UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 15
UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL FIRSTS 10
BUCS League 1A – Saturday 30th January
The men’s rugby firsts confirmed their status as the premier team on campus with a hard fought victory over Liverpool. The 15-10 win preserves their mammoth unbeaten run at home and ensures that captain Alex Redshaw’s team will be in the promotion shake-up. On a day when both the spirit and physical capabilities of the York side were severely tested, supporters will be encouraged by the bold reaction of almost every player.
York started slowly and the strong Livepool pack made sure that the opening stages were played out in the home side’s 22. Full back Tom Bugge, who was excellent throughout, managed to alleviate the pressure with an exhilarating charge that punched a hole through the Liverpool defensive line. He was eventually held up on the line and the incident epitomised how York were frustrated throughout the first-half both by their opponents and their own mistakes.
When the firsts were able to take the game to the visitors they looked the superior outfit, attacking with a verve that clearly troubled their opponents. Each time York looked as though they were going to take the lead either a disciplinary indiscretion or a handling error thwarted their progress. Tactical differences of opinion also marred their performance as the York backline sought to turn the Liverpool defence with extensive use of the grubber kick, much to the chagrin of their coach Alec Porter.
The strategy produced mixed results although in the first-half it often led to disjointed attacks which petered out as they should have been coming to fruition. A typical example came around the fifteen minute mark as York used the quick ball from an attacking scrum and spread the ball wide. The kick through that followed caught the wingers cold and was just one of many chances that York managed to waste throught the first period. Despite York impressing, Liverpool managed to put the first points of the afternoon on the board. Their formidable power allowed them to maul effectively and York eventually gave away a penalty for being offside. Liverpool gratefully accepted this gift and their fly half dispatched the kick with confidence.
Today’s 15-10 victory pulls York level with Sheffield Hallam at the top of the League 1A standings, albeit having now played a game more. They will return to action of the 22 Acres this Wednesday, when Northumbria will be the visitors. Hallam, meanwhile, will host city neighbours Sheffield University. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.
Flanker Rory Mcgregor looked the most likely to create an oppurtunity for York playing with a tenacity unmatched by any other player. He was held up on the line for the second time in the game after quick play from a well earned line out. However, although York were camped in the Liverpool 22, they commited a basic foul which gave the away side a reprieve that they surely weren’t expecting and probably didnt deserve. It was a Liverpool disciplinary error though that led to York levelling the scores. It was the first penalty that York opted to kick and with the benefit of hindsight they probably should have taken the option earlier. As a result, the teams went in all square at half-time and although York had performed well they would have beleived that they deserved to be in the lead.
York came out with furious intent in the second-half, placing intense pressure of the Liverpool defence. Bugge was at the centre of everything, pressuring his oppsite number excellently and forcing the winger into a mistake that York exploited for Mike James to go over under the posts, allowing Rob Grant to convert easily. With a more comfortable winning margin York began to play expressive rugby in which their pace came to the fore.
Although Liverpool looked dangerous at intervals York were the team in the ascendency. It was the visitors though that created a try to equalise. In what was one of their only cohesive phases of play, they managed to stretch York and engineer a two-on-one situation which they took advantage of excellently. The conversion levelled the scores at ten-all but they did not remain that way for long. The decision to kick rather than keep the ball in hand when attacking eventually led to the decisive score for York. Fly half Grant sent a perfectly weighted kick into the corner which left the Liverpool full back with no option other than to make a defensive kick, a task which he completed poorly. The high straight kick fell into the thankful hands of second row member Mike Callis who managed to work the ball wide to the waiting Mcgregor who almost obliterated the last defender between him and the line. Although the wide position of the try made for a very difficult kick that Grant was unable to convert York had enough to repel the last Liverpool attacks.
In what was another excellent display, York proved that they have the requisite mental and physical strength to win their division. Should they continue their exceptional home form and string a couple of results together away then there is no team in this league that will better them.