JAMES COLLEGE 33 COLLEGE OF LAW 0
ALCUIN COLLEGE 41 DEMONS 12
James and Alcuin showed why they remain College Rugby’s elite teams with two resounding wins in the first round of Emperor College Rugby Championship fixtures.
Both were in action against teams competing in the championship for the first time: the College of Law (COL) and Demons, a combined team formed from members of Goodricke, Langwith, Wentworth and Halifax.
COL had a baptism of fire, losing 33-0 at home to last year’s champions James college. Five tries gave the away side victory, the pick of the bunch scored by Tom Prifti after excellent passing movement in the last play of the match. James captain Bruce Green commented after the match: “We started off poorly, but by the end of the second half you could begin to see the kind of play that made us so good last term.”
Despite COL starting the brighter side, James quickly established a dominance in the pack with their driving mauls from the lineout posing a constant threat. They will have been disappointed with the early decision not to contest scrums – due to COL being unable to field an experienced front row – as they would have likely dominated throughout.
It was from one of these early mauls that James were to score, all of the forwards powerfully driving over for the five points. Later in the half the move was repeated and Tom Savage, who performed excellently all day, touched down for the second. James would have been disappointed that they were not able to taker a number of chances in the remainder of the half but, when Chris Smith added a third on the stroke of half time, the result was secured.
In the second half, the champions struggled to keep up the tempo; substitutions meant that they lost their power in the scrum as the game increased in physicality. However, by the end of the game they began to replicate the expansive attractive rugby team of last term, with captain Bruce Green – whose hard tackling and dominance in the lineout was outstanding – and Prifti both scoring as a result of well worked passages of passing play.
Despite the College of Law being something of an unknown quantity, James ran in five tries to earn a comprehensive victory on Sunday afternoon, preserving their proud unbeaten sequence in College Rugby. Photograph by Sam Newsome.
COL captain Jan Oosthuizen said that he was pleased with a “very physical” game. He will be encouraged by the way his team took the game to James in just their first performance. They were denied a try when Liam McArdle was halted on the line during a first half period of pressure.
Elsewhere Alcuin, who narrowly missed out on the championship last term when they lost to James, also got their campaign off to a flying start with a 41-12 win over Demons.
After the Demons moved into a shock 5-0 lead, Alcuin raised their game, their well-drilled pack dominating the scrums and rucks. Tries from Paul Guest, Ross Gehnich and Rhys Spong, all successfully converted by winger Thomas Gibby, put the game beyond Demons before half time.
James, who face Derwent next weekend, are favourites to retain their Emperor League crown, although Alcuin, who were clinical in their defeat of the Demons on Sunday, will push them all the way. Photograph by Sam Newsome.
The second half saw the Demons come out of the blocks faster, and their pressure earned them their second try of the day in what will probably be seen as an encouraging performance. However, the gap in quality eventually made the difference, and an excellent weaving run from Ty Partridge saw him take the ball from the halfway line to evade three challenges and crash through.
Two more tries followed thanks to good handling skills from the Alcuin backline, giving them a comfortable victory. The balance of power in college rugby is still firmly with James and Alcuin.
Next weekend: COL vs. Alcuin (Saturday, 2pm); Demons vs. Vanbrugh and James vs. Derwent (Sunday, 2pm)
Additional reporting by Thomas Gibby.