Lights, cameras, drinks, rugby and an atmosphere second to none can only mean one thing in university rugby – the Leeds Varsity.
On Wednesday the first of October the 2014/15 BUCS rugby season began with a bang in Leeds as the University side faced off against Leeds Beckett in the biggest grudge-match in students rugby.
The TRU team headed over the Penines to capture all of the action at the city’s Carnegie Ground. Welcome to a new BUCS rugby season with Talking Rugby Union…
5pm – the gates to the home of Yorkshire rugby are opened and fans begin to flood into the ground, hours before kick-off.
A collage of fancy dress, cheerleaders, drinks, music and chants painted the back-drop for the game; every inch of the available stands were filled. The stage was then set, for Varsity 2014…
It was Leeds Beckett who had the honours of kicking off and from the blow of the first whistle, the Met side stormed up the opposing end of the field and applied the pressure from the get-go.
Withtin two minutes the university side had suffered the worst possible start as Beckett flanker Josh Longson burrowed his way over the whitewash from the back of a lineout. Captain Will Cargill added the simple extras to take his side seven points in front.
Already, it was all too easy for Beckett, Leeds Uni looked as though they weren’t on the same pitch – was this a sign of things to come…?
Uni fly-half Jamie Guy had other ideas… The trailing side managed to make their way just inside the Beckett half and were slightly lucky to come away with a penalty from a clearly fired-up and determined Beckett defence.
However, Guy did not need asking twice as he slotted the ensuing penalty through the uprights to bring his side within four at 7-3.
Beckett fought back hard, though, after their rivals made the scoreboard. A brilliant tackle from the Leeds Uni defence halted them from scoring again as the players bundled into touch just five metres out.
A penalty was a result this time, and although Cargill couldn’t convert, the Beckett attack were once again deep within the opposing 22” and dictating all of the play.
In an almost carbon copy of the opening couple of minutes, Beckett found themselves with a lineout 5 metres from the line. The resulting play didn’t only shock the University defence but the majority of the Carnegie crowd, as the hooker slipped a pass through the line to flanker Luke Paynter, who glided over the line without any confrontation.
Another kick was missed by the Captain, but the damage was done. With just a quarter of the game gone on the clock, Beckett were already 12-3 up.
The onslaught didn’t cease, though, if anything the scores just made the men in purple hungry for more. The far superior and larger pack continued to dominate proceedings as the forwards drove deep into the University’s half once again.
What looked like a complete inevitability, once again came true. The Beckett mauled their way over the whitewash once again with Josh Longson touching the ball down for his second, completely silencing a previously raucous University of crowd. 19-3 was the score after Cargill made the kick – damage done!
However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and just as you thought the trailing side might slip off, the fight-back began.
For one of the first times in the game they found there selves deep within the Beckett half after the backs had ignited some pace onto the ball. Then came the forwards turn – the magnitude of the occasion finally resonating within them as they turned the tables and crossed the line with a drive of their own.
Louis Timpany placed the ball down with Guy adding the extras to take them within nine points at 19-10.
Another wave of attacks came from the university side, as they slowly worked their way closer and closer to the red-zone. However, their fans were silenced once again, but this time by the referee, as he deemed a ball to be held-up over the line that looked solidly on the ground.
Though, just before the half time whistle came, fly-half Guy once again took the game by the scruff of the neck. Stepping back into the pocket on another attacking spell of play, the ball came to him deep before an inch-perfect drop-kick sailed between the uprights to give the University of some impetus before the break.
With just six points separating the sides at 19-13, it was all to play for. The game was back on…
Once again if was Beckett who came out of the blocks quickest; though, this time, it didn’t last for long…
After holding them up just short of the line, the University side sprung back into life, once again spearheaded by the boot of Jamie Guy. A number of brilliantly crafted grubber kicks were recovered, as they made their way to within five metres of the line.
After a penalty was given, a great piece of thinking from scrum half Ollie Roberts who tapped the ball and pounced over the line for a brilliant score. With the kick made the comeback was complete. 20-19 to the University of.
After taking the lead for the first time, the side visibly grew in confidence with each play as tackles went in a bit harder and the defence stayed a bit firmer.
Another penalty went the University’s way and it was that man again, Jamie Guy, who stepped up and slotted the chance. Lead extended – 23-19.
In a game that had already ebbed and flowed with periods of dominance and possession for both sides, Beckett hit back with a further two penalties of their own. Captain Cargill didn’t miss on these two occasions as he pulled his team back in front at 25-23.
With just five minutes to go, then came the biggest moments of the game. A break came through the hands of fly-half Guy again, as he glided through the line and sparked an attack. Offloading from the floor he found the hands of hooker Moncur who took the ball to ground.
A penalty was given but the Leeds Uni forwards tapped and went quick. Just five metres out the ball was flung to second row Luke Harris. Then came the most dubious decision of the game, as the ball bounced forward after the pass, before Harris pounced on it over the line for a score, in what can only be described as a ‘strange’ call from the referee.
However, the score stood, as the referee blew his whistle and raised his arm to a cacophony of sound from the Leeds University fans, who thought their side were dead and buried mid-way through the first half.
The kick was made to give them a five point advantage at 30-25 with five minutes left on the clock.
But there was still life left in the game as the ball travelled right down to the other end of the field, before it was then held up short before the line. From the resulting scrum the Beckett forwards again showed their strength as they slowly began to work towards the line. Finally, the seemingly inevitable happened: the Uni were silenced as the Met fans roared back in to life.
Number 8 Courtney Raymond had crossed the line to score and draw things level. In a kick steeped with pressure, Cargill managed to ignore the nerves and find the insides of the uprights and take the lead once again. 32-30 to Beckett.
With the seconds winding down and the passion visibly leaving the Leeds University faces at the turnaround of score, Beckett added one final nail in the coffin. A breakaway attack from their backs found the ball in the hands of replacement Keane Naylor, who sealed victory for Beckett, much to appreciation of their jubilant fans.
Just to add salt to the wound, one final try came in last play of the came. Numbner 8 Courtney Taylor charged through the line in open play to land the ball in the hands of the Beckett winger, who ran in unopposed.
After the kick was made the final whilst went with Beckett having conquered their closest rivals Leeds University by 46 points to 30.
A fantastic night for the sport and specifically university rugby kicked the 2014/15 BUCS season off in style, with the promise that this was only the beginning.
Stay tuned to Talking Rugby Union throughout the year for all the latest BUCS rugby news, scores and reaction as each side launches their assault on reaching Twickenham and lifting the BUCS crown.