Headingley Showdown sees Beckett re-gain Varsity title

Leeds Varsity 2019 was brought to a close with the traditional Rugby Union finale at Emerald Headingley Stadium. With the overall scores being well in Beckett’s favour, and the preceding Women’s Rugby Union match having been an absolute thriller in which Leeds University came out on top, the Varsity finale was a chance for the Gryphons to end the annual festival on a high.

However, in just the ninth minute of the first half, Beckett showed their class. After pinning Leeds well inside their own 22 through successive scrum and penalty wins, Beckett’s backline clicked into gear, moving the ball wide to full-back Max Coyle who dotted down in the corner.

Clare Redman/The Gryphon

Leeds University’s best attacking opportunities throughout the first half were sadly squandered through handling errors when attempting to exploit holes in the Beckett defence, as the Gryphons’ forwards struggled against the Beckett pack. Numerous lost lineouts cost Leeds University field position as Beckett held onto a 5-3 lead going into half-time, with the Gryphons’ only points coming through a penalty by captain Luke White.

If the first half started badly for Leeds University, the start to the second was disastrous. Beckett raced out of the blocks like a side possessed, and a fluid backline move saw full-back Coyle score his second under the posts. A successful conversion saw Beckett extend their lead beyond a converted try, with Leeds University’s replies coming through two penalties from White, the second of which was so long-range it seemed to come from the back of the Headingley North Stand.

Clare Redman/The Gryphon

The attacking opportunities that Leeds University created were again victim to loose balls and Beckett’s superiority at set-pieces, as the Gryphons’ struggled to carve out chances that really troubled Beckett throughout the second half.

Towards the back end of the second half, pressure again began to mount against Leeds University. After a penalty from replacement scrum-half Connor Lloyd, Beckett’s right-winger sliced through for a fantastic try under the sticks. However, he had benefitted from an obstruction in back play and thus the try was ruled out, but this was only a temporary reprieve.

Within a minute Beckett seemingly camped on the Leeds University line, moved the ball through the hands again, replacement Chad Dixon throwing a great dummy to slice through and score.

Lloyd converted this try and a penalty minutes later to extend Beckett’s lead to an unassailable 25-9 and put the result beyond doubt. This clearly frustrated the Gryphons, shown by a small fracas breaking out towards the latter stages of the second half. No punches were thrown, nor cards shown, and Leeds University soon regained their composure to score a consolation try through hooker Tom Guthrie, well after the 80-minute mark had passed. Replacement full-back Iwan MacRae converted the try to bring the score back to a respectable 25-16, albeit still in Beckett’s favour.

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Following their victory in a very tough game, Beckett iced the cake of their 2019 Varsity victory. Although both sets of players will be sore for days following what was at times a brutal game, Beckett’s will be feeling better knowing that they secured the victory that took the Varsity title.

Images by Clare Redman.