Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Another thriller in the Grand Final rematch

 

Written by Michael Shillito.

UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Sydney University – Henson Park on Saturday, May 11.

There’s always a sense of anticipation when a replay of the previous year’s Grand Final comes around. For the defending champions, the pressure is on to prove the result of last year was no fluke, while the team that missed out last year have a point to prove. When the two clubs already have a strong rivalry, it adds further spice to it.

UNSW-Eastern Suburbs and Sydney University have a long-standing sporting rivalry, and in our game it’s a strong one. Add to that last year’s Grand Final, and this was always going to be a game with plenty of spirit. Last year’s Grand Final saw Sydney University race out to what looked to be a match-winning lead, only for the Bulldogs to run them down in the final moments. This time round, it was the Bulldogs’ turn to make the front running, and again it would go down to the wire.

The weather was fine on Saturday afternoon and Henson Park was looking good. In the early exchanges, it was clear the Bulldogs were out to make a statement. Taking control of the game, shutting down the Students’ possession gatherers and pumping the ball into the forward-50 with regularity, it looked a one-sided display of footy. Four unanswered goals would tell the tale, as the Bulldogs led by 26 points at quarter time.

The Students were shell-shocked in the first quarter, blown away by the explosive start by the Bulldogs. They had to steady, stop the rot and work their way back into the contest. To not just defend, but create scoring opportunities and wind back the deficit. But it wouldn’t be easy. The Bulldogs were in form, and would add three more goals in the second term. Gradually the Students began to get more of the ball and put some pressure on the Bulldogs. Three goals would go the Students’ way, but some missed opportunities would count against them in their attempts to close the gap. The margin was 21 points in favour of the defending champions at the long break.

The Students had to make up four goals in the second half, and it was a struggle. They were getting more of the ball than they had early on, but it was hard to do anything with it against a resolute Bulldog defence. The Students twice managed to goal, but the Bulldogs had the answering scores to keep the scoreboard difference intact. For much of the quarter the game looked deadlocked around the wings, the Students’ frustration growing as they were unable to make any dent in the deficit. The quarter ended as it started, with the Bulldogs 21 points ahead; and the Bulldogs were looking confident.

But it wasn’t over yet. The Students lifted a gear in the final term, while the Bulldogs were tiring. The Bulldogs had a handy lead, and one more goal added to their buffer. Despite this, the Students kept coming, kept attacking, kept the pressure on, and the opportunities came. Four goals were added, and suddenly the game was back within a kick. The Students had left their run too late, and the Bulldogs hung on for dear life in the closing stages and hung on for a two-point win.

It had been a thriller. For most of the day the Bulldogs looked in control, and in the end they were forced into desperate defence as the Students came so close to pulling off what would have been an unlikely result. James Pascoe was magnificent all day for the Bulldogs, finishing with six goals in a best-on-ground performance. Hayden Nichols and Ned Reinhard also played key roles for the Bulldogs in a hard-earned win. The Bulldogs are in fourth place, one game off the ladder leadership and with four important competition points after striking a key blow against one of their strongest rivals.

Cameron Williams, Aaron Day and Tom Ayton were Sydney University’s best. It was a heart-breaking result for the Students, to have fought back so strongly but just missed out. The result was the Students’ first loss for the season, but their impressive percentage keeps them in second place, ahead of East Coast and UNSW-ES.

In other results, East Coast hung on in the final quarter to hold out Manly by just five points at Kanebridge Oval. Pennant Hills showed their best form so far this season with a dominant 83-point win over Camden at Mike Kenny Oval. St George broke through for their first win of 2019 with a 31-point result against Inner West at Olds Park. North Shore are now the only undefeated team and UTS the only team without a win after the Bombers recorded a 44-point win over the Bats at Trumper Park.

MATCH RESULTS

UNSW Eastern Suburbs – 4.3   7.3   9.5   10.5   (65)

Sydney University – 0.1   3.6   5.8   9.9   (63)

UNSW Eastern Suburbs goals – J Pascoe 6, J Aish 2, L Bartholomaeus, J McAnespie.

Sydney University goals – D Smith 2, W Stratford 2, S Gilfedder 2, C Williams, T Dunlop, A Clarke.

UNSW Eastern Suburbs best – J Pacsoe, H Nichols, N Reinhard, J Wachman, T Banuelos, C Burgess-Hoar.

Sydney University best – C Williams, A Day, T Ayton, L Vella, B Hawtin, D Smith.

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