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Round 21 Match of the Day Preview – Students v Beasts

There’s two rounds to go of the regular season and the main protagonists are jockeying for position down
the final stretch. With Eastwood only needing a bonus point win over Parramatta to be crowned Minor Pre-
miers, the competition for 2nd spot on the ladder and a week off in the first round of the finals is now a four
horse race with Randwick adrift in 6th.

Two of those sides involved meet in the ABC match of the round when Sydney University host Eastern
Suburbs at the birthplace of Australian rugby and as well as going a long way to deciding their finals fate,
there is much at stake when these historic rivals clash once more.

Uni will be out to avenge their 16-13 defeat at Woollahra Oval back in Round Ten whilst trying to maintain
their eight game unbeaten streak. Easts meanwhile, are on something of a roll themselves, winning ten of
their last eleven and giving cause for cautious optimism amongst the Beasties faithful of a first Premiership
since 1969.

There is also the matter of own-


ership of the Sir Roden Cutler
Shield. The Students lost posses-
sion of it in Round One after an
incredible 4 year run but after
passing through the hands of
four different sides, it returned
to Uni Oval in Round Nine. An
Easts victory would give them
the chance to hold onto the tro-
phy until next year should they
overcome Norths at home next
week.

Last Saturday night’s hard


fought victory over Manly was
another big step towards a 6th
successive title for Uni and they’re doing it the hard way this year after a first half of the season that saw
them lose seven of their first twelve games. Pushing hard for Man of the Match honours on the night was
Waratah flanker and Australian Sevens captain Pat McCutcheon. Although very pleased and relieved af-
ter the 3pt win, after the game he was keen to keep everyone’s feet on the ground regarding their finals
chances:

“That’s eight from nine so far in the 2nd 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’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.”

Having been subjected to a barrage of physicality from the Marlins, McCutcheon was wary of the different
challenges that high scoring Easts may pose on the day:

“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. Easts can play with a bit of width, some of their backrow-
ers 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 on game day.”

Head coach Greg Mumm agreed with his star backrowers assessment:

“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.”
Easts currently average over 39pts a game for the season and have scored more than 40pts a game five times
in the second half of the season alone. Mumm had a simple answer when asked how Uni could contain such
a pointscoring threat:

“We’ll just control the ball. 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.”

Despite their turnaround in fortunes as the season has progressed, the recent wins over Gordon and Manly
did offer some hope to their opponents that the Sydney Uni of 2010 hasn’t quite acquired the ruthless streak
of previous vintages…yet. Post Manly, Mumm agreed, offering different reasons as to why that maybe the
case but he was confident that attaining that cutting edge is not all that far away:

“It is a disappointing fact that we couldn’t go away with it as we would have liked to tonight and I think that
probably comes down to the scrum and the kicking. 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. Tonight, definitely the intensity was
there and 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.”

Easts head coach Lachie Fear is looking forward to finals footy for the third year in a row. Having taken an
unfancied Gordon side to 2nd in 2008 and 3rd last year, he has completed the hat-trick with his new club
and fulfilled the first part of his ultimate challenge - to deliver a title to a success starved club and it’s long
suffering supporters.

Although keen to finish 2nd and enjoy that week’s hiatus from the competition and also to achieve a rare
double over Sydney University, he isn’t approaching this game as a be all and end all for the year. Rather than
focusing on the much vaunted opposition,
Fear sees the clash as a chance to see just
how far his side have progressed in their
quest to become Premiership material:

“We are looking at this game as a challenge


for us as opposed to anything from the
opposition. Generally, it would be stand-
ard for Uni’s opponent to hope for a tight
game and possibly jag a win but we want
to test ourselves out to see if they can go
with us.”

A potential Grand Final rehearsal, the game


will see both sides culled of talent that may
well be on display should they make it to
the Concord Oval finale on October 2nd.
Uni are without Julian Huxley who’s been in stellar form since his return to club rugby and Waratah war-
horse Phil Waugh is still a couple of weeks away from his first game since fracturing a kneecap against Easts
back in June. Add in the probable return of touring Wallabies Dean Mumm, Berrick Barnes and Luke Burgess
and Uni’s side could take on a familiarly ominous look for the knockout stages.

Easts have been cruelled too, most notably by the loss of the form flyhalf of the tournament, Matt To’omua
who’s combination with new Waratah scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin has been a feature of the Beasts’ surge
up the ladder in recent weeks. Wallaby Matt Hodgson and gun fullback Pat Dellitt are still on the recovery
table whilst recent addition Peter Kimlin is also injured and yet to wear the tricolour jersey. Fear admits that
the absentees will have a bearing on the result but sees it as a positive in the long run:

‘It has weakened us slightly but it also enables us to have good preparation for the finals by building up our
depth.”
With an average weekly scoreline of 47-26 in their favour since Round Eleven, the Beasts are unquestionably
the most exciting team to watch in the Shute Shield at the moment. Capable of running in tries from any-
where, they have two of the top three tryscorers in the competition in Damon Anderson and Anton LaVin
and a player in Huia Edmonds, who belies his position of hooker to be one of the most skilful and unpredict-
able players in Australian rugby. Conversely, they are also prone to switching off at times and leaking points
as a result.

Whilst Fear is mindful of the sides worryingly high points against column, refreshingly, he isn’t about to
sacrifice his attacking mindset because there’s a possible trophy at stake:

“We would like to cut out the lulls in our game and that’s the focus over the next two weeks but we don’t
want this to hinder our flair. It’s a good mental challenge for the guys at the moment, if we can get our game
functioning for the entire 80 minutes and control the tempo changes in the match, then we can have great
confidence not only to succeed against Uni but against anyone in the finals. Our levels of belief and concen-
tration are key for our guys at this stage of the season as opposed to how we play the game.”

If that means a 47-26 Grand Final win then every neutral club rugby fan in New South Wales will be as happy
as those down at Woollahra Oval. Play on…

Saturday September 4th – 3pm – Uni Oval No.1


Sydney University: 1. Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 2. Ben Roberts, 3. Jeremy Tilse; 4. Dave Dennis, 5. Dave McDul-
ing; 6. Pat McCutcheon, 7. Jono Jenkins, 8. Tim Davidson [c]; 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Dan Kelly; 11. Peter Betham,
12. Tom Carter, 13. Mitch Inman, 14. Lachie Mitchell; 15. Nathan Trist.


Eastern Suburbs: 1. Ofa Fainga’anuku, 2. Huia Edmonds, 3. Guy Shepherdson; 4. Phil Mathers, 5. Ed Brenac;
6. Talalelei Gray, 7. Will Brock, 8. Andrew Shaw; 9. Brendan McKibbin, 10. TBC; 11. Damon Anderson, 12. Ben
Ward, 13. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 14. Anton Lavin; 15. Gavin Debartolo.
Referee: Steve Walsh