Defiant Students hold firm to frustrate Manly

Photo: SPA Images

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Sydney University have put up their best defensive display of the season to hold out Manly 20-17, and make it eight wins in a row in the process. Played under the lights at Uni Oval No.1, the match was fiercely contested from kick-off to final whistle as both sides flexed their finals muscles with bruising physicality. The Marlins had the better of the first half and looked to be going into the break with a handy nine point lead. But a try on the bell from Dave McDuling gave the Students some much needed momentum, and another score after the restart put them firmly in the box seat. Manly got their second wind to pummel the Uni line in the last 20 minutes, but a masterclass in goal-line defence kept them at bay to secure the narrowest of victories.

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Having let Uni off the hook in their first encounter of the season back in Round Nine – going down to a controversial penalty try in the dying minutes – the Marlins started the match with a real sense of purpose and a desire to stop the rot of three successive losses. Playing with pace and intensity they found some holes in their hosts line early on, but couldn’t quite finish the job off until the 10th minute, when good support play from Dylan Sigg and Chris Cottee finally made the numbers count and Chris Yarrington was on hand to profit. Handed the role of goal-kicker in the absence of the departed Adam D’Arcy, he stepped up to convert his own good work and improve Manly’s advantage.

It took until the 25th minute for the Students to get on the scoreboard with Dan Kelly knocking over a penalty. But Manly continued to have the better of the territory and possession, and only handling errors at crucial times were costing them the chance to increase their lead. Despite the best efforts of flyhalf Mark Swanepoel, their desire to move the ball wide and create overlaps was often cruelled by their outside backs simply standing too flat.

Consequently, their most likely chance of success was through their powerful pack, and minutes before half-time it was the forwards who did the hard yards to earn try number two. After multiple phases inside Uni’s red zone, patience and discipline were rewarded when skipper Will Brame twisted through the melee to cross from five metres. However, the passage of play that followed was the most significant of the match, with Manly suffering a 9pt swing in favour of their hosts that shifted the balance of power in the game.

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Chris Yarrington celebrates the opening try with team mate Lui Siale – Photo: SPA Images

Yarrington wasted his conversion attempt by hesitating and watching in horror as Nathan Trist raced off the Uni line to kick the ball off the tee. Then, following a shabby restart, a terrific run from Pat McCutcheon took play back to the Marlins twenty-two. Trist grubbered through the legs of a would-be tackler, and a bouncing ball that should have been dealt with sat up for Peter Betham to put the waiting McDuling in for the try. Kelly added the extras and from a position of ascendancy, Manly were left shaking their heads at the paucity of their 12-10 lead, while a reinvigorated Uni practically sprinted to the sheds to plan their second half comeback.

They were obviously concerned enough about Manly’s threat to adopt a ‘take any points on offer’ approach when they returned, their first foray of the new half ending with a drop goal from Kelly that put them in front for the first time in the contest. And nerves now settled, Uni started to control possession and dictate the pace, and it wasn’t long before they had opened up a 20-12 advantage.

They’d gone close in the 50th minute when a Trist run to the line was scratched from the records for a foot in touch. But two minutes later, they crossed legally to make it two tries apiece. Intense pressure forced a poor clearance, and from a swift counter attack, Lachie Mitchell streaked past three blue shirts to find Tom Carter, who offloaded in the tackle and sent Greg Jeloudev under the posts.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, recent history dictated that the home side would go up another gear and turn a hard fought contest into a comprehensive victory. But the Marlins obviously didn’t read the script. Showing admirable courage and mental fortitude, they took the game back to the reigning champions, hammering the line in determined fashion. And what ensued was akin to Custer’s Last Stand.

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Dave McDuling dives home for a pivotal score right on half-time – Photo: SPA Images

All hands were on deck for Uni as they repelled wave after wave of attack, and the hits just kept getting bigger and bigger. Manly kept it in tight and kept on coming. But having dominated large parts of the game, Uni’s stout refusal to concede left them empty-handed, and it wasn’t until the last minute that the lively Yarrington finally found a crack in the armour to score a consolation try and earn his side a losing bonus point. It was the least they deserved.

He couldn’t add the extras, and having outscored their opponents by three tries to two it was those couple of missed conversions that eventually proved costly. Whether Yarrington gets another chance to fill the giant shoes of points machine Adam D’Arcy, or the kicking tee is tossed the way of another hopeful, finding a prolific replacement is a must for the Marlins as they head to the pointy end of the season.

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SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 20 (Dave McDuling, Greg Jeloudev tries; Dan Kelly 2 cons, pen, drop goal) defeated MANLY 17 (Chris Yarrington 2, Will Brame tries; Chris Yarrington con) at University Oval No.1 – HT: 10-12

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POST-MATCH THOUGHTS:

Sydney University head coach Greg Mumm:

“Scoring both sides of half-time was important, and the try before half-time was definitely a plus and would have ripped their heart out a little bit. But the chat was quite calm in the sheds and I think it would have been anyway. We’ve seen a lot of Manly because we trail them every week, and we knew that that was probably the best half of footy they’ve played in five weeks so we weren’t too concerned. The aim was always just to stick to our guns in the knowledge that we’ve got a strong second half in us.

“We’re a little bit disappointed with our ability to control territory, and obviously our scrum’s still a bit of an issue so we need to keep working on that. We’ve got a lot of focus on getting our set-piece right in terms of delivering the ball at a certain standard that allows us to get into the game in the way that we want, and we’re not happy with the way we’re getting the delivery. For us, scrum and lineout ball needs to be perfectly delivered so that we can get over the gain line and get into the game, and if that’s not happening we get frustrated.

“I was very pleased with our defence, that’s probably our best defensive effort of the year. Just the fact that we were able to defend well up close, and then there were other times where we were able to push up and defend well in the centre of the field and with width. Tim Davidson said to the boys at the end that that’s as close defensively as you’ll get to finals footy, so we’re really happy with that part of the game.

“It is a disappointing fact that we couldn’t go away with it as we would have liked to, and I think that probably comes down to the scrum and the kicking again. Last week against Gordon, that was down to a little bit of mental relaxation and guys switching off whereas tonight I think it was not being able to execute those two areas that would have enabled us to get into attacking situations.

Easts will test us with width and short kicks and pose a different kind of test. I think we passed the physical test tonight, whether or not we pass the ‘trick’ test I guess you could call it next weekend will be the mark of where we’re really at defensively. They will test us defensively because they do play a high risk game, so we’ll look to defend with a lot of linespeed, get in their face and let them know we’re there, and just not give them the ball. Today, definitely the intensity was right. As long as we get our execution right in the next two weeks, then we’ll be in good shape come the first round of finals.”

Manly captain Will Brame:

“They were pretty lucky to get that try just before half-time and at the end of the day, that was probably the difference. The boys started off well, getting up off the line, making their tackles and making it hard for Uni and I’m sure at one stage they were a bit worried. A couple of mistakes crept into our game, just a couple, and compared to last week it was a big improvement. But it’s those little mistakes that can cost you against a good side.

“They scored just before half-time and it was right when we had that little lead, which would have been good to go into the break with. We gave it away with a couple of guys maybe switching off for the last thirty seconds of the half, and that kills you against these kinds of sides and that’s something we’ve got to be aware of for next time. We’ve lost the last three against them but after tonight, I think there could be a turn. I think next time we play them, we’ll win. They’ve had their two wins, it’s time we took one back off them – if we get that far.

“I think we’ll take a lot away from this game. I’m very proud of the boys, they played really well and we came up just a little bit short. We may have lost but that was definitely a turning point for the team, so we’ll just go on from that and work through our errors during the week. The last few games we’ve lost and I probably haven’t felt as confident but after tonight’s performance, I definitely feel confident.”

“The kicker is an important part of the game these days, and I guess we lost ours overseas. But we’ll find one and I think that’s something we really have to concentrate on during the week, finding a solid kicker – whoever that might be. I don’t know if Chris was expecting to kick but that’s something he can work on during the week.”

Sydney University flanker Pat McCutcheon:

“We were behind the posts and we said to each other that we needed to be the next to score before half-time, because you find in a lot of games that whoever scores just before the half-time bell, that gives them a lot of momentum for the second half. At half-time we spoke about being a bit more clinical in our set-piece with the forwards, to execute our lineout with speed and accuracy, and get our scrum pumped for the ball. Focusing on the simple things gave us a bit of momentum for that second half.

“The game was played with the intensity of finals footy, and it’s good to have that two or three weeks before the finals come around. It’s good to know that you’re up for the test and up for the physicality that Manly threw at us, and we can take confidence from holding out a team that’s second on the table. They’re not there by mistake, they’re a great side and they’ve been doing well all season. So, for our defence to hold them out for those final twenty minutes when they were in our ten metre channel, we can take a lot of confidence from that going into the finals.

“We weren’t as clinical as we wanted to be, we gave away a few silly penalties in the scrums, such as not binding and wheeling. It’s the individual who’s accountable for that and we need to sit down, look in the mirror and take action that will put us on the front-foot for next week.

“That’s eight from eight so far in the second half of the season, so we’re fortunate that we’re getting a bit of a roll on going into the finals. But in saying that, we’ve still got Easts next week here at home, and they’re a dominant club and they’ve been doing well all year. Manly are quite a big, physical side, they hit it up with one-out rucks and pick and drives and you’ve got to set your defensive line and number up on that. But Easts can play with a bit of width. Some of their back rowers are quite mobile and have got a bit of speed, and in defence we’re going to have to aim up around the ruck, spread out and mark men, rather than space.

“That’s something we’ll work on this week at training, and hopefully we can bring it next Saturday. We’re not there yet, we’re just trying to focus on game by game as that’s the position we’re in this year, and hopefully that can put is in a better place going into the finals.”

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SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: 1. Jerry Yanuyanutawa; 2. Ben Roberts; 3. Jeremy Tilse; 4. Sam Carter; 5. Dave McDuling; 6. Dave Dennis; 7. Pat McCutcheon; 8. Tim Davidson [c]; 9. Nick Phipps; 10. Dan Kelly; 11. Greg Jeloudev; 12. Tom Carter; 13. Lachie Mitchell; 14. Peter Betham; 15. Nathan Trist

MANLY: 1. Eddie Aholelei; 2. Elvis Taione; 3. Tim Fairbrother; 4. Dylan Sigg; 5. Greg Peterson; 6. Will Brame [c]; 7. Chris Westenenk; 8. Tevita Metuisela; 9. Chris Cottee; 10. Mark Swanepoel; 11. Lui Siale; 12. Tyrone Smith; 13. Luke Johnson; 14. Chris Yarrington; 15. Damien Reti

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First published by clubrugby.com.au on August 31st, 2010

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