Rugby firsts set for promotion battle

Following last week’s 18-12 victory over Leeds Met, the men’s rugby firsts have positioned themselves nicely for an assault at the title in BUCS League 1A. assesses their chances

Photograph by Sam Newsome

Photograph by Sam Newsome

LAST WEEK’S comfortable 18-12 victory over Leeds Met. Carnegie has given the men’s rugby firsts a very probable chance of promotion during just their first season in BUCS Northern Conference 1A.

The victory puts York second in the league and only three points behind leaders Sheffield Hallam. With just five matches remaining, there is now a real possibility that the team will be promoted to Premier B.

Rob Grant, President of UYRUFC, said that it is now within their own hands: “The onus is now on us to win the rest of our games. If we do that we are in with a shot at promotion.”

Grant highlights the upcoming games against Durham and Liverpool as being key matches, yet they will also be looking down the fixture list at their final game against Sheffield University who currently sit third in the table and just one point behind York. The run in looks kind to them, however, with three of their remaining games at home and the other two against the bottom teams in the league.

They would certainly expect to win their home games, continuing a stunning two year unbeaten run on the 22 Acres. Last season they finished top of BUCS Northern Conference 2B after winning all twelve of their games.

Despite that achievement, few would have predicted their success this season. Whereas other promoted teams, such as the badminton firsts, have understandably struggled with the jump to 1A and used this season for consolidation, the rugby team have played as if this is where they have always belonged. A 35-17 loss to Sheffield Hallam – their second game – seemed to suggest that life would be tougher for them this year, but they responded with a sensational run of four straight victories which catapulted them towards the top of the table.

They had a difficult period at the end of last term, with a crushing 27-5 loss to Leeds Met. in shocking conditions. Once again they hit back and a 7-7 draw with Hallam, despite being the closest they have come to losing their home record in recent memory, was an important result that showed they can can compete with the league leaders. Last week’s win against Carnegie avenged their earlier loss and put them right back into contention.

In that game, York recovered from conceding an early try to seal the game by midway through the second half. Two tries by the excellent Richard Bremner, and a third bundled over by Rory McGregor sealed an crucial win for the home side. A late Carnegie try provided a slightly nervous finish but, with less than a minute remaining, there was no time for the fight back.

After the game, captain Alex Redshaw called the performance “fantastic” and said that only a “lack of fitness”, due to no recent match practice, had led to them slowing in the final stages. More than anything, this was a performance that showed they are ready for the fight.

So what are the factors contributing to this success? Many teams at the university would give anything for a coach as committed and vocal as Alec Porter. His expertise and presence on the touchline undoubtedly contribute towards the team’s success. Grant says that praise should go to the centre partnership of Gruffudd Jones and Michael James, and also to full back Tom Buggé who was excellent against Carnegie. Redshaw compliments Bremner, simply calling him a “hero”.

Special mention should also go to former captain Mike Callis, who has suffered with injuries this season but still performs at a consistently high level. Last week’s try scorer Rory McGregor is also instrumental at number seven.

The key period for York is the next week when, due to rescheduling of fixtures, they will play three games. It is very likely that the next eight days will define their season.

BUCS can decide to stage a play-off between the top two sides in the division, so even finishing top would not guarantee promotion. In that case they would most likely play Sheffield Hallam whom they have failed to beat in two encounters already this season.

Redshaw says that “it is now in the hands of the Gods” and that might be the case, but the team will make sure that they do everything in their power so that next season they are playing their rugby in Premier B.


January 27th – Away
vs. Durham thirds

January 30th – Home
vs. Liverpool firsts

February 3rd – Home
vs. Northumbria seconds

February 10th – Away
vs. Manchester seconds

February 17th – Home
vs. Sheffield firsts

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