Sydney University Lions Capture 18th New South Wales Title In Australia’s Waratah Bowl

The Sydney Uni Lions have extended their incredible run of Gridiron New South Wales championships by winning the 2016 Waratah Bowl beating the West Sydney Pirates 20-19 in a nail-biting encounter at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

The Lions’ win capped an undefeated 2016 season and earned them their 18th New South Wales title and extended their current run of championships to 14 in a row.

The Pirates did not make it easy though.

The Lions had to rally from a 19-13 halftime deficit scoring the game’s only second half touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to earn the victory.


Lions WR Conor Foley earned MVP honors for his performance

Sydney quarterback Matt Hilley threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns while receiver Conor Foley2016 Waratah Bowl MVP – had five receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Teammate Harry Granger added 120 yards in receptions. Running back Charles Adams rushed for 80 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown.

The Lions offense rolled up 384 total yards.

Pirates quarterback David Ward completed 16 of 32 pass attempts for 166 yards and one touchdown but was picked off twice. Running back Marlou Tacugue was outstanding in a losing cause for West Sydney. He carried the ball 24 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns but most of that was in the first half.


Pirates RB Marlou Tacugue was tough to stop

Kicking game crucial factor

In a game of inches, the kicking game played a pivotal role. The Lions blocked two PATs from the toe of Pirates kicker Greg Evers while Sydney U kicker Godfred Agyemang,  who had only taken over the kicking duties in the last game of the regular season, was good on two of three. That was the margin of victory.

Both defenses tightened up in the second half. The Lions adjustments reduced the Pirates rushing attack with Tacugue running rampant in the first half, to zero net yards in the second half.

The Lions fourth quarter scoring drive was a thing of beauty as Hilley marched his team 69 yards in eight plays, with Adams carrying much of the load, capping it with a five yard touchdown pass to Foley.

The Sydney University defense took over after that, not allowing the Pirates to advance out of their own end the rest of the game.

Lions safety Nick Olive then picked off a last-gasp pass from Ward to seal the win and give the Lions their 18th consecutive New South Wales championship.

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Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.