University Flex Try-Scoring Muscle on Ladies Day
Story by Nic Darveniza
The University of Queensland have swept aside their greatest challenge yet in the 2017 season, pushing nine-points clear atop the Queensland Premier Rugby leaderboard with a 59-8 thumping of third-placed Sunnybank.
University’s fitness and depth proved the key as a first half stalemate gave way to an attacking onslaught after half time in the Round Seven clash in front of a packed Kiss The Berry Ladies Day audience.
Sunnybank’s physical forward pack rattled the students with crunching tackles and aggressive line speed but the visitors couldn’t maintain their intensity into the second half.
When University coach Mick Heenan called upon his reinforcements the Dragons were blown away, conceding 47 unanswered points to close out the match.
The win, University’s sixth from six matches in 2017, was all the more special for team veterans Campbell Wakely and Harry Parker as they celebrated their 100th club and 50th Premier Grade appearances respectively.
“It doesn’t get much sweeter than that,” Wakely told UQRugby.com. “To play 100 games at the Stade de Heavy is pretty special and I’d hope that the day didn’t all revolve around us but it was a great team performance.
“We came pretty slow out of the blocks and I knew we’d come out a lot better in the second half but nobody could have predicted we’d do it quite like that.
“Sunnybank are a class team, particularly on attack, so to hold them to eight points is pretty good.”
In a first half loaded full of multi-phase raids from both teams it was the defensive side of the ball that stole the show as two free-wheeling attacking teams were met by ironclad defence.
Sunnybank’s Moli Sooaimalelagi broke free from the pack in the 15th minute to run in an impressive front rowers try, while flyhalf Jake Strachan joined him on the scoreboard with 32nd minute penalty goal.
University hit back instantly as centre Alex Horan inhaled a pass off his bootlaces to break the line, linking with fellow centre Josh Birch to stretch out and score in the 33rd minute.
The Heavies kept up their momentum, punching home a try to centurion Campbell Wakely on the stroke of halftime to push ahead for the first time, 12-8.
The chinks in the Sunnybank defence began to show as a Horan short-ball again put Josh Birch through a gap for his second try in the 50th minute.
That try would prove the catalyst for the Red Heavies’ attacking explosion, crossing for six further tries with increasing regularity.
Queensland Reds flanker Adam Korczyk dived over in the 55th minute before backrow-mate Jack Cornelsen drove straight through the heart of the Sunnybank defence for his own in the 65th.
Now ahead 33-8 with less than 15 minutes remaining, a yellow card to Sunnybank lock Findlay-Hannaway kicked University into overdrive.
Four tries, to substitute flanker Sam Wallis (70’), fullback Jock Campbell (75’), and to wingers Gareth Kalell (79’) and Clifton Setu (80’) eclipsed the season’s previous biggest winning margin over a Sunnybank outfit who looked certain to make the finals just last week.
University flyhalf James Dalgleish kicked 7/8 conversions (Campbell Wakely 0/1) while No.8 Jack Cornelsen was named the Man of the Match.
UNIVERSITY 59 (Tries: Josh Birch (2), Campbell Wakely, Adam Korczyk, Jack Cornelsen, Sam Wallis, Jock Campbell, Clifton Setu, Gareth Kalell; Cons: James Dalgleish (7/8), Campbell Wakely (0/1) defeated SUNNYBANK 8 (Tries: Moli Sooaimalelagi; Pens: Jake Strachan)