwager crossed after a sustained build-up with the forwards making in-roads around the ruck. Uni were starting to dominate the bigger Brothers pack in the close quarter stuff with lock , David McDuling and the backrow of Hawkins, number 8 Adam Campbell and open-side Joshua Ellice Flint leading the way.
The try was not converted but Uni were on the way back and a great final 30 minutes beckoned with the score 19-14 to the Butcher Boys.
That was until Brothers’ replacement flanker, Alistair McLay, was able to finish of a great passage of play to cross just to the left of the poles in the 52nd minute. The move started with inside centre Nathanuel Gendle showing his ball playing ability by drifting across field 40 metres out and finding flying winger Anthony Pyers who beat three Uni defenders but was pulled down just short of the line.
Pyres then popped a ball to McLay and he was over – after the successful conversion Brothers were clear again 26-14.
Replacements forced a re-shuffle to the Uni backline with Bosilkovski moving from fullback to fly-half and this, as well as the injection of replacement centre Toby L’Estrange, seemed to add more thrust to their backline.
It wasn’t long before the changes paid dividends for Uni who stole a Brothers line-out from 35 metres out Uni went wide and fractured the Brothers defence.
Again the Uni forwards showed great composure with their driving play and after several more phases, lock McDuling brushed past some tired defenders to score from close range to keep Uni in the hunt.
The conversion was missed but the score tightened once again as Brothers led 26-19 with 19 minutes to go.
A further penalty goal to Brothers on the 65 min mark stretched the advantage to 10 points however Uni hit back 5minutes later with another try to McDuling.
The try scoring movement started after a bold 30 metre dash through the teeth of the Brothers defence by L’Estrange after some crisp passing from the men inside. Bosilovski converted and Uni were back in it at 29-26 with 9 minutes remaining.
With clock winding down and Uni under pressure in there own quarter, a hacked clearance gave Damon Murphy another broken field running opportunity just inside his own half. Once again he made Uni pay and opened up the defence and found winger Paul Donnerly in support.
Donnerly offloaded to Harvey inside the Uni quarter who then broke two tackles then went to ground just metres short. A quick pop pass to centre partner Gendle was all that was need to seal the game as Gendle went in for a try. The conversion was made to give Brothers a deserved 36-26 victory.
Brothers coach, Zane Hilton, was cuffed with the win considering it was his sides first game of the season.
“We made a point of wanting to play the full 80 minutes and we did that, even though Uni had a great 20 minutes toward the end of the second half.
“We were keen play footy and use the full width of the field and the new law interpretations certainly make it easier to do that. It was the same with Uni, they also played some outstanding footy when they got quick ball”
Uni coach, Greg Mumm, was obviously disappointed not to win the game but saw plenty of positives with his young side however lamented his teams lack of combinations.
“When there was a turnover of possession Brothers seemed to know instinctively what each other were going to do and they played well from that. We tended to panic a little bit in those moments and didn’t communicate or defend as well as if we had played together a bit more.
“Those transitions hurt us and the experience of Brothers shone through.”
G&GR’s man of the match was undoubtedly 23 year old Brothers centre James Harvey who scored an intercept try and set up the match winner. His physical presence was too much for Uni and it wouldn’t surprise if he is one who ends up in Melbourne next season.
In all it was a great afternoon’s rugger with both teams really having a crack a playing entertaining rugby.
Although Brothers may have deservedly claimed the title, no doubt debate will continue about its legitimacy.
Brothers 36 (Trent Jones, James Harvey, Damon Murphy, Alistair McLay, Nathanuel Gendle tries, Dallan Murphy 4 cons, pen) bt Sydney University 26 (David McDuling 2, Matthew Schwager tries, Justin Bosilkovski 3 pens, con) at Crosby Park, Brisbane