Gryphons Do Battle on Home Soil

Men’s Rugby Union

University of Leeds 2s 26-24 University of Leeds 3s


The University of Leeds rugby union 2s earned bragging rights against the third team (albeit narrowly), as they came face-to-face at Weetwood on a sunny afternoon.

The contest was initially quite cagey, with both sides feeling their way into the game (to be expected, as both teams are overseen by the same coaching set-up, and also train together). Kicking was the order of the day early on, and points were hard to come by. Although the 2s had the lion’s share of territory, the 3s were defending resolutely, and produced several crunching tackles in the early stages to thwart the favourites. It was difficult though for the underdogs to relieve the pressure that was being put on them, with scrum-half Tom Williams, outside-centre Robbie Outram and full-back Jackson Hughes all breaking the line at various points during the opening period, but to no avail.

Eventually, the 2s got the breakthrough that they were seeking, as winger Danny Elliott charged through to ground the ball. However, the floodgates did not open, and the 3s demonstrated their strength of character to nudge themselves in front. Some good work from the lineout allowed the ball to reach outside-centre Harry Jukes, who made no mistake, with Ben Telfer’s conversion making it 7-5. The men in green had the wind in their sails and shortly after their try, a successful penalty attempt from Telfer saw the lead increased to five points. Undeterred, the 2s roared straight back after good link-up play from inside-centre Zander Muir and Elliott. After Muir had broken a couple of challenges, a perfectly-timed offload released Elliott, who stretched out a long arm to ground by the posts, despite the close attention of several defenders. The 3s were still looking to gain some momentum, but were undone again just before the interval. A slaloming run from Williams managed to take out a few defenders, and he had the awareness to pick out captain Ben Nott, who went over, with a conversion making it 19-10 at the end of the first half.

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The half-time break came at a perfect time for the 3s, who needed to regroup and stem the attacking dominance of their opponents. This they managed, as a successful Telfer penalty reduced the deficit to six points. Buoyed by this successful kick, the team seemed revitalised, becoming more assertive in the scrum, and enjoying longer spells in the opposition’s half. Another penalty saw them draw three points closer, and a surprise win suddenly became a real possibility.

However, the 2s had the electric pace of Elliott to draw on, and after approximately 55 minutes of play, he showed a clean pair of heels to burst past a flagging rearguard and score. After the conversion, the score was 26-16, and it seemed as if normal service had resumed. The favourites were moving through the phases quickly, with only stoic defending and dogged determination preventing more tries from being scored.

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The 3s were then handed a lifeline, as another successful kick saw the team reduce the points margin to seven, therefore needing a converted try to draw the game, whilst hoping that the 2s did not add any more points to their tally. With around ten minutes to go, the underdogs really began to step their intensity up; a sign that they felt that victory was still on the cards. This increased pressure was rewarded with a try, as their number 12 showed quick feet to dance past a few weary challenges, before feeding Will Janes, who breached the 2s’ increasingly porous defence to score. Despite the try not being converted, an upset appeared increasingly feasible, and the climax to the game was ferocious, as both teams recognised the magnitude of the occasion.

The 3s were showing their physicality in the ruck and the scrums, but couldn’t quite capitalise. Lock Paddy Fisher-Naylor briefly threatened, and Rory Triniman’s kick dropped short of the posts, as the 3s sensed an opportunity to get one over on their more illustrious team-mates. However, the 2s hung on, and are clearly hoping for a swift return to Northern 1A, the division from which they were relegated at the end of last season. Speaking after the match, 2s captain Charlie Harbord reiterated this point, and stated that playing against his club mates ‘was interesting, and certainly intense. We havetrained together, but it’s not as intense as this [the match], and since it’s a league game you have to take it seriously and execute everything we’ve done on the training field. Both sides were looking to win and score as many points as possible, but it was slightly strange knowing the opposition and what they were going to do, but we knew we had the skills to counter their threats. The 3s also will have known what was coming however and knew how we wanted to play.’

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Harbord continued by saying that the result was a good omen for the season ahead as although the 2s ‘would have liked to have put a bigger result on, from a club point of view it shows that we have good depth, and that the boys are really looking to own the shirt of the guy from the higher team. So the 3s can take a lot of positives from the match, and the 2s need to work a bit harder [to stay ahead].

The openside-flanker highlighted the turnover from last year, with a lot of fresh faces entering the squad during pre-season, including a few first-years who are already making waves. This, combined with the new coaching staff, has meant that the team has a completely different feel to 12 months ago, and Harbord stated that both the second and third-string sides had promotion very much in their sights; very plausible aspirations given the close nature of Wednesday’s match. After such a competitive encounter, it is clear that rugby union at Leeds is certainly in rude health.

Alex Bowmer

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