York men’s rugby firsts swept Lancaster aside in front of a boisterous crowd on the 22 acres this afternoon.
In what is widely considered to be Roses’ showpiece event, York were dominant without ever really reproducing the form which has seen them remain unbeaten in BUCS League 2B all season. Lancaster’s physical pack secured them large periods of possession, but a lack of creativity and stout York defensive work led to a comfortable afternoon for the home side.
The visitors looked to be in for a long afternoon when their kick-off sailed straight in to touch. Within two minutes, York were seven points to the good, courtesy of a soft try from scrum half Tim Walker which Rob Grant, near flawless with the boot all afternoon, converted.
Grant and his opposite number traded penalties during a tight period of play with both sides rising to the physical challenge and putting their bodies on the line. York were the more positive with ball in hand, looking to release their back line into space at any opportunity whilst Lancaster were content to use their powerful ball carriers to attack the fringes.
This somewhat scrappy period was broken by a try from captain Mike Callis direct from a lineout, a facet of the game which functioned well for the home side throughout. This took the score to 20-3 and it remained so until half-time, which Lancaster entered with only 14 men after a sin binning to their blindside flanker. During the interval the crowd were entertained by some streakers, one of whom bizarrely attempted to hit a startled Lancaster player with his big stick.
The opening stages of the second period were controlled by Lancaster but the visitors could not force their way through the York line. York’s tenacity was epitomised by substitute Michael Ager’s huge dump tackle on Lancaster’s giant number eight in what was his first move after coming off the bench. As the heavens opened, Lancaster found more joy with their combative approach and barged their way over from close range to narrow the gap to 23-8. At this stage the Red Rose may have sniffed a comeback, but these were to prove their last points of the afternoon.
Following a testing ten minutes for an increasingly rain-soaked crowd, the skies cleared and York re-established their creative quality, constantly threatening off first phase possession through their well drilled back line moves. York’s ambition in attack resulted in the best try of the afternoon as they expertly exploited an overlap on the right hand side, Jack Wakeling putting Dave Lowe in for the score that sealed the triumph.
Callis was “over the moon” after the victory and praised Lancaster for their “good work in the scrum and big hits”. Magnanimous in victory, he claimed that “the score was harsh on Lancaster” but conceded that York had won “without ever playing [their] best rugby”.
York’s players and supporters alike erupted in joy at the final whistle. The side will now approach their crucial BUCS promotion play off at the University of Central Lancaster next Wednesday in fine spirits as they look to cap what has been a tremendous season for the club.
York: Ben Innes, Alex Corp, Rupert Grant, Mike Callis (c, Try), Ali Handy, Rory McGregor, Jack Wakeling, Tom Weir, Tim Walker (Try), Rob Grant (2 conversions, 3 penalties), Peter Nathan, Dave Lowe (Try), Will Felgate (Penalty), Tom Bugge, Gryff Jones. Subs: Michael Ager, Lionel Owusu