Just a few days after missing out on a spot in the Wallabies’ World Cup squad, Nick Phipps helped Sydney University score 21 points in the last quarter to win the Shute Shield over Warringah.
In a remarkable Grand Final at Bankwest Stadium, the Students went back-to-back as Sydney club premiers despite trailing a dominant Warringah side 16-0 for an hour.
The aggressive Rats had knocked Uni well and truly off their usually polished game but when Phipps came off the bench to replace Jake Gordon in the 52nd minute, the game began to turn.
The Students re-discovered their power and rhythm, with Phipps’ energy and pace at the breakdown firing them forward, Uni scored three tries inside 10 minutes between the 61st and 71st minutes.
The first came via a penalty try, rewarding a rolling maul that was taken down, and with a man in the bin, the Rats fractured defence saw Phipps’ lay another soon after to James Dargaville
Training 16-14, Uni turned down the chance to kick a penalty and put the ball into the corner. And a third try was rolled in from the lineout.
The Rats had one last shot at hauling in the Students late on the Uni line but, rattled by the final quarter change of fortunes, couldn’t muster up a miracle match-winner.
Sydney Uni held on to win the game, sparking wild scenes of celebration among their supporters.
For Warringah and their first-year coach Mark Gerrard, the emotion was pure devastation.
The Rats had played a brilliant grand final for an hour, harassing Uni in defence and at the breakdown and outmuscling them at the set-piece too.
Hamish Angus’ three penalties saw them take a 9-0 lead and when Liam Winton scored out wide, the 16-0 scoreline reflected well the Warringah dominance.
Uni were shell-shocked and getting picked apart, particularly by Angus’ clever contestable kick strategy.
They emerged the better team after the break, too, but ultimately the Students’ depth began to tell.
Warringah’s scrum began to be beaten after the props were swapped by both teams, and when Phipps entered proceedings, the Rats suddenly couldn’t match the lifted tempo.
The Students looked as stunned as anyone post-match at their great escape.
For the London-bound Phipps - short of the successful World Cup campaign he was gunning for - it was perhaps the most fitting way to end an Australian rugby career.
A proud Sydney University player, Phipps helped drag his team to a remarkable victory with a half-hour of energy and pure desire.
Sydney Uni 21
Tries: Penalty, Dargaville, Horton
Cons: Kane 2
Yellow Card: Talakai
Pens: Angus 3
Yellow Card: Thomson