On Wednesday evening, Headingley Stadium saw the climax of Varsity 2016, a Rugby Union match between the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett. Who would be bragging the win at the end of the night?
Beckett kicked off the game, but a shaky start from Leeds led to Beckett receiving a penalty in Leeds territory early on. However, the overconfident Beckett side decided to kick for touch instead of taking the easy three points. The Leeds defence was resolute however, denying Beckett any chance of crossing the line. Unfortunately, another penalty to Leeds resulted in Beckett’s early mistake of not taking the three being nullified. This time Beckett chose the smarter option for their first points of the game, perhaps sensing the resilience of the Gryphons defence.
Leeds put plenty of pressure on Beckett with their first kick-off of the game. Beckett was lucky not to receive a yellow card for a deliberate knock with the referee, instead he just awarded a penalty. Now it was Leeds’ turn to show their intent, choosing to kick for touch instead of kicking at goal. Mirroring Beckett’s earlier fortunes, Leeds failed to find line, but found themselves with another kickable penalty. However, nerves got to the kicker and he missed the chance for Leeds to level the scoreboard.
For the next 10 minutes Beckett had more possession and territory, however Leeds’ defence let nothing through. Beckett again chose to kick for touch instead of kicking for goal, feeling that momentum was now on their side. Once again Leeds shut the door, winning a penalty for Beckett not releasing the ball. Beckett continued to threaten, but Leeds were solid in defence. Alongside missing few tackles, a try saving interception by number 13, Will Byron, and a try saving tackle minutes later denied Beckett any points.
The defensive efforts of the team were finally rewarded when a mistake by Beckett led to winger Harry Jukes scooping up the ball and running three quarters of the field to touch down for the first try of the game, putting Leeds in the lead. A successful conversion followed, putting Leeds 7-3 in front and turning the tide of the game completely, with Leeds looking much more dangerous in attack going into the second half.
Leeds started the second half like they ended the first, showing far more attacking determination. This pressure resulted in a second deliberate knock on from Beckett, although the referee gave a final warning instead of a card. With momentum firmly on their side, the Gryphons went for the corner, but failed to convert. Minutes later a scuffle broke out on the Beckett touch line which resulted in each team being reduced to 14 men for the next ten minutes, although this did little to impact the game.
Only through penalties did Beckett manage to go in front, making the score 7-9 with two successful kicks, along with a failed 40m attempt. This mattered little as minutes later Byron went over in the corner to pull us ahead. Luke White’s successful conversion from the side line following this try was equally as impressive.
Beckett were crumbling under pressure knowing that they needed a converted try, something which had eluded them the entire game, but the stout Leeds defence refused to let that happen. From here on, Beckett never truly threatened Leeds and two more penalty kicks from White put the game to bed at 20-9. Even a few pitch invaders before the game finished could not ruin the celebrations of the Leeds fans, which was in stark contrast to the dejected Beckett supporters who emptied the stadium as soon as the final whistle had been blown.
James Felton and Ryan Wan
Photo Credit: The Independent