Eastwood have snapped Sydney University’s dominance of the Shute Shield with a dramatic 19-16 extra time win at Concord Oval.
Uni opened the scoring after 3 minutes through a Daniel Halangahu penalty, but he’d be doing well to remember it after being knocked out attempting to tackle Eastwood flyhalf Pierre Hola shortly after.
Eastwood had the better of early exchanges but had little to show for it until they received a penalty after Uni collapsed the scrum. Hola evened the scores at 3-3 with a pen after 8 minutes.
The conditions weren’t great for running rugby with the ball difficult to handle, so both teams took it through the forwards where Uni were receiving penalties after putting Eastwood under pressure. Eastwood were able to keep Uni out and at times even enjoyed the better of the play.
Uni showed their defensive hand early by committing as few players as possible to the breakdown which allowed them to keep Eastwood’s potent attack at bay.
Uni declined a shot at penalty goal and instead went for the line. This resulted in more pressure from the Uni forwards and allowed fullback Bernard Foley, who took the kicking duties from a dazed Halangahu, to extend their lead to 6-3 after another penalty.
Soon after, Eastwood scored the opening try of the match after Hola executed a brilliant chip kick with the outside of his left foot and John Grant swooped to score his 21st try of the season. Hola’s conversion saw Eastwood out to a 10-6 lead.
The forward battle continued and Uni started to get the upper hand, but had little to show for it except racking up the penalty stats from referee Ian Smith. Foley added another penalty to have his side trailing by 1 point with 10 minutes
remaining in the first half.
In the shadows of half time, Eastwood capitalised on a tight head at the scrum and after multiple phases in the Uni 22m area, were awarded another penalty and Hola’s successful kick put his side up 13-9.
After the half time siren another penalty attempt from ‘Woods halfback Nic White wowed the crowd as he loaded up from his own side of halfway, a la Francois Steyn, had the distance but his shot went wide of the posts.
Eastwood opened the 2nd half with a sequence of 21 phases but this good work was undone by a knock on by Hola but indicated their mindset for the remainder of the game, but the slow ball Eastwood had throughout the match was playing into the hands of Uni who absorbed the pressure.
Uni were lucky not to concede again after a knock on by Bernard Foley on their own 22m line, but some great defence from Uni saw this opportunity come to nothing.
They then responded with a try of their own after some quick interchange play amongst their forwards saw halfback Matt Schwager escape the clutches of would be tacklers and dive over. With Foley’s conversion Uni were back in front 16-13.
During the half referee Ian Smith was starting to tire of infringements at the ruck and gave another penalty to Eastwood, with substitute Phil Waugh, in his final match for Uni the recipient. Hola couldn’t take advantage as his kick into a strengthening southerly wind was unsuccessful.
As the half wore on, neither side could gain the upper hand as turnovers and midfield kicking were the order of the day. Eastwood were lucky to avoid conceding more points after a well weighted kick stopped just short of the try line and Eastwood survived the scare with some scrambling defence.
Eastwood were unlucky not to score again after a cross field kick was regathered by Grant who managed to offload to Lachie Turner, who had been fairly quiet throughout the game. Uni hung on there, but Eastwood received another penalty in the Uni 22 and with 3 minutes remaining, Hola leveled the game at 16-16 and sent the game into extra time.
The first period of extra time was action packed to say the least. Phil Waugh, who was playing in his final match, was penalised for taking a man out in the air, and from the resulting kick to touch Uni knocked on only 10 metres out from their own line. But their good defence once again kept Eastwood out.
Eastwood fullback Ben Batger was later denied after toeing a loose ball through that was saved by Tom Carter. But they couldn’t keep the scores level as Eastwood took a 19-16 lead after Hola added another penalty goal just before the end of of the first period of extra time.
The second period of extra time was no different in intensity. Uni were unlucky to drop the ball up field and was it recovered by Lachie Turner who passed onto James Stannard and his kick ahead stopped just short of the line and Tom Kingston dived on the ball to save Uni from going further behind at a crucial time of the match.
From the resulting 5 metre scrum, Uni were able to weather the pressure and were breathing a sigh of relief after Eastwood failed to execute on this occasion.
As the game progressed, the ball turned into a bar of soap as knock ons and turnovers ruined any chance of a comeback from Uni who were in it right up til the end as a scrum on half way unfortunately came to nothing and sent the fans of Eastwood delirious as the final siren sounded.
Eastwood 19 – Grant try, Hola con, 4 pens def Sydney Uni 16 Schwager try, Foley con, 2 pens, Halangahu pen