An emotionally inspired University defeated South Darwin 30-25 in a thrilling encounter at Rugby Park last night.
The Pirates wore black armbands and dedicated the match to the memory of former junior Toby Wyvill who was killed in a car accident during the week
The Rabbitohs will rue the match as one of lost opportunities, seemingly in control from the outset.
The game was only four minute’s old when South’s new recruit Setefano Cakaunivalu found himself in space on the wing to score the first of his two tries which was converted by Ian Aokuso for a 7-0 lead.
University equalised twenty minutes later when Robert Butcher converted Isaac Taulelei’s try while South’s were a man down with Joseph Tuhakaraina in the sin bin.
The Pirates knocked on from the kick-off and Henry Burns went over for a try from the ensuing scrum.
Butcher landed a penalty goal nine minutes before half time for the Pirates to trail 12-10 the break.
University dominated possession and field position in the first half with South’s having the ball just four times in the period with their defence resolute under enormous pressure.
Tuhakaraina landed a field goal in the opening minute of the second half and the Rabbitohs led 15-10.
A few minutes later Butcher sliced through four Rabbitoh defenders to score under the post and with his conversion a two point lead.
The normally fruitful kicking game of the Pirates was off key and Tuhakaraina regained the lead for his side with a try the result of a poor clearance by University.
South’s were again reduced to 14 players when Henry Burns was sent to the sin bin.
Butcher levelled the scores with a penalty goal to tie the match from the infringement.
Cakaunivalu’s second try a piece of individual brilliance with a chip and chase down the right wing to again give South’s the lead and looking like winners.
The Pirates then worked the ball down field and were elected to take a scrum from a penalty hooker Levi Hansen scored two phases later.
Butcher converted and landed a field goal for an unlikely five point victory.
University looked vulnerable out wide and South’s sought to capitalise by playing an expansive game but their but execution let them down.
The Pirates centre pairing of Taulelei and Wauchope were outstanding in both offence and defence.
South’s earned two points for a narrow loss and four tries and hold on to second position of the ladder from University who will take on Casuarina next week.
In the other match Darwin Dragons won their first game of the season with an 18-10 victory over Palmerston.
University 30: I Taulelei, R Butcher, L Hansen Tries R Butcher 3 Conv 2 Pen 1 Field Goal def South Darwin 25: S Cakaunivalu 2, J Tuhakaraina, H Burns Tries I Aokuso Conv J Tuhakaraina field goal
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NT Rugby.