MATCH REVIEW: Under 19s Division One Grand Final
Written by Michael Shillito
Sydney University vs. UNSW/ Eastern Suburbs – Blacktown ISP on Sunday 8th September
Sunday morning’s Under 19s Division One Grand Final was a university derby, as Sydney Uni took on Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs at Blacktown.
Sydney Uni were the hottest of favourites after an undefeated season through the home and away season, followed up by a comfortable win over East Coast in the Major Semi-Final. They were rested after the week off, and after such a strong season had just one more mountain to climb to achieve a perfect season.
Their opponents on the day were UNSW-ES, defending their title from last year. The Bulldogs had to do it the hard way to get there, coming through sudden death clashes against St George in the Minor Semi-Final followed by East Coast in the Preliminary Final. They were underdogs, but were in good form and ready to take on the challenge.
The Students had been the dominant side all year, but they knew this was going to be their toughest test. And they were put under plenty of pressure early, as the Bulldogs took the fight up to them from the start. In windy conditions, it wasn’t easy to find targets. And there were plenty of heavy bumps and big tackles, as the Bulldogs piled on the pressure and made it tough for the Students. One goal apiece was scored in the opening term, with the Students a point ahead at quarter time.
The first quarter had been an arm-wrestle, with little separating the two sides. But in the second quarter, the Bulldogs made a decisive move and broke away from their highly-fancied opponent. Suddenly they found themselves getting the better of the 50-50 contests, and opportunities were presenting themselves up forward. Three goals to one for the quarter opened up an 11-point lead to the Bulldogs at the long break; and suddenly the prospect of an upset result was evident.
It had been a tight and tough contest, but by the third quarter the game had opened up. The running players were finding room to move. And with the wind having eased, both sides were creating scoring chances. The Students had the opportunity to peg back the deficit and regain the lead, but some inaccurate finishing at the critical moment would let them down. The Bulldogs weren’t getting quite as much use of the footy, but when they did they were more efficient with it. And with three goals to two for the quarter, the Bulldogs had extended their lead to 14 points at the last change.
After so much had gone right for the Students this season, when it came to the crunch they had nothing more to give. The Bulldogs were on a roll, they had the sniff of victory, and they weren’t letting go. There was no way for the Students to regain the momentum, and the hopes of the perfect season were slipping away. And in the end it was a blowout, with the Bulldogs kicking three more unanswered goals in the last term to blow the final margin out to 34 points.
The final siren sounded. Bulldog players gathered in celebration, while the Students slumped to the ground.
It’s an empty feeling when a Grand Final is lost. Especially when the team has been the dominant force all season, only to fall over in the game that mattered. Riley Holmes, Nick Lees and Thomas van Dongen worked hard all day; but in the end they weren’t able to get it done. It’s been a great season for the Students; but unfortunately for them history does not honour the team that wins the most games, but the team that wins the last game.
And that team was the Bulldogs. Ashley Backlund, Harry Whitaker and Tom Baxter led the way for the Bulldogs. But propelled by the belief and timing of saving the best till last, they were able to get the job done; and take the premiership prize for the second straight year.
Sydney University – 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.7 | 4.8 (32)
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – 1.0 | 4.2 | 7.3 | 10.6 (66)
Sydney University Goals – R Holmes 2, J Lee, B Davis
UNSW-ES Goals – A Backlund 2, J Tikkeros 2, T Tyson, H Dyson, H Whitaker, S Kofod, J Willis, S Gaden
Sydney University Best – R Holmes, N Lees, T Van Dongen, J Howard-Shibuya, M Dyster, B Davis.
UNSW-ES Best – A Backlund, H Whitaker, T Baxter, O Peter, A Bryan, J Hill