ALCUIN COLLEGE XV 6 vs. DERWENT COLLEGE XV 14
College Rugby Triangular Tournament, Match Two – Saturday 13th December 2008
A second-half revival from plucky Derwent, battling not only a strong Alcuin opposition but inhospitable weather conditions, means the outcome of this keenly-contested college rugby tournament now rests on a Christmas cliff-hanger. Jack Trewin’s hotly-disputed try was the pivotal moment in Derwent’s 14-6 win, which leaves the destiny of the competition in their own hands in anticipation of the New Year clash with James.
Played in an excellent spirit throughout, Saturday’s match was another landmark in the rebirth of college rugby, which has proudly risen above the scraps, squabbles and difficulties of the past to deliver a gripping tournament. The commitment of these players to their college cause was exemplified yesterday by rugby of a remarkable standard given a rapidly deteriorating surface, lashing rain and debilitating injury setbacks – notably on the Alcuin team, who lost Ben Howes with a broken nose five minutes in and had player-coach Paul Guest hospitalized with pneumonia post-match. The sizeable crowd in attendance, defying the conditions, also nicely demonstrated the interest in college rugby and often-overlooked collegiate spirit.
Alcuin Captain Giles Raymond echoed these sentiments post-match: “It was a good game. We dominated the first half, but they came back really well and dominated the second half. Overall, it was played in a really good spirit, the quality remained high despite the best efforts of the weather, and overall I’m proud.”
Aware that a second victory today would secure overall glory, Alcuin, as they had during the 13-10 defeat of James last month, started confidently. A more expansive defensive game, as well as the benefit of a gusty wind, allowed them to gain the better of the first half, with Rhys Spong and Ross Gehnich gaining good yards when in possession. Derwent struggled to clear their lines on occasion, but were effective in the line-outs and efficiently stemmed Alcuin’s progress.
Nevertheless, in a replica of the previous match against James, Guest kicked two penalties in the first ten minutes to consolidate Alcuin’s bright opening, the penalties resulting from a lack of Derwent match practice. Importantly, a third effort, some distance from the posts proved beyond his range and this permitted Derwent fly half Pete McGarry to halve the deficit on the stroke of half-time. His reply with the boot proved an ominous foreshadowing of the second half flow.
With the pitch cutting up badly, Derwent, wind-assisted, turned the screw from the outset of the second period, battering the red and blacks’ defensive line at will. It wasn’t long before their pressure paid off in controversial circumstances as Jack Trewin squeezed through after innumerable phases of slow ball, only for the ball to seemingly escape him in the muddy act of grounding. After due deliberation, referee Rob Donell awarded the try and the pendulum swung further in Derwent’s favour. Although the conversion was missed, it became clear that, for a brief spell at least, Alcuin’s mental focus had been fatally knocked. However, when McGarry stretched the lead to 11-8 with one of a flurry of penalties awarded for untidy Alcuin infringements, there still remained twenty minutes and everything to play for.
Alcuin, exhausted, committed players forward in a final push, but to no avail. Their fate was sealed in the penultimate minute, when McGarry, sniffing an opportunity to kill off their challenge once and for all, kicked a drop goal off the left-hand upright for 14-8.
Victorious Derwent Captain Joe Rankin said afterwards: “The game was really enjoyable to play in. Both sets of backs enjoyed some good runs and moves and both forward packs had a great battle. Both sides shaped up well and every player did their job impressively. I’m now looking forward to playing and beating James College next term and continuing Derwent’s 100% 15-a-side record!”
Therefore, we enter 2009 with the destination of the college rugby bragging rights undecided and with the all-important third and final match – Derwent vs. James – yet to be scheduled. Alcuin are powerless now to affect the outcome and must hope that James, who showed great potential in the second half of their game, do them a favour. It is the finale that this competition always deserved.
Alcuin line-up: 1. Matt Forrest, 2. Tom Fitz-Hugh, 3. Jordan Abbott, 4. Jonno Matlock, 5. Alex Smith, 6. Dan Hunt, 7. Steve Cole, 8. Ross Gehnich, 9. Giles Raymond (c), 10. Paul Guest, 11. James Hargreaves, 12. Ben Howes (Huw Burdge), 13. Rhys Spong, 14. Matt Bowyer, 15. Jonny Barratt
Derwent line-up: 1. Stuart Kennedy, 2. Sean Glass, 3. Joe Rankin (c), 4. Jack Trewin, 5. Will Marle, 6. Matt Lee, 7. Chris White, 8. Connor Scanlan, 9. Callum Douglas, 10. Pete McGarry, 11. Henry Clark (Sam Taylor), 12. Dan Taylor, 13. Jon Gore, 14. Dan Creehan, 15. Dave Harder