Saturday, December 3rd –Leichhardt Oval – 5:00pm Kick Off
• 1st Sydney University Lions (9-1-0) vs. 2nd West Sydney Pirates (8-1-1)
- Choc’s Prediction: N/A
The Dynasty lives on. What a game. There were some moments where I thought the streak would end but Sydney Uni are the Waratah Bowl XXXII champions. Well done to Coach Ogborne and all the staff, as well as the players for taking out the title for the 14th year in a row; it is really a big reflection on how well run the football program is run at Sydney Uni.
The Pirates received the ball on the opening kickoff and were immediately smothered by the Sydney Uni D. A quick 3 and out forced the Pirates to punt and give the defending champs the ball on the Pirates 40 yard line. The combination of QB Matt Hilley and RB Charles Adams was automatic, gaining solid yards before a quick out route to WR Conor Foley set up the Lions on the Pirates 10 yard line with a new set of downs. Hilley was very close to being picked off in the ensuing pass by Pirates FS Blake Wotton but the ball was just out of his reach. The Lions then went back to their staple offense, with a quick toss to Charles Adams getting yards and setting the Lions up on the Pirates 3 yard line. It looked like the Lions would be utilising the speed and strength of their RB as Hilley went back to Adams on the next play, and with some great blocking by WR Sam Darcy, Adams was in for the first score of the game.
The Pirates were slow to start as they were forced to punt again on their next offensive possession. But their D held up as the Lions were only able to get one first down, after a big gain from Foley; before they were forced to punt themselves. This momentum from the Pirates D brought up their O as Pirates RB Marlou Tacuge took a handoff on his own 20 yard line and turned on the jets, running 80 yards down the Lions sideline to open the scoring for his team. The defending champs were able to get a deflection on the ensuing PAT to keep themselves in the lead.
A back and forth contest ensued as each team went drive for drive with no success. In the dying minutes of the opening quarter, Uni were poised with the ball on their own 18 yard line, 2nd down. On the snap, Foley ran a beautiful wheel route from the slot receiver position and caught the ball on his own 40 yard line. And it’s so evident why Foley is an Australian representative, as he was able to torch his DB and take the ball into the endzone for another Lions score. Wotton was able to block the following PAT to put his Pirates only one converted TD behind the champs.
When I say this game went back and forth, I literally mean it. These two teams went score for score, there was no separating these two. The Pirates answered back to Foley’s TD with one of their own; WR Emmanuel Branco caught a TD through the Lions zone coverage on a slant route and with the converted PAT by WR/K Mitch Hunt, the game was level. The Pirates matched the intensity shown to the by the Lions in the next drive, with the hero from the semi-final, CB Pete Goudie picked off a pass from Hilley (which was thrown into double coverage) and returned it for some valuable yards. This would prove vital, as in the following drive, the Pirates would get on the scoreboard again through another rushing TD by Marlou Tacuge. His small stature makes it incredibly hard for Defensive Linemen and Linebackers to tackle him and he used his size to punch right through the Lions defensive front and get another TD to his name. The Lions would deflect the PAT and the Pirates would go into the break, up 19-13.
The Pirates D was on full display in the second half, forcing many 3 and outs for the defending champions. And nothing against Sydney Uni as they were returning the favour to their challengers. A great punt, late in the 3rd quarter fielded by Wotton, pinned the Lions back on their own 3 yard line. Solid defensive work from the boys in black kept the Lions back and kept them dangerously close to conceding a safety. However, on 3rd down, Hilley produced some magic; finding WR Harry Granger who ran almost 90 yards before he was caught by (my pick for Waratah Bowl MVP) FS Blake Wotton, who tackled him out on the Pirates 2 yard line. But it wasn’t enough, as the Pirates stood their ground, and with a holding flag called against the Lions, they went for it all on 4th down but weren’t successful.
The 4th quarter, and the prospect of losing their first Waratah Bowl in 13 years, brought the Lions to life. The champs kept pounding away at the Pirates D through their use of Adams and his ground game. A long offensive drive was ended with another Foley TD, again running the out route from the slot receiver position, locking up the score at 19 all. In one of the most important kicks of his life, new kicker Godfred Agyemang slotted through the PAT and gave his Lions a 1 point lead over the Pirates. But this wasn’t over. The Pirates still had 7 minutes left in the quarter and all three timeouts remaining. A few more 3-and-outs and the Lions were poised with a game winning situation on the Pirates 19 yard line. On 4th down, Hilley looked to WR Andrew Ghaly on a fade route but the pass was broken up just as he caught it and got his feet down by DB Chris Goddard. This gave David Ward and the Pirates the ball back with just over 2 minutes to go and 81 yards to paydirt. On 2nd down, Ward found WR Mitch Hunt in double coverage on the Pirates 49 yard line. But the Lions swarming D kept coming, shutting down the speed of Tacuge and forcing Ward to throw off his back foot. Top credit to the Lions D Line as they were closing the pocket very quickly and forcing Ward to dump the ball off. Uni were able to get the ball back with 1:39 left on the clock but Pirates HC Ian Taylor still had 2 timeouts remaining. Good clock management by Taylor gave the Pirates the ball back with 13 seconds left on the clock, and a late flag against the Lions punt gave the Pirates an extra 15 yards to begin their miracle drive. Ward stepped up into the pocket and looked deep to Hunt again. But it wasn’t meant to be, with Lions DB Nick Olive jumping the pass route and picking off the ball, sealing the victory for his team. A kneel down later and the Lions captured another unprecedented Waratah Bowl, their 14th in a row.
Final Score: SYD 20 – 19 WST
Also, just quickly. Earlier in the day, we saw the Sutherland Seahawks Colts win their 4th straight Kookaburra Bowl, beating the UTS Gators 32-14. I’ve said it previously but this is an absolute testament to the great program that the Lambropoulous boys are running down there, 4 in a row. Well done lads! And in the Opal Bowl, the UNSW Raiders ladies team made history by becoming the first team to win 2 Opal Bowls in a row, UNDEFEATED! They beat the Northwestern Phoenix 40-6 with an incredible game played all round by the green machine. Well done ladies.
And finally, congratulations to all the MVPs for each division. In the Colts, we had a tie between Justin Whiting from the Sutherland Seahawks and Brandt Robinson from the Wollongong Brumbies. In the ladies, Renee Targett from the Northwestern Phoenix took out the award. And in the Division 1, my boy Jack Prichard from the Northwestern Predators took out the MVP trophy. Well done Buckets, iron sharpens iron baby!! Congratulations to all.
Thanks to all the GDU readers for all your ongoing support throughout the season and stay tuned for some news in the off season. And I’ll look forward to seeing you (on the field or somewhere else) next year. Peace.