Sunday 13th December
James have won this term’s Emperor College Rugby Championship after beating Alcuin in a nailbiting deciding fixture at York R.I. A try in the final minutes from tournament organiser Alex Muntus sealed a 22-15 win for James and meant they finished their season top of the league.
Going into the match Alcuin were two points clear at the top and knew that a win or a draw would be enough to see them take the title. Yet this was the first time they had played since week four – their opponents in the last two matches having forfeited – and they were up against a James side that have looked sensational at times this term.
A second half display of their attractive expansive rugby meant that James were able to take control of a game that they struggled to get a foothold in during the early stages. Aaron Rolph and Ollie Woodward were the outstanding performers, both scoring for James and the latter creating the final try for Muntus.
In the first half James were unable to find their rhythm as they struggled against a well organised Alcuin defence. Despite enjoying most of the play – predominantly in their opponents’ half – hard tackling and a tendency to kick in possession meant they were not able to display their usual high quality rugby. Their best chance in the first half to go ahead came when Muntus had a penalty in front of the posts but, to everyone’s surprise, he missed the easy kick.
As the half progressed it was Alcuin that began to look the more likely to break the deadlock. Their pressure won them a penalty and Paul Guest converted to put his side three points ahead. Alcuin had a good chance to move even further ahead with a line out near the try line but James won the ball and then instantly kicked out to end the half – a move which seemed to show the nervousness in the team.
However James returned from the break a different side and they scored their first try almost instantly. Ben Ivory linked with Chris Smith who cleverly ran past the defence and comfortably over the line. Muntus missed the conversion, meaning James were only two points ahead, but they were soon on the attack again. The ball was sent quickly down the line to Rolph who, had the pass been cleaner, would have been able to score the game’s first try. James won the ball from the breakdown and passed into the centre with Rolph this time making sure he got his name on the score sheet.
At nine points ahead James might have thought the title was theirs, but Alcuin were far from beaten and came back into the game to set up a fierce climax. After an extended period camped on the James try line, Alcuin’s Ross Genich took the ball over and put his side within four points. James responded quickly with Ollie Woodward – later voted man of the match – scoring a superb individual try. He sent a perfect soft kick over the Alcuin defence before receiving the ball and restoring the lead.
A moment of controversy followed as Muntus was forced to take the resulting conversion without a kicking tee as neither team could find one. Attempting a drop kick he missed spectacularly but when Genich broke through shortly after to give Alcuin their second try a tee was instantly provided. Guest converted and Alcuin were just two points behind. As the sun reappeared Alcuin tried to rally for one last attack, but James showed composure to keep their opponents out.
Muntus said after the game that the result showed that there was “no substitute for match practice” but he complimented Alcuin for a brilliant performance. On the subject of the season as a whole he added that he was “delighted” that James had won the title and that it reflected the work of “a squad of twenty five dedicated players turning up for training twice a week.”
James have been unbeaten this term, with only Vanbrugh being able to hold them to a draw. Alcuin will take positives today from just how close they were to taking the title and how they matched their impressive opponents. For now, however, the moment belongs to James and they will look forward to next term’s competition in which they will undoubtedly be the team that everyone wants to beat.