UoN Rugby League narrowly defeated in enthralling Nottingham Varsity opener

Rugby League was the opening fixture of the 2017 Nottingham Varsity series, and it was a tough, tight affair with Trent eventually coming out on top. The final score line of 22-18 reflects the closeness of the game, as both teams traded set for set.

The Green and Gold’s rugby league side went in to the day’s match brimming with confidence, straight off the back of a 14-12 victory down in Bath on Wednesday 22nd March, which secured the 1st team’s title defence of the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Championship. The team finished at the summit of Midlands 1A in BUCS, winning the league by a 6-point margin and go into the BUCS  Premier North play-off decider.

It was always going to be a close contest with Trent finishing their BUCS season third in Premier North A. In addition, the Varsity fixture between the two has been hotly contested, with Trent winning five out of the past eleven encounters with UoN in Varsity and the Green and Gold coming out on top in six of them.

Trent got off to a bright start in the match on a heated afternoon weather-wise and on the pitch at Lady Bay. The men in pink scored within the first few minutes of the game after a break away try. UoN struggled to find rhythm and NTU capitalised and touched down another try in the corner after some good handling through the backline.

Trent came out all guns blazing at the beginning of the match to take an early 12-0 lead

It was 12-0 in the opening 10 minutes and the boys in Green and Gold looked on the ropes. However, after the Trent tries, some parity was restored and Dan Crabtree came close, only to be held up over the line. After a repeat set on the Trent line, Elliot Lamble sold a great dummy and dived over the whitewash underneath the sticks, sending the UoN fans into raptures in the stands at Nottingham Rugby Club.

James Adamson added the conversion to make it 12-6. After this, neither team could press home an advantage, though UoN fronted up with some huge defensive work. Ben Knight smashing his opposite number was a particular highlight for the fans.

James Adamson with the first half conversion to bring the score back to 6-12 to Trent

Just before the half time whistle, Harry Lyon gave a stiff left arm to the Trent winger, and showed him up on the outside. A smart covering tackle saw this attack come to a close. A few more sets for either side were tightly contested in a feisty encounter yesterday, but it was mainly just sparring before half-time as both teams tired under the blistering heat at Lady Bay.

Half-time: University of Nottingham 6-12 Nottingham Trent University


UoN re-grouping and planning their comeback before the second half got underway

“Quicker play of the ball and some strong running lines around the ruck gave UoN some much needed territory and pressure”

The second half saw a revived University of Nottingham side dominate the early exchanges. Lots of handling errors for both teams meant they both struggled to assert control. Quicker play of the ball and some strong running lines around the ruck gave UoN some much needed territory and pressure.

They were rewarded with a try from Ciaran Dean on Varsity debut. Conversion narrowly drifted wide of the left hand upright, 12-10 to Trent. However, UoN spilled a cheap ball on the kick off and Trent crashed over the line in the next set.

“Trent took the game by the scruff of the neck and tried running the ball on the last tackle”

The Trent kicker amazingly missed the kick in front of the posts to leave the scores at 16-10. Strong exit sets from UoN resulted in a cross kick from captain Adam Simm falling into the arms of Harry Lyon, who took the ball in his stride and left the Trent fullback for dead to dive over the try-line. Adamson failed to covert, meaning the scoreline was tightened to 16-14, with the University of Nottingham having momentum on their side going into the last 20 minutes of the match

Trent took the game by the scruff of the neck and tried running the ball on the last tackle. A penalty was conceded by Dan Crabtree and Trent eventually drove through the centre and scored another try, subsequently converting to leave the score at 22-14 to Trent.

UoN left frustrated as the green and gold’s comeback was cut short in the second half by more Trent tries

“It was a really tight game and the boys fronted up really well, it was just such a shame to lose so narrowly”

With the clock running down, UoN tried to force Trent mistakes further down the field. After some repeat sets on the Trent line, and some strong midfield running from Matt Boyers and Jarvis Conybear, the overlap was exploited and Dan Crabtree went over in the corner.

22-18 to Trent as the conversion was missed. The game opened up as both teams tired in the closing exchanges. Some more big hits from Ryan Kerley resulted in a Trent knock-on, but UoN couldn’t take advantage. The referee was very lenient for some clear slowing down of the ball from Trent. There were no further chances for either side as the game was seen out by a weary Trent side.

Vice President of the University of Nottingham Rugby League Club, Vinny Lombardo, said after the match, “It was a really tight game and the boys fronted up really well, it was just such a shame to lose so narrowly.

“It’s one of those games we’re going to have to learn from ahead of play-offs next week. I think Trent’s play of the ball and metres gained up the pitch was what killed us in the game and we struggled to deal with their physicality on the day.”

The teams shake hands at the end of a massive battle and an enthralling match to start the Nottingham Varsity Series

A fascinating start to the 2017 Varsity Series, with two evenly matched teams going tooth-and-nail at Lady Bay Stadium. A spirited UoN side were narrowly defeated on the day, but will be keen to bounce back, with their BUCS promotion play-off games to look forward to in the coming fortnight – which start with a match against Manchester Met on Wednesday at Highfields.

Final Score: Nottingham Trent University 22-18 University of Nottingham

Tom Elliman

Images courtesy of Rhys Thomas for Impact Images

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