Men’s Rugby put in classy performance to take Uni within one win of Varsity Crown

14th May 2011

After a great performance at Meadow Lane, University of Nottingham’s Rugby squad can feel very satisfied when they look back on Thursday’s 18-7 victory over Trent. This year’s PASIC Varsity series now stands at 7-6 in Uni’s favour; owing largely to some solid defending and great offensive raids into Trent’s half, which often resulted in vital points. Trent battled hard and were within yards of scoring more than their solitary converted penalty try on numerous occasions. However, the better defense won the game, despite the formbook suggesting Trent would be slight favourites at the start of the match.

It was Trent who had the first opportunity to get on the scoreboard, but their missed penalty kick just a few minutes in was capitalised on almost immediately at the other end of the pitch, with Dave Heads kicking over from about 30 yards. Dave Heads looking impressive tonight. The opening exchanges saw most of the ball in Uni’s half yet Trent failed to make anything of their territory; a lot of mistakes from both teams made for some slow ball and a lot of penalties awarded by an over-eager referee.

Inspired by captain Heads, Uni looked dangerous on the break, and in one of their first ventures into Trent’s 22, Jack Cooper bowled over for a try on the right-hand touchline after a quick tap and go caught Trent napping. Heads failed to kick the conversion but after 18 minutes Uni had a 8-0 lead. Trent missed another penalty in the minutes that followed, with most of the ball in Uni’s half but not a great deal of penetration by Trent’s backs; their most dangerous player Romey Vassell almost changing that but instead wasting a potential two on one situation by turning inside into trouble.
Despite dropping to 14 men after a sin-bin with minutes to go before the interval, Uni again made the most of a burst into Trent’s half. A kickable penalty was missed again by Heads but Trent were unable to take the ball as it bounced back off the post, scooped up and carried over by fly-half Sam Woods. Uni finished the half the stronger team and Woods almost made it to the line again but was prevented by a last-ditch ankle-tap by Vassell a few yards out.

Uni emerged for the second half with a 13-0 score to protect, and the game far from over. Trent continued to spend most of the time playing in Uni’s half in the opening stages of the second period and their defensive unit began to impress a lot more. Lots of mistakes were still being made, however, and Uni were able to absorb the pressure and force mistakes out of their opponents; Barnard coming close for Trent but being bundled out to touch before the line.

Uni then suffered a bitter blow, conceding a penalty try which was converted to take the game to 13-7 with time running out. A lot of scrum-time close to the Uni line proved too much to handle and set the stage for a dramatic finale. Man of the Match Heads again failed to kick a penalty to put the game out of reach, but failing to capitalise on another offensive into Uni’s half, Trent conceded possession and Cooper touched down after a strong run. The missed conversion kick was the final action of the game and Uni could breathe a collective sigh of relief and jubilation after a hard-fought contest.

Trent will be ruing the chances they had, particularly their early penalties. Their strong scrummaging was a constant problem for Uni, but with the exception of the penalty try, the victors held strong and deserved their win, giving Uni the chance to retain the Varsity crown on June 6th at the Cricket.

Steve Davies