Images: Agatha Torrance
Halifax and Goodricke came out on top in a thrilling first day of this weekend’s college rugby competition.
Halifax topped a very tight Group 1 in which all the teams won a match, whilst Goodricke won twice in Group 2 to finish top.
The two teams are now set to face each other in tomorrow’s Cup Final, though there remains some question over whether Goodricke’s position will be upheld after they were unable to field the required number of college players.
The day began with Derwent, who have been the dominant force in college rugby throughout the year, running out narrow victors over James in Group 1. Ed Kemp scored an early try for Derwent, rounding off a superb move, but the match was tough from then on. Derwent did hang on to the 10-7 lead they took into half time, but James were only denied a draw by the post with the last kick of the game.
Goodricke, meanwhile, recorded an impressive 21-15 win over a strong Alcuin side. Both sides were able to boast a string of top University players, but the men in green ultimately grabbed the win.
They then went on to beat Vanbrugh 22-7 with tries from Hugh Draycott, Conan Osborne and Chris Smith, ensuring that they would finish top of the group, with a decision pending over whether they will be forced to forfeit their games.
James then scored a hard-fought win over Halifax to leave Group 1 wide open. After a cagey start, the game burst into life at the end of the first half; David Gopinath went over in the corner to open the scoring for James, but Halifax hit back with a Jordan Welsh try just after the break. Hugo Watson put James ahead again after intercepting a poor pass, but a try and Matt Darruck conversion then put the Fax ahead. It was left to Sam Morrison to score the all-important try for James, sealing a 15-12 win.
The biggest win of the day came in the final Group 2 match, as Alcuin convincingly beat Vanbrugh 24-0. Captain Muzzy Foley opened the scoring, before Will Sharp scored a hat-trick of tries to hand last term’s college league finalists a handsome win.
Afterwards, Foley told Nouse, “I feel like we’ve just come out of the Somme, but even more gruesome. We deserved to win there.” And, seeking a rematch of the league final, he added, “It’s written in the stars that we’ll face Derwent.”
There was still room for an upset, though, as Halifax produced an impressive display to beat Derwent 22-7. In truth, Derwent were never expected to replicate their form from earlier in the year, with the introduction of University players levelling the playing field considerably.
Ben Turner produced a great display to inspire Halifax to victory, though the Derwent players and supporters were frequently incensed by some of the refereeing. A try at 17-0 down, capped off with a great conversion by Oliver Wessely, gave Derwent hope but they couldn’t force their way back into the game. Halifax captain Andy Cox was delighted with the win, commenting, “We didn’t really expect much today. We weren’t that well organised, but I think that’s sixth time lucky for me against Derwent.”
Tomorrow’s fixtures will see the third, second and first placed sides in each group go head to head, starting at 1pm on 22 Acres.
Derwent 10-7 James
James 15-12 Halifax
Halifax 22-7 Derwent
Goodricke 21-15 Alcuin
Goodricke 22-7 Vanbrugh
Alcuin 24-0 Vanbrugh