Men’s Rugby Union University of Leeds 14 – 31 Durham
DURHAM men’s rugby union 1s proved too strong for their Leeds counterparts, running out 31-14 winners on a misty afternoon at Weetwood.
The Gryphons came into this encounter off the back of a morale-boosting 16-12 victory over Nottingham. However, Durham were set to be tough opposition, having pushed Leeds Beckett very close last week.
The game did not get off to a great start for our boys in green, as a penalty try was conceded in the second minute. Shortly after the restart, Leeds had the chance to reduce the arrears with a penalty. However, the kick was at least 35 yards out, and although Ethan Allen had the distance, he was not quite accurate enough, as the ball drifted just wide of the right-hand upright.
Durham were proving stronger in the scrum and more dynamic with the ball early on. However, Leeds continued to fashion chances of their own. A bit of ill-discipline made Uni’s job that much harder though, as Alex Swan was sin-binned. Durham clinically capitalised, scoring a penalty to go ten points up. Another lineout won by lock Hamish Hughes then saw Leeds drive forward and secure the penalty. It was a case of déjà vu though, as the ball did not find the target.
Another sin-bin left Leeds in trouble, and although Swan had by now returned to the field, they were still a man light against a powerful Durham pack. The inevitable soon followed, as they muscled over the line despite valiant Leeds resistance, with the try being converted.
With the half-time score 17-0, Leeds knew that they would have to step it up in the second half, which they duly did. The Gryphons came roaring back after dogged work by the forwards saw hooker Rory Simpson touch down from a powerful driving maul in the 49th minute, with second-half substitute Jamie Guy slotting the kick home.
The game was a far more even affair, and at this point Leeds were arguably enjoying the lion’s share of territory. Simpson displayed his strength throughout the game, executing a crunching tackle on the hour mark and turning over Durham possession. Our pack, although smaller in weight, proved their dominance in the lineouts, launching Hughes high into the air and winning the majority of balls.
The recently-introduced Durham No.22 almost profited after a run down the wing and kick-chip, but his Leeds adversary was alert to the danger and smothered the ball. It wasn’t long after that however that Durham had re-established their 17-point advantage, barrelling over the line on the 68th minute.
To their immense credit, Leeds heads did not drop, and after being found in space following another brilliant driving maul, Hall dived over. Durham had the final say though, and a converted try meant that the final score was 31-14 to the side from the North East.
After the game, captain Luke Harris said that “Durham were a quality side, but our performance showed that we are a very tough team to beat and we should cause a few upsets this year.” The boys in green face a daunting task next week away at Loughborough, but if they can replicate their second-half display for 80 minutes, then they are in with a real shout.
Alex Bowmer and Milo Carlton
Featured image: Alex Bowmer