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Langford Lowers the Flag Against Highlanders
6 June 2003, 12:34 am
Sydney University's stalwart second-rower John Langford signed off his career with a try in the final seconds of play as the Students turned in a five-try performance to defeat Gordon 32-17
Sydney University's stalwart second-rower John Langford signed off his career with a try in the final seconds of play as the Students turned in a five-try performance to defeat Gordon 32-17 in an entertaining match at University Oval

Langford, who reached 100 First Grade games with the club earlier in the season, began his career at Sydney University before linking up with Gordon. He went on to play for the ACT Brumbies, Australia and of course Munster before rejoining Sydney University last season. His decision to retire at the end of the Shute Shield will be a big blow for the Students who have come to rely on his lineout and scrummaging experience and skills. Not to mention his punishing defence.

With a host of players missing on representative duties, including prop David Fitter, who was in the team until Friday before being called to Japan to replace Fletcher Dyson for Australia A, the Students took some time to get the cogs working.

They took a 10-7 lead into half-time and dominated the second half with long periods of multiple-phase football that contained enterprising forward charges and snatches of exciting backline movement.

Andrew Hendry, who was called in to play five-eighth in the absence of Pat Howard (injury), Daniel Halangahu (Australian Under 21s) and Brock James (Australian Sevens), posted the first points of the match with a penalty goal in the 20th minute after the University had soaked up plenty of Gordon pressure and aggression.

However, Hendry's good work was undone five minutes later when his attempted cut-out pass was intercepted by Gordon outside centre Mitch Hardy, who raced 85 metres to score under the posts. Fullback Mark Preston landed the conversion for a 7-3 scoreline.

The Students had two tries disallowed before they regained the lead through fullback Nigel Staniforth, who cruised into the line on the blindside from a scrum 15 metres out. Hendry landed the conversion for a 10-7 lead on the stroke of half-time.

The second half was only two minutes old when prop Gareth Hardy plunged over from a rolling maul. A Preston penalty goal reduced the lead to 15-10 before the Students took control of the match.

Robust running from winger Michael Griffin, second-rower Al Campbell, prop Angus Scott and flanker Bo Paraha questioned the Highlander's defence.

When a Griffin incursion took play to within 10 metres of the line, replacement number eight Jon Cocks was on hand to off-load to Campbell for the University's third try. Griffin was also involved in the Student's bonus point try, when he started a six-phase build-up that resulted in Scott finishing over the line from a rolling maul. Hendry's conversion pushed the scoreline out to 27-10.

However, Gordon hit back with eight minutes remaining. A Hendry clearing kick was fielded by right winger Peter Simpson, who linked with Preston and left winger Dominic Byrne. He beat two tackles in a scything run to the corner. Preston landed the extras and the mini-comeback was put to rest as the Students controlled possession for the rest of the match.

A five-phases build-up at the death resulted in second-rower John Langford plunging over in the corner for a well-deserved try. His conversion drifted wide despite his appeals to the ball to change course.

Despite the late loss of Fitter, the Students scrum dominated throughout. Flanker Chris Sproats had a tigerish first half before being replaced, Paraha was solid throughout, centre Dallas Carney was dangerous on limited possession, Staniforth handled the custodian duties well, and Griffin was everywhere in his usual roving commission.

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