The University of Exeter retained their Premier South A crown on Wednesday after beating local rivals the University of Bath at Sandy Park.
Exeter went into the contest a point clear of second placed Hartpury College knowing a win would guarantee them another league title and they duly delivered. It all means Hartpury were runners-up while Bath and Cardiff Met will join them in the BUCS Champions Trophy finals which get underway next week.
In Premier North A, Loughborough University went the whole domestic season without suffering defeat and come into the Champions Trophy Finals as favourites having won all 12 of their league games this campaign.
They will be joined by Durham University who finished second in the table, current champions Leeds Beckett and also Newcastle University.
Elsewhere across our featured BUCS leagues, there was more cup joy for Durham 3rds, relegation woes for St Andrews and elation for Nottingham Trent 2nds.
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Loughborough University ended the domestic season with a 100 per cent record as they secured their 12th straight win with a convincing 66-14 victory away at the University of Leeds.
Tries from Charlie Kingham, Sam Pointon and Austin Beckett put the Premier North A champions 19-0 ahead at the break in Yorkshire.
The bonus point for the Midlands side was soon wrapped up after the restart thanks to a Penalty Try before Freddie Davidson went over for try number five of the afternoon for Loughborough.
Loughborough were threatening to run riot and Leeds offered some resistance with a score of their own but that was short lived as a brace from Brandon Mandivenga and tries from Matt Edwards and Luke Frost made it 59-7.
The hosts did claim their second try of the afternoon, but it seemed only fitting that the best side in the north of the country ended their domestic campaign with their 10th try of the day as Mandivenga completed his hat-trick.
So, Loughborough finished top of Premier North A on 56 points and will now face Cardiff Met at home in the Champions Trophy quarter-final next week. As for Leeds, they finished sixth this season having won two and drawn two of their 12 matches and will now take part in the BUCS Vase which begins next week.
Loughborough University Coach Ciaran Beattie said:
“12 from 12 is a great achievement for all involved and a great way to finish off our league campaign. Throughout the league season the players have been superb, but a mention must go tour whole squad; Kerry Glendon – physio, Liz Tyler – Media, Sam Branston – Analysis, Dave Bassett - Manager
“We had to play our best to break Leeds down, and we wish them all the best in their next game. For us, it’s on to the quarter finals vs Cardiff Met now, and we know we will have to bring our proud defensive record to the fold in order to get a victory.”
Durham University now know they will be taking on Bath University in the Champions Trophy last eight after they picked up a 25-18 bonus point win over Newcastle University to finish second in the table.
After beating the north-east side last week at Kingston Park, Durham were at their best again to secure the maximum five points to finish above current champions Leeds Beckett in the table. As for Newcastle, they will be joining Durham in the quarter-finals where they’ll take on an unbeaten Exeter side from Premier South A.
All of this means Leeds Beckett will now face Hartpury College next week in the quarter-finals while bottom of the table the University of Nottingham know they will have to fight for their Premier North A status in March against the winner of Premier North B which is looking like it could be Loughborough’s 2nd XV.
University of Leeds 14-66 Loughborough University
Durham University 25-18 Newcastle University
The University of Exeter regained their Premier South A title as they beat fierce rivals the University of Bath 46-8 at Sandy Park in the South-West derby.
Exeter have never been beaten at the home of the Chiefs and kept that record up emphatically in front of noisy crowd on Wednesday night.
The home side led 20-3 at half-time thanks to tries from George Beale and Paul Davies with full-back Gavin Parker kicking both conversions and landing two penalties with Bath’s response coming from the boot of Zach Henry.
After been made to work hard for their chances in the first period, Exeter cut loose after the break as Tom Lawday, Jacob Knight and Sam Skinner all crossed to give the hosts a commanding 39-3 lead.
Bath hit back with a try of their own a minute from the end, but Exeter had the final say as Fred Hosking crashed over to seal the derby win and the Premier South A crown. As for Bath, it is another third place finish for them in Premier South A after six wins this season.
Exeter’s Alex Brown said: "All the boys are delighted with the win over Bath. The pressure was on with us needing to win to finish top and the manner in which we handled it gives us a huge amount of confidence going into the quarters. The season is going very well and the unbeaten record is something we are very proud of. However, we know that anything can happen in knock outs and we aren't going to rest on our laurels.
“It's a lot of the boys last year at Exeter. It would be fitting to finish it with a final at Twickenham but we will take it game by game and our first test will be next week.”
Before this match, the title was still up for grabs and Hartpury College knew they had to pick up maximum points from their rescheduled game against Cardiff University to stand any chance of taking the title back from Exeter.
Unfortunately for them it wasn’t to be in terms of the silverware, but they did end their domestic season on a high as they won 17-33 in Wales. After the postponement last week, Hartpury didn’t look affected as they ran in five tries to end the season a point behind Exeter in second place after 10 wins this term.
As for Cardiff, they have ended the season in sixth place with two victories to their name and will now be preparing for the BUCS Vase alongside the University of Bristol and bottom of the table the University of South Wales.
John Barnes Senior Rugby Academy Head Coach at Hartpury said: “Cardiff was a tough match, it’s always a difficult place to go and they were certainly up for it. We were always in the lead and never looked like losing but were made to work hard for our scores.
“We have won every game with a 4 try bonus point except for the two matches v Exeter. The home match was one of the best University matches I have seen in a long time, easily up there with National 1 standard. Drawing 16-16 was a good reflection of the match but a win then would have given us the title. Over the two matches Exeter deserve to have the honour of winning the League. They are a very good side and hot favourites to reach Twickenham.
“A home QF v Leeds Beckett next week, so the importance of the matches increases. Leeds Beckett will be a tough challenge, they are current Champions and no doubt keen to repeat that effort.
“We certainly have the players to win BUCS, but so do several other teams. The matches will come down to fine margins and hopefully we can be at Twickenham on the 23rd March.”
University of Exeter 46-8 University of Bath
Cardiff University 17-33 Hartpury College
The top three were not in action this week in Premier North B, attention turned to the relegation fight where two teams are battling for survival while one had their fate sealed on Wednesday.
Bottom club the University of St Andrews have been relegated back down to Scottish 1A after just one season in Premier North B. They were unable to field a team in their game against Durham 2nds yesterday meaning they have now had their demotion confirmed with two games remaining. Saints have won just once this season.
In terms of Durham, this result means it is now mathematically impossible for them to be relegated as they sit fourth in the table having won seven of their 13 games this season with their final match of the term coming in two weeks against Worcester.
Sticking with the University of Worcester, they have fallen into the bottom two in Premier North B after a 31-24 home defeat against the University of Manchester.
Manchester leapfrogged Worcester after their fourth win of the season and they do have an advantage over Worcester as they still have three games left to play.
As for Worcester, they are now level on points with Manchester, but know they must get a result against Durham in their final match of the campaign on March 9th otherwise it could be curtains for them.
Durham University w/o v University of St Andrews
University of Worcester 24-31 University of Manchester
After being in cup action last week, Northern 1A leaders Durham University 3rds were once again on BUCS Trophy duty on Wednesday and have progressed to the semi-finals of the competition after narrowly edging out Scottish 1A champions the University of Edinburgh 28-27.
After leading 22-3, Durham looked as though they had blown their spot in the last four after they conceded 24 unanswered points, but two penalties towards the end of the game turned this cup tie around. The north-east side will now take on Hartpury College 2nds next week for a place in the final.
Just a side note, Durham and Edinburgh could well meet again at the end of the season as both sides could do battle in a play-off for a place in Premier North B.
So with the table toppers out of domestic action, Leeds Beckett 2nds took it upon themselves to keep their title and promotion dream alive as they beat Manchester Met 7-36 away from home.
This win for Beckett was their seventh of the season and they are now 14 points behind Durham with three games left to play. It is unlikely that they will finish top, but they are not giving up the chase just yet. In terms of Man Met, they have played 11 of their 14 games this season and sit in the final relegation place and six points from safety.
The University of Hull are certainly pushing for back to back promotions this season as they continue to hunt down Leeds Beckett and Durham. They stay in third place and two points behind Beckett after a 31-7 win over the University of Liverpool with tries coming from Robjis Devidson, Myles Cooling, Rory Tabb, Will Simpson and Harrison Holmes.
Hull are now unbeaten in five games and do also have a game in hand on Durham and Leeds heading into the final stretch of the season. As for Liverpool, they sit six points clear of the drop zone having won just four of their 11 games this campaign. Postponements haven’t helped them in recent weeks, but this is a far cry from their promotion push of last term.
Durham University 3rds 28-27 University of Edinburgh – BUCS Trophy
Manchester Met 7-36 Leeds Beckett 2nds
University of Hull 31-7 University of Liverpool
League leaders Loughborough University 3rds are in action on Saturday this week when they take on the University of Nottingham 3rds which allowed the University of Warwick to close the gap at the top of Midlands 1A to four points after their 26-0 over the University of Nottingham 2nds.
Warwick have played a game more than Loughborough, but have now moved up to second place with their ninth win of the season. As for Nottingham 2nds, they remain five points clear of the relegation zone with three games still to play. Warwick also take on already relegated Coventry University on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the University of Leicester will look to retake second spot from Warwick when they play Nottingham 2nds on Saturday while Harper Adams and Oxford Brooks are not in action this week.
University of Warwick 26-0 University of Nottingham 2nds
Keele University have given themselves a real chance of winning the Northern 2A title as they ended Lancaster University’s 100 per cent record thanks to a 17-22 victory over the league leaders.
After relegation last season, Lancaster have been sensational this term and have looked on course for an immediate return to Northern 1A, but their ambitions have been dented slightly by this defeat to Keele.
Lancaster are now five points in front of Keele with two games to go, but their challengers only have one more league game left to play which is against Chester in three weeks’ time. Lancaster are still in the driving seat for promotion, but they are certainly not home and dry just yet.
Elsewhere, the University of Chester would also like to think they are not out of the title race as they picked up a 29-3 victory over bottom club Edge Hill University who are on the verge of relegation.
Chester sit third in the table, nine points off Lancaster, but with three games still to play. As for Edge Hill, they are three points from safety with a game remaining of their season and they now know they must beat relegation rivals the University of Liverpool 2nds in three weeks’ time to stand any chance of staying in this division next term.
Liverpool 2nds were beaten 12-29 by UCLan on Wednesday as they missed out on the opportunity to potentially secure their safety in Northern 2A. As for UCLan, they are 13 points off leaders Lancaster with three games to play so a promotion shot is a big ask for them.
There was joy for Nottingham Trent University 2nds this week as they have been crowned champions of Midlands 2A after victory over second placed Harper Adams 2nds on Wednesday. Trent won 34-5 at home to seal promotion to Midlands 1A.
Trent have won eight of their nine games this season and will end their title winning campaign away at Lincoln in three weeks’ time. Before that though, they are going for another piece of silverware as they take on the University of Northampton in the semi-finals of the Midlands Conference Cup next week. Harper Adams 2nds are also in the last four as they take on Birmingham 2nds.
Trent’s next league opponents, the University of Lincoln, have fallen to the bottom of Midlands 2A after conceding their fourth game of the season. They were unable to field a team against Nottingham 4ths yesterday meaning they are now staring relegation in the face with one game remaining. As for Nottingham 4ths, they look set for a third placed finish.
Head Nottingham Trent University Head of Rugby Neil Fowkes said: "The players have worked incredibly hard this year after just missing out on promotion the season before. I am really pleased for them and the coaches that this hard work and dedication to training has paid off on the field.
The group still have an important game on Wednesday and what is pleasing is the players and coaches attention has switched into the next game without getting to carried away with the league win. I think this shows the maturity of this group.”