Posted on November 30, 2016


Photo by Alfred Wong

The Sydney Uni Lions are on the hunt for another Gridiron NSW championship as they won through their semi-final matchup against the Northern Sydney Rebels 39-21 on Saturday at Neptune Park.

The Lions took a while to settle into the game, falling behind after the Rebels took advantage of some early penalties against the Lions to drive the field and score on a rushing touchdown from close range.

The Lions answered back on their next possession, Andrew Ghaly (#89) holding a key third down catch to extend the drive and then Harry Granger (#5) holding a touchdown catch from Matthew Hilley (#14) on fourth down to get the Lions on the board. This was the start of a big day for Harry Granger, who would finish with 8 catches for 89 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The Lions were now in their stride and took advantage of a fumble recovery by defensive end Martin Balada (#77) to drive in for another score and the lead, this time Sam Darcy (#84) threading his way through the defence on a screen pass from 22 yards out for the touchdown. In scoring the touchdown, Sam Darcy tied the Lions’ record for career touchdown receptions at 54 touchdowns, a record he now shares with Mat Freeman (2001, 2003-8).

The Lions piled on two further scores before halftime to hold a 26-7 lead at the break. The defence, led by a strong showing by linemen Fady Aoun (#79), Martin Balada (#77), Philip Loeffler (#92) and Batuhan Tuylu (#90), smothered the Rebels’ running game, which was held to only 13 net yards in the first half. The linemen were also pressuring the Rebels’ quarterback, with Loeffler and Tuylu getting 3 sacks each and Balada making 2 tackles for loss. The secondary was also playing its part, deflecting away 9 intended passes and allowing the Rebels to complete only 28% of its pass attempts in the game.

With the Lions getting the ball in good field position thanks to their defensive dominance, the offence took advantage, Charles Adams (#2) running in a touchdown from 6 yards and Harry Granger grabbing the second of his three touchdown receptions with barely seconds left on the clock to close out the half. The Lions kept control of the game in the second half, scoring first on another touchdown throw to Harry Granger to push the lead out to 32-7. The Rebels did manage to break two big plays for long-range scores, but the Lions drove down methodically for Charles Adams to cross for his second rushing touchdown to close out the score at 39-21 and secure the win.

The Lions now move on to the Waratah Bowl against the West Sydney Pirates next Saturday, 3 December 2016, at Leichhardt Oval – kickoff at 5pm. The Lions encourage their supporters to get along to the game to cheer the Lions as they hunt for the GNSW championship.