UNIVERSITY OF YORK 29
UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND 7
In the final BUCS match of the season York were pitted against Sunderland – a team with which York has a tense backstory having played two games previously against them this season alone – and won 29-7 to cap off a successful season and finish second in the table.
The initial encounter proved both teams to be evenly matched, reaching a 0-0 draw after 70 minutes of gruelling play before the game was called off and rescheduled due to injuries. Their second meeting was staged in Sunderland, on a stony, battered little pitch overlooking the sea, where the home team managed to steal the game from underneath York who had initially looked like the stronger side.
This match, however, played out very differently. For the first ten minutes neither team seemed willing to step up and dominate the game. The exceptionally cool, misty conditions didn’t help matters, forcing cold and brittle fingers to repeatedly drop the ball and make careless errors. Once a little warmed up, however, York managed to get in gear. Aggressive rucking from the forward pack secured the ball for York, preventing Sunderland from getting anywhere near it for large sections of play. With renewed energy and steady hands, York pushed them further and further towards their own try-line, before vice-captain Amee Wilson charged through to steal the first points of the match.
5-0 up and the grey afternoon was looking marginally brighter for York, but complacency had no place on the pitch. Despite the occasional error, excellent technique in the rucks and sheer determination managed to win back the ball for York. Followed by a dazzling break from scrum-half Emma Nugent and well-timed offload to Aimee Miller, Sunderland had no chance of stopping the inevitable – a try and conversion by the captain which took York up to 12-0.
Having been slightly reserved and careful in play up until that moment, York suddenly came alive. As soon as the ball was kicked into the midst of the Sunderland pack, Sarah Goodchild and Vivian Nguyen were already pounding up the pitch right into the heart of the fumbling players, taking down the ball-carrier with a resounding tackle. It didn’t take long for York to dominate and pick apart the unsettled opposition and barely two minutes after the last try, Amee Wilson scored her second of the game.
Images: Jivan Mohanty
17-0 and it was clear that Sunderland were more than a little worn out. But fitness had never had a part to play in their game and using the same technique they’d demonstrated in the previous two matches, which involved bull-dozing their way across the pitch, Sunderland were successful in overpowering York’s defensive line. A try placed beneath the posts afforded them an easy conversion and the scoreboard hopped up to a more interesting 17-7.
Despite this flurry of success, they were once again making errors in play and from the kick off they knocked the ball forward, unwisely giving York the scrum. York’s pack, who had clearly been practicing this particular set-piece, held firm against their noticeably heavier opposing numbers and hooker Izzy Lewis was able to repeatedly secure the ball. Even the referee expressed his admiration for York’s “lovely” form, remarking that the scrums had “never been better”. Sunderland’s continually careless play cost them in the last remaining seconds before half time, when Nugent’s textbook dummy landed her in a perfect position behind the defence to sprint for the try-line and bring York’s tally up to 22-7 before the whistle.
The second half began much the same as the first had ended; Sunderland were visibly crumbling, fighting amongst themselves with every knock-on or dropped ball made whilst York were bolstered together by their mutual encouragement, whatever little mistakes occurred. This lack of unity allowed quick and opportunistic players such as Wilson to thread through the fractures and sprint almost the entire length of the pitch towards the try-line. Only one player hovering near the posts posed a threat to this potential try, but merely clutching at shirt sleeves did nothing to stop Wilson’s momentum and she shot triumphantly over to complete her hat-trick.
With the conversion slotted between the posts by Miller, the score shot up to 29-7. From here it became apparent to Sunderland that if there was anytime for a comeback it was now. There was a noticeable urgency, causing a few more errors but also some more decisive and well executed play than they had previously shown. Several times they managed to pin York back on their line and their hooker even threatened a try at one point, charging towards to corner flag before a crushing combined tackle from Hannah Curzon and Vivien Nguyen sent her flying into touch inches from the line.
What made the York team stand out the most was the ability to remain cool under pressure, an essential quality when cold and wet conditions force handling errors. Megan Nash and Elaine Flynn exhibited this time and time again; Flynn crucially managing to clear the ball right on York’s very try-line when Sunderland looked likely to score, and Nash picking up the ball any time it went loose and making something of it. Forwards Sarah Goodchild, Lucy Davies, and Sarah McLoughlin, had a particularly impressive game; turning over countless rucks, guarding the fringes of defensive ones and quickly halting the path of any runaway Sunderland player, they were vital to the team’s successes in the match.
Even at the end of the game York proved they had plenty left in the tank when they tried out a set-piece move from the scrum, sending McLoughlin round the blind-side and eating up a good 5-10 metres of ground. Unfortunately this final effort could not be converted into points, but it was a scintillating end to the BUCS season for York. Showcasing this kind of “champagne rugby”, as coach Josh Moatt describes it, saw them secure a convincing 29-7 win and second place in the league.
1.Linzi Hull, 2.Izzy Lewis, 3.Hannah Curzon, 4. Emma Mathias, 5.Fiona Parr, 6. Lucy Davies, 7. Sarah Goodchild, 8. Sarah McLoughlin, 9. Emma Nugent, 10. Aimee Miller, 11. Harriet Allsop, 12.Vivian Nguyen, 13. Amee Wilson, 14. Megan Nash, 15. Elaine Flynn
Subs: Nikkie George, Emily Wells, Claire Hogarth