Shute Shield Grand Final Review by Brittany Mitchell, photos by www.seiserphotography.com
Sydney University captain Tim Davidson today retired on a high after leading the Students to an eighth Shute Shield premiership title in nine grand final starts.
Davidson’s men dominated the match, outscoring Eastwood by seven tries to nil and running in 34 second-half points to demolish the minor premiers by 51 to 6 and send the skipper off with a fairytale ending.
“It couldn’t have gone any better than that,” admitted a delighted Davidson after the match.
“You can’t script it, all you can do is prepare. Prepare for the game and hope that things in the grand final go your way. Not much has separated the teams all year and Eastwood, I can’t speak higher of the players they’ve got, how they played and how they’re led. I don’t think it was a fair reflection of their season today.
“I was really proud of the guys and the way they applied themselves this week. We had a strong build up and it showed today how we wanted to play, which is great. I couldn’t be happier.”
Led by the 2013 Shute Shield Player of the Year Hugh Perrett, the Woodies were under pressure from the kick-off, with the Students’ early pressure yielding the first points through a Bernard Foley penalty within the first five minutes.
Eastwood was quick to regain possession from the kick off but a penalty at the breakdown gave the Students another opportunity to move downfield. With their direct forward runners tying in the Woodies’ defence, an overlap was soon created, with Tom Carter’s cut out allowing Lachlan Mitchell to dive over for the Students’ first try. Foley added the extras to put the score 10-0 after 10 minutes.
The Woodies continued to fight hard in midfield, running strongly with the ball but a number of early errors, forced by the aggressive Uni defence, prevented them from building momentum. An early turnover in their favour though, allowed Ben Batger to slot the Woods’ first points to bring the scores to 10-3 after 20 minutes.
A second Batger penalty minutes later closed the gap to four points and although Uni flyhalf Bernard Foley’s field goal was unsuccessful, they added to their tally soon after when Tom Kingston scored their second try after palming his way through several defenders to dive over. Foley never looked like missing as he added the extras to put the scores at 17-6 going into the half-time break.
Eastwood looked strong as they returned to the field, winning the ball early and making their way into the Students’ half. Although they were rewarded with a penalty, Batger’s 30m effort went wide. Things weren’t looking good for Woods when Batger missed another soon after and they got worse when the Students quickly return to the Woodies’ half and earned a penalty of their own, which Foley slotted easily to extend the Students’ lead to 20-6.
A try from the tournament’s leading try scorer Greg Jeloudev, converted by the outstanding Foley, took the score to 27-6. Minutes later, it looked as though the Woodies would have an advantage as Uni went a player down but with their execution again letting them down, the Woods lost the ball and were quickly punished with a 70 metre run from Lachlan Mitchell that allowed Tolu Latu to step the last defender and cross in the corner. With the extras, the Students led 32-6 before the first of two tries from centre Tom English allowed Foley to kick his team to a 39-6 lead.
Although replacement flyhalf Pierre Hola gave them a boost and Perrett, Hugh Roach and fellow back rower Locky McCaffrey were tireless, the Woodies were simply outclassed. English’s second, the result of a length-of-the-field run from Lachlan Mitchell, took the score to 46-6.
Although victory was beyond their reach, the Woodies continued to give their large and vocal contingent of travelling supporters something to cheer about.
With minutes remaining, they continued to fight back wave after wave of Students’ attacks but a small midfield gap allowed evasive Melbourne-bound fullback Kingston the chance to complete his double, with his try under the posts and on the whistle putting the Students past the half century. The honour of kicking the final conversion was, fittingly, given to captain Tim Davidson. Although he was unable to put the points on the board, the miss did nothing to dampen the skipper’s spirits, with the final whistle wrapping up an impressive 51-6 victory.
The match also marked the end of a second Uni stalwart’s career, with long-time centre Tom Carter also hanging up his boots after the game. “Eastwood has been a great side and we haven’t beaten them in three years. To play like that and to come out here on the biggest stage and take the win is really pleasing,” said Carter.
The victory capped off a successful day’s action for the 2013 Club Champions, who secured two further premiership titles in fourth and second grade.
Uni kicked off proceedings with a convincing 31-10 victory in fourth grade, before the Woods levelled proceedings with a nailbiting 23-22 third grade win to take the J.R. Henderson Shield back to T.G. Millner. In second grade, the Students put in a dominant performance to lift the Colin Caird Shield with an entertaining 41-22 victory over the Woods.
It is the first time two clubs have contested all four grade finals since the finals system was introduced back in 1932.
Sydney University 51 (Tom English 2, Greg Jeloudev, Tom Kingston 2, Tolu Latu, Lachlan Mitchell tries; Bernard Foley 5 cons, 2 pens) d Eastwood 6 (Ben Batger 2 pens).