The Uni juggernaut rolls on, extending their unbeaten run to nine with a comprehensive 21-point victory over the Highlanders in Round Ten of the Charter Hall Shute Shield season.
In wet and blustery Sydney conditions, the Students compiled a masterclass of patient attacking phase play and brutal defence, successfully exploiting their significant first half wind advantage to amass an unassailable three try lead.
The win sees Uni extend their lead at the top of the Charter Hall Shute Shield ladder to 6-points, thanks in part to Warringah, who edged out Norths yesterday in a 20-18 thriller at North Sydney Oval.
It was also a victory of great importance for new Uni Head Coach, Phil Blake, who took over the reins from Rob Taylor prior to the long weekend break.
Blake, who heralds from a long and successful career in rugby league, would’ve been particularly pleased with the Students dogged defensive effort, especially in the second half where Gordon dominated possession and territory.
Sydney Uni skipper, Jack McCalman, admitted post-match that his were better suited for the wet.
“I think our game style this season is suited to challenging conditions like we had today,” he said.
“We knew coming in that we’d have to outmuscle a physical side in Gordon, and I feel that we achieved that.”
McCalman also praised the Uni front row, who each put in a herculean performance at set piece and at the breakdown.
“We’re blessed to have players like Declan Moore, Tom Osborne and Matthew Sandell who just continually have us moving forward,” he said.
“In challenging conditions like we had, that forward momentum is so key to any attacking pressure we look to achieve.”
Both the Students and Gordon faced forced changes at flyhalf for their Round Ten clash, with mainstays Reece MacDonald and Ben Hughes both out with injury. In their place, promising young Stag Ben Pollack and Uni grade-hopper Daniel Poletto.
The Stag community is incredibly excited by the prospect of Ben Pollack, with his utility across the backline seeing him named in the Junior Wallabies squad this year.
However, it was Poletto who impacted the game early on. As Uni masterfully exploited the blustery conditions, they quickly found themselves on the Stags try line, with the Uni flyhalf breaking through a Pollack tackle to cross for the first try.
Poletto was on the score sheet again ten-minutes later, after a remarkable charge down and regather from Students scrumhalf, Henry Robertson, saw the flyhalf cross for his second and the Uni lead extend to 14-0.
Robertson was influential against the Stags and is putting together a notably strong season so far in 2021.
The young scrumhalf’s intelligent kicking game and defensive pressure ensured Uni had the majority of momentum from the kick-off and put the tiring Highlanders pack guessing throughout the contest.
When the Students perennial try scorer, Declan Moore, secured his sixteenth for the season of another beautifully executed rolling maul, warning signs were alight for the Stags heading into the break.
The Highlanders returned from the break with an abundance of energy, dominating both possession and field position over the opening 10-minutes.
Flyhalf Ben Pollack also adapted his playing style following the break, showing maturity and poise in the pivotal role to pin Uni into the corners via the boot.
But the Students defence continued to remain defiant, with breakaway Nicholas Champion de Crespigny leading a showcase of bruising tackling.
A Gordon try to Mike Pavlakis in the 58th-minute gave the Tartan faithful some hope, but ultimately the Students continued to outclass their opponents in the wet.
A late try to Students winger, Matthew Hood, sealed the game for the home side and ensured yet another bonus-point victory in what is becoming an incredibly impressive season.
The Stags will be forced to lick their wounds before welcoming the Hunter Wildfires to Chatswood Oval in Round Eleven of the Shute Shield season.
In other results around the grounds, Easts defeated an impressive West Harbour 28-18, Randwick easily accounted for the Two Blues 54-5, Eastwood smashed Penrith 78-10, Hunter edged out Manly 17-12 and Warringah recorded a thrilling 20-18 victory over Norths.
Sydney University 26
Tries: Poletto 2, Moore, Hood
Cons: Poletto 3
Round Ten Results:
Sydney Uni 26 v 5 Gordon
West Harbour 18 v 28 Eastern Suburbs
Two Blues 5 v 54 Randwick
Penrith 10 v 78 Eastwood
Manly 12 v 17 Wildfires
Norths 18 v 20 Warringah