University Survive Bowral Challenge

MatchReportIn an enthralling Minor Semi-Final at Camden Rugby Park, University have ended Bowral’s premiership dreams with a narrow 32 – 29 victory. Despite scoring five tries to four the Blacks paid dearly for a slow start which saw the students race out to a twenty point half-time lead. Bowral poured on four second half tries to bridge the gap but a converted try by Player of the Match, Tom Baker proved enough for the Bulls to move through to next week’s Final match up with Vikings.

Baker proved to be the difference between the two sides contributing seventeen points for the match including two vital first half penalty goals. In contrast Bowral kicker Donovan Du Randt could only manage two goals from five attempts as the Blacks bowed out of the finals at the hands of the defending Premiers for the second year in succession.

The Bulls started at pace dominating at the breakdown throughout the first half and employing a very efficient fast moving defensive line to nullify most of what Bowral were able to muster. Baker was very busy early putting over two penalty goals for Uni to take their lead out to 6 – 0 after a frantic first thirteen minutes. Shortly after his second goal Baker found himself in the Sin Bin after being Yellow Carded by Referee Ethan McIntosh for a lifting tackle.

Immediately following Bakers binning Bowral crossed for the first try of the match. After finding touch in the Bulls quarter from the penalty for Bakers tackle, the Blacks created a rolling maul resulting in hooker Todd Pearce touching down wide out for the five pointer. Du Randt couldn’t goal from touch as the margin was reduced to one point. The remainder of the half belonged to Uni as their defensive effort thwarted everything the Blacks could muster in attack. With Baker back into the action Uni put on three tries in the space of fourteen minutes to take a match defining 25 – 5 lead at the break.

Fullback Simon Douch scored the first of his two tries on the back of some strong pick and drive play from the Uni pack. Within minutes the fullback was in again when Baker put on a beautiful cut out pass for the fast moving Douch to race away down the touchline and score his second. On the stroke of halftime Uni once again produced a strong pick and drive sequence to take play to within fifteen of the Bowral line before prop forward Casey Rameka running wide of the ruck careered away to score under the posts. Baker converted two of the tries for a 25 – 5 halftime lead.

With young Number 8 Tim Lewis making his return from injury after the halftime break inspiring a greater effort from the Blacks, the second half took on a different look. Bowral produced four tries in the stanza but couldn’t rest the lead from the Bulls as they bowed out for 2017.

Centre Justin Madden produced the first try when he pushed off the usually reliable Paul Tuala to cross after six minutes. The Bowral scrum was dominating the usually powerful Bulls pack as the Blacks were starting to make headway at the breakdown. The second try was scored by winger Charlie Lawson when he found himself in space following a sweeping backline play before Henry Yuill showed his customary speed when joining the backline to score from thirty out. Du Randt only managed to convert one of the tries as the Blacks now found themselves still three behind the students at 22 – 25 with just on ten remaining on the clock.

The restart from the Yuill try proved to be the turning point of the match. Bowral winger Charlie Lawson was bundled into touch by his opposite number Rueben Thompson on the Blacks quarter with the lineout awarded to University. Baker was now at halfback for Uni after Marama Penetito left the field earlier with a shoulder injury. Baker worked a run around play with replacement fly-half Charles Curry before running away to score under the posts without a hand laid on him by the Bowral defence. Baker converted the try for the Bulls to take a ten point lead with eight minutes to go.

Bowral managed to cross for one more try with flanker Mitchell Spargo scoring off the back of a driving maul but it all proved too late as the Bulls held on to qualify for next week’s Final against Vikings.

The Bulls final experience of the last three years proved invaluable as their senior players managed to impose themselves on this fixture to get the better of the young Blacks. Led strongly again by Captain Paul Tuala with the experienced Damien Mei and lock William Wood also prominent the Bulls play at the breakdown was significant to the result. Tom Baker earned Player of the Match status for his all-round performance and his seventeen point haul. Centre George Rixon and fullback Simon Douch continued on with their fine form of recent weeks.

Bowral’s slow start was costly on the day but as they did last year they have shown this season that the future of Rugby in the Southern Highlands is in good hands. Tim Lewis’s positive return from injury in this match was welcomed with strong efforts also from forwards Jp Nel, Todd Pearce, Mark Minter and Mitchell Hardy. In the backs centres Feterika Sage and in particular Justin Madden were outstanding with Henry Yuill and Donovan Du Randt busy throughout the match.

So now the focus moves to Vikings Oval next Saturday where Vikings and University will meet to decide who will challenge the unbeaten Avondale for the title on Grand Final day at WIN Stadium on Saturday September 2nd.

University 32 (Simon Douch 2 tries, Casey Rameka 1 try, Tom Baker 1 try, 3 goals, 2 penalty goals)

Def Bowral 29 (Todd Pearce 1 try, Justin Madden 1 try, Charlie Lawson 1 try, Henry Yuill 1 try, Mitchell Spargo 1 try, Donovan Du Randt 2 goals)

Lower Grade Results

Second Grade

Bowral 35 Def Avondale 17

Third Grade

Vikings 22 Def Vincentia 18

Finals at Vikings Oval – Saturday 26th August

First Grade –     Vikings V University

Second Grade – Camden V Bowral

Third Grade -     Vikings V Avondale

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