A LATE trio of tries saw Leeds University women’s Rugby Union team storm into the semi-finals of the BUCS Trophy, after overcoming a stubborn Edge Hill side 17-0.
It was a bright and sunny day as the Gryphons took to the field and the girls were happy to be back at fortress Weetwood after severe waterloggings last week had hampered a series of Gryphon Rugby fixtures. This was the first time the girls had played in a Cup quarter-final, and having enjoyed a 10-0 win over Nottingham in the last-16, the possibility of progressing even further was high.
Despite perfect pitch conditions, both sides struggled to find their rhythm and took time to settle into the game, with many knock-ons resulting in disjointed play. Edge Hill, lying only two places below Leeds in the Northern 1A league, looked the livelier side during the first quarter, although they were struggling against the Gryphons in the scrum with Dominique Nielsen, Victoria Carbutt and Amber Barnicoat all causing problems for the Edge Hill forwards.
With 20 minutes played, Leeds gradually began to gain more and more possession inside their opponent’s half and won a penalty on the half-way line, which Hannah Morton kicked into touch. Following a successful line-out, Bo Jackson spotted a gap in the Edge defence and made a promising run, but was forced to knock-on.
The Gryphons were dominant in the scrum and were confident in the line-out, consistently challenging their opponent’s throw-ins. In a game which was continuously stopped and started by the referee’s whistle, perhaps this is why the home side managed to have so much first-half possession, despite failing to get on the scoreboard. The closest they came to scoring was when Tilly Heggie ran over the try-line but was held up in a maul by some desperate Edge Hill defending.
The second-half saw the Gryphons continue on the front foot, dominating the possession, while runs from Nielsen and Jackson offered glimmers of hope that Leeds would score. After a brief bout of Edge Hill possession, the in-form Heggie produced a well-timed tackle to win back the ball.
With fifteen minutes to go, Morton changed the direction of play, booting the ball cross-field into the corner, which was picked up cleverly by captain Nicky Dobra before forming a maul. Several phases later, Rosie Blount ran over the line but was unable to ground the ball, held up by the Edge Hill defence in a maul yet again, but the Gryphons were getting ever closer.
The five-metre out scrum which ensued, however, was worked well and the ball was fed across to Jackson who charged over the line to the cheers of pitch-side fans. Although Morton couldn’t convert, the Gryphons had finally broken the away side.
A tame response from the Lancashire side ensued from the restart, before Leeds gained back possession, with a quick delivery from scrum-half Ruth Flory setting Blount off down the middle of the park to go over for Leeds’ second under the posts, this time converted.
At 12-0, a Gryphon win looked all but secured, but Leeds were still gunning for more. With Edge Hill’s defence well and truly fatigued, Carbutt exploited a gap in the Edge defensive line in the middle of the pitch and darted her way through, running around 30 metres towards the right-hand flank whilst shaking off a number of challenges to wheel in under the posts. Morton was an inch from converting – hitting the right-hand post as the final whistle blew.
Having lost to Edge Hill in the league only two weeks ago, this was a win that will be truly savoured by the Gryphon girls, who showed grit and mental strength to patiently overcome a tricky side and to prolong their fantastic and historic cup-run.
Featured image: The Gryphon