The first College Rugby ‘Super Saturday’ brought all six teams together at the Archbishop Holgate School, with victory for James over Halifax, Derwent over Vanbrugh and Alcuin over an understrength Goodricke/Langwith/Wentworth combined side.
JAMES 21 HALIFAX 0
College Rugby may have evolved, but some things remain the same. Without ever approaching their best, James, the defending champions, ground out their second Emperor League victory in seven days against Halifax. Outstanding defensive work, particularly in a soporific first-half, proved the key and tries after the break from Chris Smith and Bruce Green, the Captain, wrapped things up at the Archbishop Holgate School.
James had flattered to deceive, despite winning 42-0, against the Goodricke/Langwith/Wentworth combined side last week but Halifax, boasting a number of UYRUFC second and third XI players, were always going to present a sterner examination.
And so it transpired in the opening period. Apart from an early penalty which fly-half Alex Muntus drifted wide, James were pinned inside their own 22 for long spells and were fortunate not to concede. They looked professional in their newly-embroidered black strips but let themselves down all-too-often in the line-out and with fundamental handling errors.
In an intense period of pressure, Halifax failed to covert possession into points – the highlight arriving when Simon Reed’s blazing run was ended just a few feet short of the tryline. However, it would be James, having weathered the storm, who entered the break with a slender advantage following a successful Muntus kick awarded for a dangerously high tackle.
Rob Donell, of James, bursts forward during the second half of today’s 21-0 victory over Halifax. Photograph by Irene Sieberger.
The second-half thankfully represented a contrast. It was not a vintage James performance but, with the rearguard continuing to be impregnable, it was more than enough. Huw Harrow’s enterprising kick and chase early on signalled that the tide was turning against Halifax and, after 51 minutes, they made their superior organisation and preparation pay.
Smith, who was afterwards named Man of the Match, darted past two despairing tackles to touch down between the posts. Muntus, who was starting to rediscover the kicking form which brought him 22 points last weekend, added the extras for 10-0.
Muntus added another three with a straightforward penalty before a moment of madness concluded the game as a contest. Under sustained fire, an attempted clearance kick from a grounded Halifax player flew directly to Green, who had the simple task of running the ball home unchallenged from ten metres out.
Halifax were cursing their luck by this point, disbelieving that, for all their attacking threat earlier on, they had yet to trouble the scorers. An additional Muntus penalty, stretching the score to 21-0, only highlighted their frustration.
The tests continue for James, whose year-long unbeaten sequence will be put on the line against Collingwood College, of Durham, next weekend.
Alex Muntus, James President: “It was good to front up against a Halifax team containing a number of university players. I think it’s probably our organisation which makes all the difference, the fact we train week-in week-out.”
Simon Reed, Halifax: “It was a tight game, with the difference being James finishing their chances. We struggled to get a team together to be honest; I spent most of Friday chasing people up.”
ALCUIN 41 GOODRICKE.LANGWITH/WENTWORTH 0
In the second match of ‘Super Saturday’, Alcuin opened their campaign with a 41-0 thrashing of Goodricke/Langwith/Wentworth, in a match marred by injuries.
G/L/W were once again fielding a cobbled together side, and were suffering from a lack of Langwith players showing up to play. However, they once again showed their determination and commitment, and threw themselves around the pitch in an effort to keep Alcuin at bay. In the end, the sheer size of the Alcuin team, and their squad, allowed them to start churning out scores as G/L/W failed to sustain many meaningful attacks.
Alcuin’s opening score came after a period of concerted pressure, although G/L/W were unlucky that a clear knock-on was missed by the referee. The play was allowed to continue and, several phases later, Alcuin vice-captain Ross Gehnich charged over to score.
G/L/W were unable to get the ball out of their own half, and there was only so much goal-line defence that they could muster. The dam finally burst late in the first half, with tries in quick succession from Alcuin’s Benoit Jamous and Tom Ryder to make the score 17-0 at half-time.
Alcuin were only prevented from adding to the score before half-time by a couple of injuries: a suspected broken arm from a G/L/W player and a nasty cut on the back of the head of Alcuin Captain Giles Raymond.
The second-half began much as the first-half ended, with Alcuin piling on the pressure, with Chris To diving over from ten yards out to resume the scoring. A well-worked lineout move handed Gehnich his second try, before an equally well-worked blind-side move from a scrum ended with a Ty Partridge try.
G/L/W did manage to mount some meaningful attacks in the second-half and were unlucky not to score a try. Unfortunately, they couldn’t break down Alcuin’s organised defence, and their misery was compounded with another unconverted try from To late on.
After the match, Raymond commented: “This is a solid start to the season for us. We were a bit rusty and we were missing several back line players. There is plenty to work on this week, but we are pleased with the win.”
G/L/W Captain Charlie Filkry claimed the match was ‘closer than the score-line suggested’, and that they were ‘unlucky with injuries’. He claimed that G/L/W were ‘shown up in the first half as the players didn’t really know each other, but we rapidly improved and were unlucky not to score.’
DERWENT 13 VANBRUGH 5
In the final match of Super Saturday, two Derwent tries from Vanbrugh mistakes in the second- half were enough for victory in a closely-fought and defensively dominated match.
Vanbrugh, sporting what looked to be Irish replica jerseys circa 1970, are considered by many to be the dark horses in this tournament, and they attacked Derwent from the outset. It was a high intensity start from both sides, but the tackling and defensive co-ordination was also out of the top drawer.
Vanbrugh had the possession and territorial advantage for much of the first-half, aided by the slight slope in the pitch, but they were unable to convert their pressure into points. From one such attack, a stray pass led to a break from Derwent, who believed they had scored a try after their forwards piled over a few phases later, only for the ball to be held up by the Vanbrugh defence. From the resulting scrum, however, Callum Douglas slotted over a casual drop goal to give Derwent a 3-0 lead at half-time.
Derwent gradually began to assert their authority from the start of the second-half, and their pressure was rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts from a Vanbrugh obstruction, but the place-kick was missed badly.
Vanbrugh seemed not to have turned up for the start of the second-half, and were struggling to string phases together, forcing passes that weren’t on and making poor decisions. One such decision, to run the ball out of their 22 instead of kicking clear, cost them dearly, as the ball was stolen by Derwent. The ball was picked up by Freddie Harris, who beat two desperate Vanbrugh tackles to score from 25 yards out. The conversion was missed, but Derwent were still 8-0 clear.
Vanbrugh continued to show a lack of ideas, especially in the back-line, and seemed to be wilting under the Derwent pressure. They committed another cardinal sin by allowing the ball to be ripped off them in a mall 30 yards from their own line, and Tolga Necar took advantage to score Derwent’s second try.
This try finally woke Vanbrugh up and they piled the pressure on Derwent, looking for an unlikely comeback. They were finally rewarded by a try to Chris West, but the missed conversion was the last kick of the match.
After the match, Vanbrugh captain Jordan Abbott claimed that ‘Derwent weren’t more skilled than us, we just made mistakes’, while Derwent captain Joe Rankin stated that he was ‘impressed with our defence, but very impressed with Vanbrugh. It was a very close game and a good game’.