Sydney Uni take a plunge ahead of Shute Shield grand final

By Jon Geddes

TRADITIONALLY rugby players would celebrate qualifying for a Shute Shield grand final by enjoying a cool beer with teammates in the winners’ dressing room.

But the Sydney University team felt a different kind of cold on their lips following a nail-biting 10-9 preliminary final win over Eastwood at Rat Park on Sunday that set up a premiership decider against Gordon this Saturday at Leichhardt Oval.

The University players had little time to bask in the glory of reaching the big dance as they headed straight to nearby Narrabeen Beach and dived into the surf where the water was nudging a brisk 17 degrees.

“Because we have a six-day turnaround, the only six-day turnaround we’ve had all year, we have to start preparing for the grand final now,” Uni coach Sean Hedger said after the game. “We are going down to the beach now to have some recovery.”

And when the Uni players formed a circle on the field following the victory, they emphasised they still have plenty of work ahead of them this week.

“The messages generally come from the players – they weren’t happy with how they played, they know they can play a bit better,” Hedger said. “They know what parts of the game they can improve.

“And credit to Eastwood, they nullified probably our biggest weapon – our driving maul and stopped us four times in the first half which on any other day could be four tries.”

Once again Uni hooker Ciaran Loh made an impact by scoring the game’s only try from the one driving maul that did bring home the bacon in the form of an invaluable five-pointer.

“l thought he was really good, he’s a very good defender,” Hedger said.

THE HAPPY HOOKER  

LOH was actually the second highest tryscorer in the competition, which again demonstrates the power of University’s maul.

And he is thriving as a member of the Students’ forward pack.

“It’s unreal, everyone backs each other and works really hard for the whole 80 minutes,” Loh said.

“You can take a lot of confidence being at the back of those mauls.”

After Sunday’s win Loh agreed the team can play better in this week’s grand final.

“I think we definitely made it hard for ourselves – exits, too many turnovers,” he said. “I think we have a bit to build on in the next few days.”’

And he said it all starts with his University pack.

“You know what they say, it’s won in the forwards and backs tell you by how much,” the graduate of The Kings School said.    

COACH SHOWS A TOUCH OF CLASS 

RUGBY can be a tough, and sometimes cruel game, but it can also bring out the best in people.

Hedger showed great character and real empathy in his comments about Eastwood’s gun No.10 Tane Edmed following the preliminary final.

The Waratah who is destined to play for the Wallabies had a tough afternoon in the office. He was a devastated figure after missing two long range penalty goal attempts late in the game and an attempted field goal following the fulltime siren all which could have given his side a 12-10 lead.   

Edmed’s raw emotional reaction at fulltime showed just how much the Woodies mean to him.

It was a challenging situation to be in, but Edmed is such a talent there is no doubt he will bounce back better than ever from that experience.

 “I thought he was going to get that second last penalty goal, I thought he was going to get that last penalty goal and when he tucked into the pocket I thought ‘he can’t miss’ (the field goal),” Hedger said.

“The poor kid, I feel sorry for him,” Hedger said.  “He’s been the best player in the competition the last five weeks, he’s really revitalised that team and he was shattered afterwards.”