UNIVERSITY OF YORK 15-12 LANCASTER UNIVERSITY
Images: Agatha Torrance
UYRUFC’s second XV completed the men’s rugby whitewash in a brutal contest on Saturday afternoon. York showed a great deal of composure and maturity to claim a 15-12 victory that was never assured until the final whistle.
Fly-half Ed Harris booted over a long-range in the opening minutes but the lead was not to last long. York were penalised for hands in the ruck on Lancaster’s ten metre line and caught napping as the visitors took it quickly. A clean break and a neat offload sent Lancaster’s right winger galloping for a try and York were punished further as the visiting flyhalf nailed a tricky conversion. With the score at 7-3 and ever-vocal visiting support, the York XV sensed that they had to reply quickly.
Reply they did, however, with Sam Morrison leading the charge upfield and winning another kickable penalty. Eyeing a gap, York ran it but were frustrated as a knock-on seemed to have denied them three valuable points.
A few minutes later they were rewarded with another penalty. This time Harris calmed proceedings with another three points that cut the deficit to just one. The hosts trailed 7-6.
Lancaster were not to lie down, however, and were soon hunting a second try. A rehearsed move in the backline sent their winger through a gap and only a magnificent tackle by Stu Duncan denied the visitors. Play came back for a penalty but Lancaster’s kicker was well wide.
As nerves frayed and tensions mounted, discipline became decisive and a scuffle off the ball culminated in Rory Mercer receiving a yellow card. York initially looked to have survived as Mike Woods surged upfield with the ball but eventually Ed Harris had a clearance kick charged down and Lancaster’s forwards needed no second invitation to pounce and extend their lead to 12-6.
Harris made amends immediately with a long range penalty which cut the deficit to just three as the first half drew to a close.
In such a close match tempers grew short and soon after the break another off-the-ball incident led to a double yellow carding. This time it was Joe Turner who was given a breather, as well as a Lancaster second row. Nerves crept into York’s game but after a number of sloppy errors they found themselves with an opportunity to draw level. Matt Darroch’s quick feet created space for Brent Lee to canter up the left flank. Cynical defence by Lancaster gave Harris the opportunity to draw level. He nervelessly bisected the posts with full time drawing ever closer.
Those points visibly lifted the hosts and almost immediately they were on the attack again, this time Rich Rhodes sprinting for the line. Harris was wide with a subsequent penalty and the result remained in doubt.
Lancaster replied with some aggressive breakdown work and direct running. The visiting support grew in voice as York were forced to make tackle after tackle. It was Guy Skivington Jones who made the decisive hit that drove Lancaster backwards and moments later a turnover freed up Sam Morrison to once more to sprint for the tryline. He was denied but the field position ultimately won York the crucial penalty.
Shrugging off the jeers of the visiting support, Harris slotted the three points and York led 15-12 with just a few minutes remaining.
There was still work to be done, with Sam Morrison and his back row colleagues making some big tackles in the closing minutes to deny Lancaster an unlikely win and secure the men’s rugby Roses whitewash.