Sydney Uni v Norths: Set piece and collisions key to a Norths upset over Students

Six weeks ago, punters probably would have had a tough time picking between Sydney Uni and Norths in a hypothetical preliminary final. 

Both were in the mix for a spot in the top three and awaiting the return of a number of big names to bolster their already impressive squads. 

But Uni and Norths couldn’t have had more different ends to the regular season. 

The Students have been brilliant, winning their last six matches, including a 66-17 win over the Shoreman in round 17. 

Norths have been anything but. Dropping their last three regular season matches before losing to Warringah in the opening weekend of the finals. 

Fortunately, they survived the week one cull, courtesy of an Eastwood win over Easts and will face Sydney Uni at North Sydney Oval on Saturday for a spot in next weekend’s decider. 

“We came out of the gates slowly last weekend against Warringah and our discipline was poor early on,” Norths coach Nick Hensley said. 

“Our work off the ball wasn’t up to standard either and although we had a chance to grab the game in the second half, we threw away those opportunities.”

Sydney Uni fought back from 28-14 down to claim a 47-31 victory over Manly in week one in a match that was a lot tighter than the scoreline showed. 

“We showed good character to come from behind and beat a talented Manly team who had the wind behind them in the second half,” Uni coach Rob Taylor said. 

Taylor has made one change to his starting side with former Brumby James Dargaville set to start ahead of Will McDonnell in the midfield. 

The coach said set piece and defence was the key to playing finals footy and said he wasn’t overly concerned about playing Norths at Norths, a venue where the Students have played in two of the last three grand finals. 

“It obviously would have been nice to play at home but we’re not overly fussed. North Sydney Oval is great venue and we’ve got some great memories there from last year.” 

Norths are confident the home ground advantage will give them a boost against the red hot favourites to win the competition, but even the most optimistic Shoreman knows they’ll need to be at their absolute best. 

“We need to take them on in the areas they love – set piece and collisions,” Hensley said of the minor premiers. 

“Easts have shown the way in the collisions and Eastwood in the set piece recently, so it certainly can be done.”

“Five teams have beaten them this year and although it seems most people don’t think we can win on Saturday, that’s just the way we like it.”

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