Rugby League – Match Report
28th February 2010
Sunday 28th February saw Rugby League Varsity taking place once again at Lady Bay, dwarfed by the surrounding stadiums Trent Bridge, Meadow Lane & the City Ground, in extremely cold temperatures! With a decent turnout of supporters from both university’s occupying the sidelines the scene was set. Previous to the main event the two 2nd teams had met on an adjacent pitch with Uni emerging victorious 16-14 in the closing minutes – a sign of things to come one may have thought?
Post-match interview with Adam Stanley & Tim Franks:
The physicality of the game was set right from the off as Uni kicked off deep into Trent’s 22 with Uni’s Rooney chasing down hard and pummeling the unfortunate recipient into the ground. Play was in Uni’s favour with a close opportunity straight away, but on the 5th tackle Uni’s attempted cross kick which was pushed into touch at the death.
The first 15 minutes saw Uni apply heavy pressure on their rivals, keeping Trent in their own half and spending much of the time in their 22, but Trent’s defence was up to the test. This constant pressure was clearly frustrating Trent as they couldn’t break out of their own half, leading to ill discipline which in turn forced them further and further back. Credit to Trent though, for despite the constant conceding of penalties their defence was a tight and organised unit, managing to eventually push out of their own half and apply some pressure of their own.
Just as it seemed as if they had survived the worst of it and gained some territorial advantage themselves though by pinning Uni into their 22, Uni’s Tim Franks fixed his man to the spot and broke away thus resulting in an amazing outside break down the left-wing. Reaching the half-way line, there was only one man in his way, Franks making light work by easily sidestepping Trent’s fullback, allowing him to run the length of the half to dive under the post! Captain Tom Cliffe then stepped up to convert and put Uni 6-0 up, and it was no more than they deserved after an energetic and efficient opening.
The try against them proved to be exactly what Trent needed though, acting as a wake up call as they turned their attention to attack, putting Uni under significant pressure for the first time in the match. Uni’s defence showed its strength and resilience for a time, but was eventually outmuscled as Trent’s big centre picked it up 10 yards from the line and broke two tackles to dive in for the try, which was subsequently converted, taking the game to a tie at 6-a-piece.
Unfortunately, Uni didn’t react to this try as Trent had to their’s, but instead urged Trent on further as they continued to have the upper-hand, pushing Uni back into their own half constantly. Uni kept focused on their game plan though despite the pressure, and fought back with some big defensive sets, working the ball with quick hands sharply across the field and following the 5th tackle kicks with energy and pace. The hard-worked paid off for the Uni boys moments later, scoring a try very much against the run of play to retake the lead through left winger Jamie Henderson who continued his fine season in Uni colours. Henderson received the ball after a great passing play and broke through the Trent line to speed ahead of the tracking Trent players and dive under the posts much to half of the crowds delight; unfortunately Uni captain and kicker Cliffe was unable to convert this leaving the score at 10-6.
After the Uni try, play reverted in Trents favour again, scrutinising Uni’s defence. Uni regained possession and with a tactical kick made great territorial gains into Trent’s half again, in what was turning out to be a yo-yo of a first hald. As the half-time whistle came closer Trent looked tired from trying to keep up with the high tempo, and Uni capitalized on this fatigue by pushing them right back onto their five-yard line. Adam Stanley tried to break through the Trent line with pure force but was stopped by a multiple of players, but still managed to skillfully offload the ball, which was then rapidly passed along the line to right-winger Stigs who dramatically dived into the corner to round off a good first half of rugby. Unfortunately, with the try being far out on the wing, the conversion proved too hard for Cliffe again leaving the score at 14-6 as Uni returned to their dressing room and Trent huddled on the field (“a Phil Brown mistake by the Trent coach?”).
As soon as the second half had began, Uni were caught napping and Trent broke away and found themselves with four players to Uni’s one inside the 22 and managed to score a fairly easy try, converting it to bring the scores closer at 14-12 to Uni. After the try, Uni stirred themselves as the half-time words of wisdom sunk in and found themselves in Trent’s half for a decent period but failed to produce anything meaningful, and sooner or later were all the way back in their own 22. Uni’s scrum-half Chris Mitchell boomed out instructions to the Uni team calling for a “massive set” on defence as Trent pressed on, unfortunately these orders were to no avail as three missed tackles led to another Trent try, followed by a missed conversion, putting Trent in the lead for the first time in the game at 14-16.
Trent’s try enraged Uni as they realised it was through sloppy, careless mistakes that had cost them the lead, and from then on Uni went up a gear in effort putting in harder hits and some awe inspiring plays as they began to press on into Trent’s half. Trent’s defence was an equal match though resulting in a large period of halfway play as the teams for the first time seemed balanced and in a state of equilibrium. Trent were first to eventually break this half-way deadlock but Uni weren’t giving up yet and won an important scrum on their own five and broke back to the halfway. Pressure then flipped back as Uni drove on into the Trent 22, but they seemed to lack the killer instinct of the 1st half with Trent defending the sets with relative ease until, somehow Uni managed to take the game down to the wire by fashioning an opportunity from seemingly nowehere, for captain Tom Cliffe to touch the ball down for Uni’s fourth try. Coupled with another missed conversion, the score stood at 18-16 to Uni going into the final business end of the match.
After the try the game returned to a deadlock around the halfway once more as Trent’s attack searched for an opening that Uni’s defence just would not allow. A Uni penalty gave Trent one last hope with decent ground in Uni’s 22, but a textbook defensive display from the Uni boys prevented Trent from achieving anything in that passage and Uni sent the ball back to the halfway where it would stay until the fat lady sang (ok so there was no fat lady, nor singing, in fact it was just an ordinary whistle that was blown but you get the cliché). A Uni victory, by 18-16 in an intense thriller which was a great advert for Uni rugby league now puts the series in Uni’s favour 3-1 going into the mid-Varsity break.
A post-match event was a small scrap between the two mascots, a winner was not officially decided upon, however lets just state the fact that Brian the Lion walked away with “Lance’s” hands for the Uni trophy cabinet as “Lance” lay in the mud!
FINAL SCORE: UNI WIN 18-16
Live Text Updates & Match Report by Sam Edwards & Tom Ryan