In what had been billed as a clash between two of York’s sporting heavyweights, these two colleges battled this one out in a well-contested and somewhat feisty encounter. With Alcuin dominating a misshapen Goodricke/Langwith/Wentworth side the week before, and Vanbrugh sending out a strong image as a very physical side against Derwent, skipper Giles Raymond and vice-captain Ross Gehnich made it very clear from the start, ‘‘under-estimate them and we pay the price!’’
As York Sport veteran Paul Guest stamped out in the pre-match team-talk, ‘‘the first 20 minutes of this game will decide the outcome’’ and it certainly proved to be the case. A strong and well-drilled Alcuin back-line did justice to their hard work and focus in training by hammering home three tries in quick succession.
A slack ball as the Vanbrugh backs worked it through the hands was pounced upon by an ever-eager Paul Guest who ran home inside four minutes, followed up by tries from Ben Howes and Benoit Jamous, who rounded off simple handling moves along the back line. After successful kicks from Thomas Gibby and Brad Voigt, Alcuin went in to break 31-5 up.
The half-time team-talks and Captains decisions would prove critical, and never before has the phrase ‘‘a game of two-halves’’ been more appropriate. A determined Vanbrugh side gave a very good account of themselves, trapping Alcuin inside their 22 for a staggering 34 minutes of this second-half. The game had turned into a test of drive and commitment, as massive hits from Dan Hunt and Vanbrugh’s Jordan ‘‘Charvis’’ Abbott left players battered and bruised about the R.I.’s pitches.
With Vanbrugh pressing and pressing but just failing to find the breakthrough, it was an extremely tough test for an Alcuin side infected with complacency. The second-half of this contest was deservedly won 7-5 by a Vanbrugh side who should take much confidence and many positives out of a performance that had Alcuin, who many would say are a better drilled and more experienced team, under a lot of pressure.
The tension and frustration gradually increased, and this inevitably boiled over when a crunching high tackle on Alcuin full-back Voigt sparked ferocious scenes that sparked memories of Alcuin vs. Derwent two years ago. College rugby can take a lot of heart out of the fact that both sides managed to keep a lid on what could have exploded into something far more damaging.
‘‘Practice makes perfect’’ is how the old saying goes, and with a two week break before Alcuin next take to the field in the season’s ‘eyebrow raisers’ against James and Derwent, this season’s Emperor League is genuinely too close to call. With Derwent received the points without even taking to the field as Halifax’s failure to put out a side is naturally disappointing for both the spectator and the outlook of the tournament. One can only hope they turn out to face their opponents next weekend!
On a final note, for a side that have the potential to succeed in this tournament, Alcuin must get their heads down and consistently deliver in training if they are to come out on top. College rugby looks to have a promising future after this one!