Uni just one point away from third ACC win
The 2015 Australian Club Championship would see 2014 Shute Shield winners, Eastwood having the benefit of home ground advantage. In the week leading up to the big game; the heavies had numerous players pull out due to injuries/reds duties; which left the team with an inexperienced but committed starting 15 compared to the seasoned 15 of Eastwood.
Eastwood came out of the blocks firing; huge intensity and physicality from the kick off resulted in them scoring within the five minute mark. If uni were to compete they needed to match Eastwood’s physicality quickly or it could turn into a long day out for the boys from Queensland.
Uni put some quality phases together and started to march down the field, the forwards laying a solid foundation upfront allowing the general; Will Thompson to unleash the speed of his outside backs. Unfortunately a wide pass was picked off by Eastwood’s outside centre and he scampered off towards the line, scoring under the posts for an easy five pointer which was duly converted into 7 points. The score; 14-0 with just 20 minutes on the clock.
The game was played in 4×20 minute quarters to allow for drinks breaks; the break came at a good time for University. The coaching team highlighted their concerns and solutions for the second quarter which the team certainly addressed. The outcome of the next twenty minutes was University heading into half time, with a slender lead 15-14.
The first 5 points came from a set piece back move; a strong scrum provided the perfect platform for Gareth Kalell to burst through a gap and beat the full back one on one. Following this O’Leary kicked a penalty from 40m out to put uni within 6 points.
With minutes to go before half time Eastwood were awarded a penalty inside the uni 22; the team had their tails up and opted for the corner rather than collecting the easily kickable 3 points. The decision soon became regrettable after a solid defence effort and turnover saw Jack De Guingand gallop 50 metres downfield before linking up with debut premier grade skipper, Connor Mitchell. The heavies support play was outstanding; many offloads and quick rucks saw the heavies just five metres out. A series of pick and drive plays led to Matt Randell crossing for a crucial five points on the buzzer; converted by Steve O’Leary. The half time whistle from the referee signalled the end of a gutsy second quarter performance from the uni boys.
The intensity and physicality was carried into the second half of the game as multiple big hits were given and taken by both teams; notably Ben Cullen and Pat Morrey coming off second best, fortunately both players battled on unscathed. The rain started to fall in the second 40 but the quality of rugby was not affected; lots of attacking opportunities were created by both teams. Both teams had to desperately defend their lines numerous times in the half with both teams looking like the flood gates could open at any opportunity. Two yellow cards back to back increased the pressure on uni and Eastwood were able to capitalise with a try under the posts taking the score to 21-15.
It took until after the final hooter for University to find their way over the white wash, in very similar fashion to the end of the first half. The heavies worked through multiple phases, broke tackles and made good yards deep into the Eastwood half as the clock expired.
University were gifted a penalty five metres out and ex-Sydney University player Jack De Guingand once again provided the goods. A tap and go from the backrower saw him use his strength and determination to battle his way past a couple of the heavy Eastwood forwards. The score sat at 21-20 to Eastwood with an opportunity to convert for the victory.
Veteran Steve O’Leary was the recipient of the daunting task; and unfortunately the ball went to the right of the posts much to the delight of the Eastwood crowd.
The young University team showed great character and heart; despite the loss it was a very positive performance heading into the 2015 season. There was no silverware to bring back to Brisbane but the club are very proud of the 23 who made the journey. Furthermore; head coach Mick Heenan was very pleased with the boys and the youngsters who stepped up in their first experience of premier grade rugby.