University can again lay claim to being the most successful club in the Darwin Rugby Union competition after defeating South Darwin 19-16 in a thrilling Grand Final at Marrara last night.
The victory was the eleventh Premiership for the Pirates in eighteen Grand Final appearances in the 39 year history of the code in the Northern Territory.
University defied popular opinion by again coming from third position at the end of the regular season.
The match was just 30 seconds old when Setefano Cakaunivalu burst through the University defence for a 65 metre run deep into Pirate territory.
The Rabbitohs got a penalty from the ensuring play and an early three point lead courtesy of Mamanu Emile
University regathered the ball from the kick off and a few phases later a line break by Robert Butcher had the Bunnies on the back foot however the final pass went astray.
The defending champions opened their scoring five minutes later when Butcher strolled through untouched for a try after veteran Wise Sekitoga had made a searching run.
The first half was free flowing however Souths handling let them down with turnovers ruining momentum.
University’s rush defence was effective and regularly shut down the normally barnstorming Rabbitoh backline.
The second half started with a bang and Souths were on the attack and Rhys Mullholland crossed off a long flat pass from Tim Atkinson.
Emile landed the conversion from wide out and Souths had a 10-7 lead.
Souths spilt the restart and the next twelve minutes was spent at their end of the field and after a few penalties skipper Toby George was dispensed to the sin bin for ten minutes.
A man down Emile slotted a 40 metre penalty for a six point lead.
Two minutes later a break by Thomas Hiramatsu took the ball back over half way and an indiscretion presented Emile another long range penalty goal which he landed with consummate ease.
Another mistake from the kick-off and the Pirates had the ball.
Then after a penalty tap in front of the posts three quick passes to Rhys Venturin had him scoring in the corner.
University were straight back on attack with a kick and chase by Sekitoga which earned them a penalty and then a try under the posts to Wayne Robinson regained the lead for the Pirates with the Butcher conversion taking the score to 19-16
Atkinson and Henry Burns combined to bring Souths into the University half but an unforced error became a lost opportunity.
Minutes later Mullholland put Burns into space but the ball was stripped and all hope of victory seemingly diminished.
On the stroke of full time a penalty goal attempt by Butcher ricocheted off the cross bar and gave Souths one last chance for glory.
Burns was again the man to make the line break but as had haunted the Bunnies all night the final pass went to ground.
Among the many heroes for University was their half back Josh Hall who had an outstanding game and was presented with the Willie Ellison Medal for the Best on Ground.
University 19: R Venturin, W Robinson, R Butcher Tries R Butcher 2 Conv
South Darwin 16: R Mullholland M Emile 1 Conv 3 Pen
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NT Rugby