The Blue Jags, 24-22 winners over Collingwood three weeks ago in an exciting encounter, took on the same opponent in the championship match, very keen to defend their unbeaten record.
Playing on a firm, fast track and with the benefit of a strong breeze, SMUS opened in fine style. Capping an impressive multi-phase attack, the much improved Roy Oh scampered down the left wing to score the opening try. Fly half Jonathan Sudul added the extras to make the score 7-0.
Soon after, following a searing break by hooker Bryce Forbes, hard running Felix Butterfield went in under the posts. Sudul was again on target with the conversion. 14-0.
Even better, from a midfield scrum seconds later, a dynamic back row move ended with Jim Newman in space and dotting down in the right corner. 19-0.
Surprisingly, the game threatened to become a bit of a runaway when, popping out the side of a rolling maul, Oh notched his second tally soon after and took the score to 24-0.
However, Collingwood then stiffened considerably, adopting more direct, confrontational tactics with immediate success. Multiple “pick and gos” produced a first score, and, after SMUS knocked on the ensuing kickoff, a clever blindside move and conversion closed the gap to 24-12.
The second half featured strong SMUS defense from Avery Thorp, in addition to excellent line-out ball from the steady Bryn Haydock and Nick Lee.
Yet, Collingwood, sticking with a forwards based approach and aided somewhat by some erratic Blue Jags tackling, punched over for a third try. This brought the score to 24-17 with 12 minutes to play.
A suddenly nervous SMUS team continued to make uncharacteristic errors, and allowed the Cavaliers to cross yet again and reduce the deficit to two points.
With the game now in the balance at 24-22, an intelligent long kick-off from Sudul put Collingwood under pressure from the restart, with SMUS gaining some much needed territory and breathing room. Newly minted fullback Jasper Bosley took advantage, scoring a neat try to take the lead back to seven points.
In the final frantic minutes, good breakdown work from Newman saw SMUS turn the ball over at midfield and counterattack up the right wing. Flanker Quinn Ngawati capped a fine afternoon with a well deserved try which put the game out of reach.
Seconds later came the referee’s final whistle. 34-22 for SMUS!