Leeds Beckett were made to work hard by Leeds University in Leeds Varsity 2015, but managed to secure an opening day win in front of a record crowd at Headingley.
Two penalty tries and a score from winger Ollie Hutson saw the current league and cup holders home despite Leeds University putting in a valiant defensive display.
And even though this wasn’t the most complete performance by Beckett, they have a platform on which to build on as they go in search for back to back league and cup titles.
Both sides had put in two months of half work for arguably their biggest fixture of the season and it was clear that Beckett were looking to use their power up front to dominate proceedings early on.
In doing so, the majority of the first half was played in Leeds Uni’s 22 and the men in green had to stand firm, but were giving away a number of penalties at the scrum and the breakdown.
Uni continued to provide some stern resistance to waves and waves of Beckett attack, but eventually conceded a penalty try after seven minutes. Full-back David Mcllwaine nudged over the conversion to give Beckett an early lead.
After accelerating on to the front foot, Beckett were then called into defensive action as Uni started to get back into the contest as Lewis Hall and Ethan Allen made half breaks.
But, Beckett continued to use their power to try and force their second score of the game, but their ball carriers just couldn’t dent the green defensive wall.
Ollie Holt was shown a yellow card for Leeds Uni as they kept out Beckett on numerous occasions before Mcllwaine knocked over a penalty from just inside the Uni half to give his side a 10-0 advantage at the interval.
The 14,272 people packed inside Headingley were creating some serious noise and that show of support is staggering for University sport.
The attendance in Leeds was a higher than at Namibia v Georgia at Exeter in the Rugby World Cup and the students on the terraces were treated to much livelier second 40.
Minutes after the restart, Beckett decided to change their tactic and go wide with the ball which resulted in Hutson going over in the corner. Mcllwaine continued to be precise with the boot as he slotted the conversion and Beckett were threatening to run away with this game.
Perhaps if Beckett had stretched Uni’s defence in the first half, the game would have been done a dusted at the break, but Uni fought back.
Fly-half Jamie Guy slotted over two quick penalties for Leeds Uni as their forwards - in particular Rory Simpson, Hamish Hughes and Ollie Holt - were relentless at the breakdown as they continued to frustrate Beckett.
Mcllwaine relieved some pressure for Beckett as he nudged over a penalty for 20-6 on 55 minutes, but Leeds Uni dragged themselves right back into this encounter with a try right in front of their own supporters.
After an initial break from centre Cameron Hudson, the ball was flicked right to Allen who produced two lovely steps to beat the Beckett defensive and score to the left of the posts. Guy added the extras for 20-13.
We were all set from a grandstand finale, but a number of pitch invaders soured the event slightly and seemed to disrupt Uni’s rhythm.
Beckett were then able to take control of the game again and reverted back to using their brute force. This resulted in their second penalty try of the game which Mcllwaine converted to see his side clinch a 27-13 victory and the bragging rights for Leeds Beckett.