Rugby firsts’ title hopes hang in the balance after cancellations

Photograph by Sam Newsome

Photograph by Sam Newsome

York rugby firsts’ thrilling league campaign has ended in confusion after the cancellation of last Sunday’s all-deciding encounter between Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield University.

Hallam knew that a win in their final game would take them joint top of British University and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Northern Conference 1A and, due to their better head-to-head record, snatch promotion from York.

Yet, in a further twist to what has been a thrilling season, the local derby was called off due to a frozen pitch. BUCS regulations state that all games must be played by Sunday 21 February in order to be counted towards the league: “Matches not completed, by the date stated shall be declared void with no points being awarded to either side .”

Rob Grant, University of York Rugby Club (UYRUFC) President, argued that Hallam’s inabilty to finish their fixtures means that York should have promotion: “Technically it’s the end of the BUCS cut off date and thus any games played after this point should be void and so we should get promoted.”

York also had their home fixture against Northumbria seconds called off this Saturday, yet crucially this was due to the away side being unable to field a side, therefore making York eligible to claim a walkover victory. In what has been an anticlimatic end to the season, Sheffield Hallam were also awarded a walkover in their penultimate game of the season when Durham thirds were unable to field a team.

Gregor Macleod, full-back for Sheffield Hallam firsts, said the club was “trying to appeal to get the deadline extended”. He added that it was “really unfair, because it’s not something we have control over.”

This is the second time Hallam’s fixture against Sheffield has been postponed for bad weather. Tom Weir, UYRUFC Press and Publicity Officer, said that he hoped “BUCS would take the view that they have had enough time to reschedule this fixture” and would therefore not take “leniency” due to weather conditions.

The BUCS website states that either of the top two teams “may be required to take part in a promotion playoff” in order to progress to Premier B. Whether this will be between York and Sheffield Hallam, or will instead involve one of the relegated teams from the division above is unclear. Weir said that there was a “distinct possibility” of a play-off and that if he was in Hallam’s position he “would think it was the fair decision.”

York have exceeded all expectations in Division 1A after only being promoted last year. They have remained unbeaten on the 22 Acres all season but were only able to take one point from six in their two games against Hallam.

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