A FAIRYTALE finish for Southern Districts was not to be as they were left searching for an inaugural premiership after Sydney University came from behind to win a dramatic Shute Shield final 15-14 yesterday afternoon.
Southern Districts led for most of the game but a try to Sydney University fullback Angus Roberts in the late stages of the match gave University an unlikely one-point victory at at Concord Oval.
Fullback Roberts' try – from a suspect pass – plus his conversion catapulted University into the lead.
It was in the second half that University stamped their class. The Students, in their eighth consecutive grand final, started the match as heavy favourites but were met by a spirited Southern Districts side not overawed by the historic occasion.
The grand final marked a significant turnaround for the club, which formed as a joint venture of St George and Port Hacking in 1989 and were handed a wooden spoon just seven season ago.
University bumbled their way through a first half plagued by handling errors and errant kicking – highlighted by the Students putting two kicks out on the full. Despite this, fullback Roberts' boot opened the scoring with a penalty goal.
Wallabies hopeful Nick Cummins scored the only try of the first half for the Rebels, handing his side an 11-3 lead at the break.
It didn't take long after the resumption of play for the Rebels back line to again threaten. Winger Atieli Pakalani streaked from inside his 22 metres to kick the ball deep inside the opposition half.
A missed conversation from fullback Ben Volavola prevented his side from extending their lead but he didn't miss on his next attempt five minutes later, giving his side an 11-point buffer.
This is where the joy ended for the Rebels – University dominated the remaining 30 minutes of the match. They went close to scoring on a number of occasions only for a desperate Rebels defence to snuff out the scoring plays.
University were thwarted again when the television match official ruled a no-try to Ollie Atkins but the experience of previous grand finals stood them in good stead. They kept their composure.
A landslide of possession eventually took its toll on a tiring Rebels side when University hooker Nathan Charles powered across the line to bring the scores to 14-8.
Souths had their only real chance of the second half minutes later before Roberts' try ended their title aspirations.
SYDNEY UNIVERSITY 15 (T Carter A Roberts tries A Roberts goal pen goal) bt SOUTHERN DISTRICTS 14 (N Cummins try B Volavola 3 pen goals) at Concord Oval.