The sun shone on Yorkshire this week as Leeds Metropolitan University proved too strong for Exeter University in the first BUCS rugby semi-final; powering to a commanding 42-18 victory which sealed their spot at Twickenham to fight for the BUCS trophy.
Two tries in the first half for the home side in difficult, blustery conditions, proved to be too good of a lead, as Leeds scored another straight after the break and cruised home to a victory from then.
However, particularly in the first half, Leeds’ lead on the score-sheet was against the run of play, as a strong and determined Exeter pack completely dominated their larger rivals at the scrum.
Unfortunately for the visitors, though, who had made the long journey up the country that morning, they could not convert their pressure and pack dominance into points.
As ever, Talking Rugby Union were at the heart of all University Rugby action, with the team out in-force at the game. Enjoy our highlights video and post-match reactions from Leeds’ Jared Williams and Matt Beesley and Exeter head coach Keith Fleming.
In the other semi-final, played at the other end of the country, Hartpury, the southern premiership Champions welcomed Loughborough to the University of West England.
Just four teams left with 80 minutes in front of, battling it out for a place at Twickenham.
It was another beautiful day in Leeds as the sun shone on the Metropolitan University’s Carnegie Sports ground. However, the wind was also a key factor, blowing from one end to another, giving one a team a real advantage in each half.
Leeds started the game the stronger as, like their quarter-final against Bath, they quickly found themselves deep inside the visitors half.
The early pressure led to a number of penalties, with the third being close enough for Captain Will Cargill, who slotted the ball through the posts to open the scoring. 3-0 Leeds.
It was then that Exeter began to switch on. The southern visitors found there selves over the half-way line with a scrum to Leeds. However, it was then that the visiting back burst into life with an enormous scrum won against the head.
Another scrum came a few minutes later which led to an Exeter penalty. The visitors kicked the ball into the corner for a five metre lineout, but, unfortunately messed-up the lineout and saw a golden opportunity go begging.
As Leeds tried to clear their lines the Exeter defence was in full force, hammering into each tackle and pushing the home side back. Leeds frustration led to a yellow card, as an intentional swinging arm collided with an Exeter player.
With 14 men on the pitch and a pack looking deflated and run-ragged further worries came into the Leeds supporters, with the home hooker down injured and then taken off the field.
However, a stroke of good luck this time for Leeds, as an Exeter defender took the ball back into his own 22” before going to kick it out on the full – lineout to Leeds.
The ball was won cleanly but a dedicated Exeter defence stayed strong, until finally cracking and giving away a penalty that Cargill, again, slotted. 6-0 Leeds.
Although ahead on the score board, the momentum was still with Exeter – who proved how much influence just one scrum can have on a game.
A penalty for Exeter brought them within three points at 6-3; however, disaster then struck for the visitors, who had endured the wind in their faces for almost half an hour, with two Leeds tries in quick succession.
Both came from poor Exeter defence, with Leeds back running through the line, seemingly un-opposed. Strong forward runs set-up good field position deep inside Exeter’s half, before missed tackles cost them dearly twice.
The home side went into the changing rooms ahead at 20-6 with just forty minutes in front of them and a place at Twickenham.
After a no-doubt gruelling half time talk from the Exeter coaching staff, things then went from bad to worse for the visitors, with Leeds hurtling up the field from the kick-off and bullying their way over the line for their third try. 25-6 Leeds.
After a large amount of battling in mid-field the game turned into a bit of stalemate, until it was Leeds again who broke through the line at the right time again.
The Leeds backs showed their speed and managed to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed to leave the score 30-6.
With a massive 24 point lead and just over 15 minutes left in the game it seemed certain that Leeds were going to be heading to the capital and rugby’s headquarters.
Exeter crossed the whitewash twice with impressive well-worked tries of their own, but it was unfortunately too-little-too-late, with Leeds adding a final nail in the Exeter coffin with another try just minutes from the end.
Screams roared around the home crowd as they realised they would be involved in the final game of the season.
In the other semi-final it was Hartpury who emerged victorious and powered past Loughborough to seal their place in the final too.
Next Friday the northern champions will face the southern ones in a titanic clash at Twickenham, as they battle it out for the title of the best university rugby team in the country.
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