UNIVERSITY OF YORK 28
UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD 5
BUCS League 1A – Wednesday 17th February
A late flourish meant that York rugby firsts overcame a stubborn Sheffield University today to set up a thrilling final weekend in BUCS Division 1A. Despite struggling for the first fifty minutes, tries from Tom Weir, Gabriel Adebiyi and Tom Buggé opened up a tight game and kept York firmly in the race for promotion.
The result means that the league will be decided this weekend, with York playing Northumbria seconds on Saturday and their rivals Hallam playing Sheffield University the day after. With it likely to come down to points difference, York will be happy that they were able to put three quick tries on the board in the last fifteen minutes.
Captain Alex Redshaw said after the game that it was their “worst first half of the season” and “their best second half.” After trailing 5-0 at the break, York fought their way into the lead only to be put under further pressure early in the second half. With the game, the season and the unbeaten record on the 22 Acres hanging in the balance, it was a moment of brilliance by two substitutes that turned the game around. Adebiyi chased down a Will Felgate kick and kicked it himself towards the try line. He beat his opposing number and touched down to give his side a crucial 14-5 lead.
Sheffield had an opportunity to get right back in the match shortly afterwards when they were awarded an easy penalty in between the posts. It was a golden opportunity and, when it was missed, they must have felt that they game had slipped away.
In the final stages York began to play their best rugby and scored two tries which might prove to be crucial for their all important points difference. Alistair Handy broke through on the right side and, although he was stopped on the line, York won a scrum five metres out. For the second time in the game Tom Weir took the ball over the line. Shortly after York were awarded another scrum in same position and the ball was passed down the line to Buggé, who broke through for York’s fourth.
The final score did not do justice to Sheffield, who caused York more frustration than most other teams have managed on the 22 Acres this season. York had the first real chance when Ed Drewett broke through after five minutes and York found themselves camped 10 metres out. They were awarded a penalty for offside, kicked to touch and won the line-out but were halted in attack after being penalised for holding on. The decision was greeted with a massive cheer from the Sheffield bench – they realised that a huge early opportunity had been missed.
However they were soon to be cheering even louder when they took the ball down the whole length of the pitch with one fluid move, cutting through the defence with ease. The ball was taken over the line and, although they missed the conversion, Sheffield had the lead.
The visitors were now on top; dominating in the breakdown and seeing all of the decisions go their way. Shortly after they were awarded a penalty but, luckily for York, it was sent wide of the posts. Coach Alec Porter berated his bench for their lack of support, shouting “we’re about to lose promotion here” and encouraging them to be more like the very vocal Sheffield support.
Sheffield lost a man to the bin after a dangerous trip forced Gruffudd Jones to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines, but York were unable to make their man advantage count. The visitors rarely threatened but stood strong against every York attack, something which was epitomised when they defended a drive in the last few minutes of the half. Despite the difference still only being five points, York must have wondered if their season was slipping away.
However in the second half they began to play the kind of rugby which has seen them remain unbeaten at home for over two seasons. After Peter Nathan was forced to leave the field in an ambulance with a knee injury, York had three scrums near the Sheffield try line. At the third attempt Weir, in a perfectly executed move, took the ball over the line. Rob Grant, who was excellent with the boot all afternoon, kicked the conversion to give York the lead for the first time.
The game was by no means over, however, as for the next fifteen minutes Sheffield played excellently themselves as the game hung in balance. Another quick Sheffield passing move was halted with a crunching Drewett tackle, but they were still able to win a scrum deep in York’s half. In one of the games’ tenser moments, York defended well and only just hung on to their lead.
They were to prevail in the end, racking up a score that was unfair on their opponents, but as the game ended – and a smoke grenade was thrown on the pitch – York cheered loudly, knowing that they had just passed a tough test in their road to promotion.
All eyes now turn to this weekend and York will want to put some big points on the board on Saturday in order to give Hallam a mountain to climb. After that, it’s out of their hands, Coach Alec Porter remarking that he hoped “Sheffield play like that against Hallam on Sunday.”
York line-up: James Stone, Chris Reid Milligan, Rupert Grant, Mike Callis, Alex Redshaw (c), Alistair Handy, Rory McGregor, Tom Weir, Tim Walker, Rob Grant, Peter Nathan, Gruffudd Jones, Michael James, Ed Drewett, Tom Buggé Subs: Ash Alexander, Rich Welsh, Will Felgate, Sam Morrison, Gabriel Adebiyi