University of Queensland have cemented their position at the top of the Hospital Cup table after defeating the Bull Sharks by three points, setting up a tustle of the contenders when Bond meets Brothers on Saturday.
With the Brailsford-Brown Varsity Cup and top spot on the ladder on the line, there was plenty to play for but three early tries and a strong performance in the scrum were not enough to hold off defending premiers UQ who took the match 31-28.
Powerful backrower Devon Hanson made the most of his return to the first-grade side after injury, crossing twice for the Bull Sharks.
Flanker Connor Pritchard put Bond ahead early, scoring the first try of the match off a sensational line break from halfback Liam Dillon.
UQ quickly returned serve and the back-and-forth contest continued, Bond holding a slight two-point lead going into the break.
Coach Grant Anderson’s decision to select a heftier forward pack paid off with the Bull Sharks showing scrum dominance over UQ throughout the match.
Bond winger Abele Atunaisa also wreaked havoc on opposing defences, speeding past four UQ defenders to score a brilliant individual try as the game headed into its final 20 minutes.
But UQ answered, scoring again to put the home side ahead with nine minutes on the clock.
Bond kept fighting to the final moments and a scrum penalty 5m out left Bull Sharks Captain Dan Boardman with a decision to make: take a shot at goal to secure the draw or go for a final try.
Boardman elected to go for the win, but an execution error at the lineout ended the game with UQ retaining the Cup.
Vice-Captain Jake Upfield spoke about the side’s willingness throughout the match and the strength of the team’s defence.
“Very disappointing result obviously, it came right down to the wire and we gave ourselves a chance to win the game which was really positive but just few errors let us down at the end,” he said.
“We showed really good defence early on and to go into halftime with the lead was really positive especially as we had defended for long periods of time.”
Upfield said the performance showed Bond belonged art the pointy end of the table.
“We showed really good physicality all game and our scrum was just immense. The likes of Devon Henson and Nixon Taramai were very strong around the field for us,” he said.
The Bull Sharks will be back at The Canal on Saturday, taking on Brothers as part of Past Players’ Day.
Bond and Brothers are each locked on 21 points on the Hospital Cup ladder, led by UQ on 25.
UQ d Bull Sharks 31-28
UQ d Bull Sharks 36-19
UQ tied Bull Sharks 24-24
UQ tied Bull Sharks 17-17
UQ tied Bull Sharks 29-29
UQ d Bull Sharks 31-11