Tenacious Bulls Frustrate Wombats

The Wollongong University Bulls have registered the first upset of the new season with a 20 – 17 first round win over Avondale at Gerry Cappetta Oval. The understrength students were tenacious in defense and despite conceding three tries to two, took the points with center Charles Curry slotting four goals from four attempts.

The first fifteen minutes of the match was punctuated with handling errors as both sides struggled to find their groove in their first real hit-out for the year. With the Wombats showing plenty of intention to play their usual attacking style of play it was inevitable that they would be the first to score. With Avondale having the better of possession for much of the first quarter of the match it was No.8 Tuu Taanoa that crossed for the first try after twenty minutes on the back of some prolonged pressure on the Uni line.

Avondale squandered several more scoring opportunities as their handling let them down in the face of the Bulls committed defensive structure. Despite their heavy workload in defense the Bulls had the better of the final ten minutes of the half and went to the break with the lead at 10 – 7. Veteran Fullback Donovan Nepia and clever fly-half Tom Baker steered their side around the park launching several attacking raids, eventually cracking the Wombat line in a sweeping play down the right side.

Center Ben Grehan scored after a fifty meter play in which the ball was spread right across the Uni backline. An inside pass back to Grehan from his wingman, saw the try come ten minutes from the break. Charles Curry converted the try for Uni to take the lead 7 – 5, before he added a penalty goal moments before half-time.

The opening minutes of the second term saw the Students camped deep in Wombat territory. Desperately defending their line Avondale conceded a series of penalties which resulted in a team warning from Referee John Maughan. Ten minutes into the term another penalty against big No.8 Taanoa saw the Country rep sent to the bin leaving the Wombats a man short.

Despite being a man down Avondale continued to throw plenty at the Bulls only to see some poor handling cost them several more scoring opportunities in the face of unrelenting University defense. Shortly after returning to the field Taanoa broke from a scrum twenty out from the Uni line and put Fly-Half Silipa Tuigamala into some space and with a jinking run the evasive No.10 crossed for his sides second try wide on the left. Tuigamala missed his second shot at Goal leaving the score at 10 all after sixty five minutes of play.

Going into the final fifteen minutes of the match, it was the students who seemed to be wilting under their defensive workload. Minutes after the Tuigamala try Avondale conceded a penalty wide on their left and forty meters out. Curry stepped up and indicated a shot a goal. A beautiful forty five meter goal followed lifting the spirits of the students and saw a surge in their effort and within minutes they were back on the attack deep on the right edge. With their undersized forwards competing strongly against their more fancied rivals they drove to the line with three strong phases of forward play resulting in a try to Lauchlin Conyers. Curry converted the try from the sideline and the Bulls were out to a ten point lead at 20 – 10 with less than ten on the clock.

In the final minutes of the match Wombat center Greg Dunn combined with replacement Mani Tuigamala to score a converted try and raise the home sides hopes of a late victory but the students defense held out for a much deserved win.

Donovan Nepia’s ability to guide the players around him and direct play was never more evident than in today’s match. Once again his accurate kicking game repeatedly took pressure of his side and enabled the students to stay in the contest and take full advantage of limited opportunities. Back Rowers Takunda Chimwaza and debutant Opeta Taufahema were outstanding working themselves into the ground. Fly-Half Baker showed all his growing experience, with Charles Curry’s excellent goal kicking proving the difference on the scoreboard in the end. 

For Avondale Tuu Taanoa started the season in similar form to his breakout 2018 season showing he will be once again be a player to watch in 2019. Forwards Kyle Moody, Jeromy Cairns and Mitchell Hesford were busy with Andy Duggan and Andre Itula showing out in the backs.          

University 20 (Ben Grehan 1 try, Lauchlin Conyers 1 try, Charles Curry 2 goals, 2 penalty goals)

Def Avondale 17 (Tuu Taanoa 1 try, Gregory Dunn 1 try, Silipa Tuigamala 1 try, 1 goal)

Other Match Results

Camden 34 Def Kiama 19

Shoalhaven 31 Def Campbelltown 0

Bowral 43 Def Tech Waratahs 13

Vikings 22 Def Shamrocks 15