Both Leeds University and Beckett produced excellent performances in a high intensity, high quality and high scoring match, which ultimately saw Beckett achieve a 7 point victory, 41-34.
After an even first few minutes in which defences dominated, Beckett made their territory pay, breaking off from a well-formed maul 5 metres out to score. This converted try began a 15 minute spell in which the visitors controlled territory and possession, scoring again from a deft grubber into the corner.
At 14-0 down Uni finally got into the game and although they dominated the next 10 minutes, struggled to find the final pass. Inevitably Beckett struck again, demonstrating fast hands as they burst down the right to take a 21-0 lead.
Ill discipline then crippled Beckett, conceding penalty after penalty, and fine kicking from fly-half Jake Blakely-Edwards pinned the visitors into their 22.
Finally the pressure told after Beckett were reduced to 14 men thanks to a cynical offside; slick handling allowed Elliot Thompson to score in the corner. The fine touchline conversion from Blakely-Edwards made the halftime score 21-7.
The Gryphons stormed out of the blocks in the 2nd half, playing with pace and accuracy for many phases, including 1 of the countless strong carries from the relentless Dan Fox before Ryan Taylor finished off a flowing phase for an unconverted score in the corner.
Beckett were visibly rattled and coughed up more errors in possession. Another fine sweeping attack, which meandered from touchline to touchline, was capped with a dazzling outside arc from full back Tom Harding, who slid past the helpless defence to score the home side’s 3rd try. Blakely-Edwards added the extras to reduce to deficit to just 2.
A breathless 5 minutes followed with chances and breaks for Uni, but with the aid of some potential crossing in midfield, Beckett scored again as their flanker slipped through the line before offloading to their winger for a 7-pointer against the run of play.
The Gryphons response was swift and incisive. Huge midfield defence caused the turnover from which Tom Hardings outside arc was once again too good for the scrambling Beckett defence.
The seesaw scoring again saw Beckett extend their lead with a close range try, quickly cancelled out by a 2nd try from Ryan Taylor. At 31-35 going into the final few minutes, the free flowing rugby succumbed to tactical and territorial sparring. Beckett opted for 3 points from a close range penalty and Uni quickly followed suit with 1 of their own.
A well taken drop goal from the visitors then extended their advantage to 7 points going into the final moments, all of which were spent with Uni camped on the away sides line, as Beckett desperately defended wave after wave of Uni attacks. Resolute Beckett defence and an unlikely scrum turnover allowed them to eventually see the match out.
Plaudits must go to both teams for a brilliantly contested and entertaining affair, played with passion, commitment and much skill.
Image courtesy of Jack Roberts