Doe kicks Exeter to BUCS Championship glory

James Doe kicked a dramatic late drop goal to win the BUCS Men’s Championship for Exeter University as they beat Loughborough University 21-19 at Twickenham.

Before the game, there was a perfectly observed minute's silence from both sets of players and supporters for the victims of the Brussels attacks which happened on Tuesday.

Sam Waltier’s superb opening try helped the Premier South A champions seize the early initiative while Gavin Parker kicked eight first half points for Exeter.

Freddie Hosking also went over for the Green and Whites as they led 18-13 at the break with Loughborough’s response coming via a try from winger Brandon Mandivenga as well as two penalties and a conversion from Dan Watt.

Watt landed his third penalty of the evening early in the second-half to reduce the deficit to two points before he kicked his side into the lead with six minutes remaining, but Doe’s sensational drop goal snatched the win for Exeter and their first BUCS title since 2001.

This was Exeter’s first final in 12 years and this time they duly delivered on the big stage putting in a controlled and professional display in front of a vocal crowd at Twickenham.

As for Loughborough, this was their second consecutive loss in a BUCS Championship final after they were beaten by Leeds Beckett at this stage 12 months ago meaning that there was more heartbreak for Ciaran Beattie and his side.

Both Exeter and Loughborough entered this final as champions of their respective divisions and both were unbeaten all season, but it was Keith Fleming’s team that were the better side for much of the first half.

They began on the front foot and were rewarded for their early pressure as Waltier dived under the sticks to open the scoring for Exeter after some superb work from centre Ted Landray in the build-up.

Parker somehow missed the conversion, but made up for it six minutes later as he landed a penalty to stretch Exeter’s lead in a game that was being played at a lightening quick pace.

Loughborough, who had won 16 of their 16 matches on the road to Twickenham, struggled to get into this final early on, but after venturing into the Exeter half for the first time in the contest, they were presented with a kickable penalty opportunity which Watt landed.

But as soon as Loughborough were within a score of Exeter, they fell further behind once again as Hosking crossed the whitewash in the right corner.

Watt and Loughborough hit back three minutes later with another penalty to make it 15-6 and despite all Exeter’s dominance, they were made to pay on 36 minutes as Mandveigna shrugged off two Exeter tackles to dot down Loughborough’s first try of the evening.

Watt converted and it was now ‘game on’ at Twickenham, but Parker made sure Exeter did have some breathing space heading into the break as he nudged over his second penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Unlike in the first period, Loughborough began on the offensive in the opening stages of the second-half as Watt sent another penalty through the posts.

Mandivenga then took a huge blow to the head on 54 minutes and was stretched off before Exeter had their first opportunities of the second 40 to get points on the board.

Parker’s opening attempt sailed wide as did the Scottish Exiles’ second penalty meaning we were in for a tense last 15 minutes at England HQ.

Lougborough were pinned in their own 22 for the majority half as Exeter continued to control the tempo game, but amazingly the Midlands side went ahead on 74 minutes as Watt kicked a monstrous penalty from just inside the Exeter half to give his side the lead for the first time in this final.

However, with three minutes to go, Exeter exerted more pressure on the Loughborough a line and they managed to work the ball into the pocket for replacement fly-half Doe, who picked his spot and showed incredible composure to slot over to send the travelling Exeter support into raptures.

Loughborough tried desperately to work their way back up field from the restart after winning a penalty, but it wasn’t enough as Exeter clinched Twickenham glory.

Loughborough: Gair Currie; Brendon Mandivenga, Matt Edwards, Dan Watt, Austin Beckett; Cam Dobinson, Sam Pointon; Sam Fisher, Jacob Fields, Joe Cave; Henry Wheadon, Harry Betts, Rhys Davies; Sam Harry (capt), Charlie Kingham

Replacements: Freddie Davidson, Ben Christie, Musa Yusuff, Henry Spencer, Josh Sharp, Jack Wardle, George Davis.

Try: Mandivenga

Con: Watt

Pens: Watt (4)

Exeter: Gavin Parker; Alex Brown, Ted Landray, Pete Laverick, Ned Warne; Ollie Claxon, Sam Waltier; Jack Owlett, Paul Davis, George Beale, Freddie Hosking, Sam Skinner (capt), Matt Eliet, Harry Ledger, Tom Lawday

Replacements: Mike Perks, Thomas Rhodes, Fred Wheadon, Tom Edwards, James Doe, Tom Holdsworth, Adam Worth

Tries: Waltier, Hosking

Con: Parker

Pens: Parker (2)

Drop-Goal: Doe

Stay tuned next week for our exclusive video highlights and interviews from finals day in partnership with BUCS