Melbourne University hosted Footscray at H.G Smith Oval on a wet, wintry Saturday afternoon. Footscray were looking to extend their unbeaten streak to five games, while the hosts came into the match on the back of a two week break.
University, a much improved defensive unit in 2013, had a fairytale start when hooker Moli Sooaemalelagi won the race for the ball after being toed down field after being spilt by the visitors. Fly half James Nettleton added the extras and the home side held a valuable lead in greasy conditions.
Footscray then dominated the possession and field position with their bigger pack asserting dominance over the home side. Ill discipline at the breakdown cost them a number of promising chances before finally getting on the scoresheet on the half hour mark. Bulldogs’ hooker Siosua Ngauamo managed to get the ball over the line after keeping the play tight for handful of phases after a scrum close to the line. Fly half Martin Nauhafu levelled the scores for the visitors. Repeated infringements by the Bulldogs’ pack allowed the students to finally get some field position late in the second half and a vital penalty kick was converted by Nettleton to give the students the lead going into half time.
The half time break saw the heavens open and conditions worsen. The visitor’s substantial size advantage threatened to break the home side early in the second half, with the ball being kept amongst the forwards and the visitors dominating territory and possession for long periods of the second half. Some determined defence from the students repelled repeated attacks on their line until the 56th minute when they conceded a penalty in front of goal. Footscray opted to go for the try and promptly turned the ball over.
The home side’s best chance was always going to be on the counter attack and kick down field to come very close to exposing the side with full back Daniel Kingan unable get across the line. Soon after Footscray were finally able to convert the pressure into points with a long range try started from inside their own twenty two. Stand out Nauhafu spread the ball wide and it went through the hands to substitute Joe Masalu. The kick was unsuccessful and the visitors led 12-10.
The students had a chance to take the game with a penalty kick, but sliced it wide. An epic defensive effort from University was not enough to hold the Bulldogs, who will host premiers Moorabbin next week.
Uni will look to back up a fine performance with a win against Power House at Albert Park. A win for Melbourne against Southern Districts should see them through to the Harold Mitchell cup against Harlequins, who travel to Endeavour Hills on Saturday.
|Moorabbin 18 – Harlequin 24|
|Southern Districts 81 – Box Hill 14|
|Power House 20 – Melbourne 25|
|Melbourne Uni 10 – Footscray 12|
Highlights of the University v Footscray fixture can be seen this Wednesday night on Channel 31 at 8:30.