UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 7
SHEFFIELD HALLAM FIRSTS 7
BUCS League 1A – Wednesday 9th December
In a tight and nervous affair York’s firsts couldn’t be separated from top of the table Sheffield Hallam as they drew 7-7 on a chilly 22 acres earlier today. Sheffield Hallam are one of only two teams that have managed to beat York so far, in what has been a very encouraging season, so the home side were out for revenge. Despite York’s disappointment at not getting the points that would have put them level at the top of the league, they would have been happy to preserve their long standing unbeaten home record.
The majority of play in the first-half was in Sheffield’s territory but too often the ball was kicked when it could have gone down the line. Any bright sparks that briefly threatened were snuffed out by a keen Sheffield defence and the first half was generally devoid of creativity. A penalty for crossing gave York the chance to take the lead but Fly Half Robert Grant’s kick fell short. Soon after Grant’s opposite number, Tom Bell, was handed a similar opportunity to put his side in the lead but he too was unable to take the offering, putting his kick just wide.
The closest York did come to crossing the whitewash was when Prop Rupert Grant drove forward in the corner, following a lineout, but he was just forced out of play before he could touch down. It was clear that York were the better side but there was no evidence of their domination on the scoreboard. York’s pack were enjoying the upper hand in the battle up front and thus providing the backs with a good platform to work from but it was to no avail as nobody was able to provide the inspiration to unlock Sheffield’s defence.
The frustration was increased by some strange refereeing decisions; a good run by Tom Buggé was halted when his off-load was controversially deemed to have gone forward. Soon after Gruffudd Jones, fresh from his York Come Dancing exploits, was sin-binned for being off his feet at a ruck. With a man down it appeared Sheffield might come into the game a bit more but it was York who reacted better, dominating the last ten minutes of the half and Rupert Grant was once again held up as he powered his way over the line. His namesake Robert Grant then intercepted a wayward Hallam pass but it came to nothing and at the break the score remained 0-0. Sheffield did their bit for equality by reducing themselves to fourteen men on the stroke of half-time for a similar offence to Jones’.
The second-half began with both sides eager to improve on lacklustre first-half performances. Sheffield had only fourteen men for the first ten minutes but again it was the side reduced in terms of personnel who dictated terms. With Sheffield enjoying more of the ball in the first twenty minutes of second half, the highlights for York were two massive hits by Jones and Tom Weir.
Just as York began to get a foothold in the game they received a sucker punch. Sheffield Hallam’s Sam Kirby broke away down the wing, following a rare passage of passing rugby, and he was able to release his winger Francis Denny who sprinted all the way and made it 5-0 to the league leaders. Fly Half Bell converted and with twenty minutes to go York were in serious danger of losing their unbeaten home record.
York were desperately trying to get back into the match but their efforts were static and lacked conviction. It seemed that today could be the day that the two-year unbeaten record on ‘Fortress 22’ could be broken but substitute Peter Nathan forced his way under the posts with ten minutes to go. With the Sheffield Hallam players protesting at the referee, Robert Grant kicked the additional points to bring York level.
This caused a frantic last ten as York camped out in Hallam’s 22 but their efforts were not rewarded and the score remained 7-7. In a game characterised by handling errors York will be disappointed they couldn’t steal the points. Clearly on top for most of the game they perhaps deserved more but a draw against the league leaders is not to be sniffed at. Captain Alex Redshaw was clearly in poetic mood at the end of the game as he reflected on the result; “We were on the verge of victory, but every member of the legion fought like brothers”. York will look for better luck after Christmas as they come up against the Leeds Met team that surprisingly beat them last week.
York Line-up: 1. Ben Innes, 17. James Stone, 3. Rupert Grant, 4. William Forsythe, 5. Alex Redshaw (c), 6. Alistair Handy, 7. Rory McGregor, 8. Tom Weir, 9. Tim Walker, 10. Robert Grant, 11. Richard Bremner, 12. Gruffudd Jones, 13. Mike James, 14. Ed Drewett, 15. Tom Buggé
Substitutes: Peter Nathan, Chris Reid-Milligan, Sam Morrison, Will Felgate.