Randwick 23 – 21 Eastwood
They scraped into finals contention in sixth spot, and now Randwick are heading to the Shute Shield grand final after defeating Eastwood yesterday.
Despite leading 10-3 at oranges, Eastwood never looked like shutting the ‘Wicks out of the game in what was a disappointing end for the minor premiers.
Both teams had Wallabies in their ranks, although those in green were most conspicuous, with Rocky Elsom in Randwick colours after a six-year absence.
Elsom’s absence showed early on, as there seemed to be some confusion about his role and what lines he was meant to be running.
Eastwood had done their homework on Elsom and he was allowed minimal space by their defenders, while the best Wallaby (and player) on the field was one of their own, Lachie Turner.
Turner scored both of Eastwood’s tries and looked much more a team-member than a ring-in due to his significant game time with the ‘Woodies this year.
Kurtley Beale looked dangerous with the ball-in-hand for the Greens, but also proved handy with the boot; kicking a penalty goal from outside halfway in his only place-kicking attempt of the match.
Woollahra Oval’s similarities to Bloemfontein ended with the 50m kick. The ground was in poor condition and the sandy surface may have contributed to the high injury toll for the match.
Mark Chisholm’s chances of joining the EOYT squad in October were dealt a blow when he was forced from the field with a knee injury.
Commonwealth Games squad member Nick Cummins also went off and Eastwood number eight Locky McCaffrey suffered a dislocated and broken ankle in the opening minutes.
Sekope Kepu once again proved his worth in open play, consistently crossing the advantage line and contributing strongly to another punishing performance by the Randwick pack.
Eastwood’s backs appeared threatening in isolation but the ‘Wicks backline had a better platform thanks to their forwards, helping them grind out victory in a tense final spell.
University 36 – 20 Southern Districts
History will repeat itself next weekend when University face Randwick in the Shute Shield grand final. Uni offered a clinical effort against a spirited but outgunned Southern Districts today.
The Students were superior in technique and fitness but were always under threat from Souths, who had the ball on the University line for extended periods in both halves, but let themselves down with handling errors and penalties.
To say that the game was lost for the Hobbits by their own hand would not give full credit to the discipline of the Students, who out-thought Souths at crucial times.
Souths hit back against Uni in the 62nd minute with a Kane Douglas try, the student’s lead was reduced to six, if only for a minute. In less than 60 seconds, Lachie Mitchell returned fire for the Students.
This took the score from 26-20 to 33-20, which Uni quickly added to with a fifth Berrick Barnes penalty in 72nd minute.
In the latter stages of the game Souths were awarded several penalties in front of the goals but were unable to take the easy kicks, needing tries for victory.
As at Woollahra yesterday, the surface of University Oval was sandy and poor; possibly contributing to this weekend’s high injury toll.
Uni prop (and Arena Sports Centre hero) Jerry Yanuyanutawa was stretchered off late in the first half with a suspected dislocated ankle.
His absence was noted, especially in the scrum where Dan ‘Pot plant’ Palmer asserted dominance over big Jerry’s replacement, Paddy Ryan.
While the Hobbits were strong in the scrum and in general play thanks to their pack, their backs lacked direction in the face of aggressive Uni defence, a problem that worsened as the game progressed and the Students’ greater fitness showed.
Once again we face the prospect of seeing the Shute Shield continue to gather dust in Uni’s trophy cabinet unless Randwick can defy history and take it down the road to Coogee.
Is six in a row inevitable for the Students?