New Look Melbourne Uni falls to Harlequins in GF rematch.
By James Wong
Round three of the Dewar Shield saw a rematch of last year’s grand final as Melbourne University hosted Harlequins. Harlequins won 66-14 against a University side that returned just one starting player from last time the teams met.
Harlequins now top the competition ladder after picking up the maximum 15 points with three bonus-point wins. They sit one point clear of Melbourne who had the bye last round. With three losses to start the season Melbourne University sit bottom.
Described by their Head Coach Andrew Slyfield as “talented but raw” Melbourne University were unable to contain the well-drilled Harlequins attack.
Slyfield identified University’s inability to shut down their opponent’s attack from the set-piece and Harlequin’s ability to stretch play to the edges of the field before exploiting gaps inside as key to the end result.
“For half the match and in bits and pieces we were good, and in other parts we struggled. As soon as we dropped off they made us pay, which was expected but when it happened it was a little disappointing.”
The Harlequins game was a good chance for his squad to get and idea of their progress said Slyfield.
“We’ve got a very young team. There’s a lot of players in our team for who that was their third first-grade starting game that they’ve played in.
“Harlequins have been quite successful and in terms of how we would like to play the game, it’s quite similar, so we got a chance to test where we are at the moment.”
One player that has stood out to Slyfield so far is fullback Tom McGain.
“We’ve been very pleased with how he’s gone.
“He’s got a very strong running game, a very good pass on him, a very good boot so he helps us exit well, but also he helps us on the counter and when he got a bit of space he made the most of his opportunities.”
Harlequin’s Chair of Rugby Brock Parker said the team’s coaches were happy with the result but disappointed with their players’ execution at times.
“We wasted a lot of opportunities and gifted them a try through an error. We were rushing our play too much and not taking our time, dropping passes, trying to push that final pass instead of being patient and building the game.
“The team was a bit eager but it’s still that early part of the season. We’re only at game three so some things are still coming together. Definitely the intent was there, just the execution wasn’t quite right.”
A hat-trick to winger Kelu Vaele was a highlight and Parker noted the performances of two of Harlquins’ debutants: Rebels Under 20s representative Mahe Vailanu at hooker and blindside flanker Singcho Tamala.
“Mahe’s only 18 years old so to come in in his first game of the season he did really well, and our blindside Singcho Tamala, he had a very good game for his first game in first grade.”