GPS fight back to seal historic Australian club championship win over Sydney Uni

by Emma Greenwood

GPS have clinched the Australian club rugby championship with a magnificent fightback against the fancied Sydney Uni, clawing back from a 17-point deficit in the second half.

In conditions that deteriorated as the rain came down at Ballymore, the Gallopers lived up to their nickname, playing magnificent running rugby to score three tries in the second half, while super boot DP de Lange slotted three penalties to guide his side home.

Jeeps scored the opening try just two minutes after kickoff, with No.8 Mitch King diving over for a try.

But that was to be their last joy of the half, as Shute Shield winners Sydney Uni dominated possession and field position, scoring 24 unanswered points to stretch their lead to 24-7 when flanker William Cocker crossed just minutes into the second period.

The Students looked far dominant in the opening term, with flyhalf Ben Hughes scoring twice as he loitered on the left wing and Uni's kicking game keeping Jeeps pinned in their own half. GPS super boot DP de Lange kicks the Gallopers to an Australian club championship win. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

GPS lock Ollie Bartlett paid the price for his team's repeated infringements when he was yellow carded late in the first half and Uni made the most of the extra man, scoring twice while he was off.

GPS broke a 22-year title drought with their Queensland Premier Rugby victory over the University of Queensland last August with a dominant forward pack.

But it was the Students who dominated the set piece in the opening half, their stranglehold on the game only loosening in the second term as the Brisbane side showed more patience with the ball in hand.

Bartlett went from zero to hero when he returned from the sin bin, crossing to start the Gallopers' fightback.

Former Reds winger Chris Kuridani continued the fightback and Jeeps took the lead thanks to de Lange's radar boot.

But a try against the run of play to Uni flyer Henry Clunes-Ross after fullback James Kane gathered a grubber at pace and found the fastest man on the field, gave the Uni the lead again in a see-sawing battle.

As the rain tumbled though, Jeeps seemed to become more assured with their handling and attacking raids and when King scored his second try of the night, the scores were level. Jeeps flanker Michael Richards helped spark his side's second-half Australian club championship fightback against Sydney Uni. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

A pair of late penalties from de Lange sealed a historic win for Jeeps, ending a magnificent day for Queensland rugby following wins to the Reds and Queensland Women's XV Super W side.

"This is our third game as a group, so I couldn't be happier with how we went, especially against a tough side such as Sydney Uni," Jeeps captain Dan Gorman said.

"It's awesome for the community and to roll on from last year and hopefully start off the new year well."

Sydney Uni captain Guy Porter said the Students' indisciplined play had swung momentum as Jeeps' halves took over the game in the second term.

"There's definitely some positives. It's awesome to play a high stakes game in the pre-season.

"I can't fault the effort but there were a few things in terms of temperament that really let us down."

Earlier, Shute Shield grand finalists Warringah beat the University of Queensland 55-14.

RESULT

GPS 37

Tries: Mitch King 2, Ollie Bartlett, Chris Kuridani

Cons: DP de Lange 4

Pens: De Lange 3

Sydney Uni 31

Tries: Ben Hughes 2, Tom Horton, William Cocker, Henry Clunes-Ross 

Cons: Kane 3