Yesterday saw our men’s rugby union 2s grab themselves another fantastic result in the BUCS Nothern Conference Plate competition, earning their spot in the quarter finals.
Max Clements brings us the match report.
MMU 2s v. UCLAN 2s (38-17)
The challenge? To remain undefeated and advance to the quarter finals of the cup. What stood in our way? An equally energetic and ambitious UCLAN, however what they lacked, when compared to our boys, was the determination and discipline to play 80 minutes of solid rugby, resulting in another well fought victory.
Prior to this incredible game I was able to attend two training sessions earlier in the week in order to mainly observe how the team play and get themselves prepared for a game. Throughout the training it was abundantly clear that this is a team that plays with structure and coordination, running through plays and communicating on a professional level. It is great to see a team that gel so well, having only played five games together, so even prior to game day itself, I had great expectations and boy was I not half right!
As with every game day, the atmosphere was very positive and a sense of real enjoyment filled the air and we hadn’t even got on the coach yet. We arrived at the club, the lads got changed and began to prepare almost instantaneously. The build-up play was looking slick and coordinated with Elliot Rowe taking command of the team and filling in for Dan Gibbon as captain as he is currently out with a minor injury. To lose a team captain can sometimes create unease within a team but Elliot possesses the characteristics necessary to fill Dan’s boots and carry the team to victory. With the pre-match warm-up complete, the referee blew his whistle, signalling kick-off.
The first 3 points were awarded to MMU, unsurprisingly, as a result of UCLAN going offside. With that in mind, the decision was made for the team’s kicker, Jimmy Creighton to send the ball home and draw first blood to MMU. 3-0.
Almost straight away, after UCLAN kicked off, the ball was caught and some great phases were carried out by MMU. More notably, the resilience of Ali Lang shined through as he stretched out beautifully and caught the ball. This led to another great phase of play between him and Lewis Stockman, leading Lewis to take the ball across the line for MMU’s first try. The try was then converted by Jimmy Creighton to make the score stand at 10-0. As with just about every game MMU have played so far, it seems they have settled in rather quickly and now it was a case of keeping up this level of momentum and hammering it home for victory.
So not even 10 minutes into the game and MMU are 10 points ahead. UCLAN managed to retrieve the ball from kick-off and maintain possession for a few minutes, pepper potting forwards with good structure, however they could not break the defence at the try line. It was like they were running into a brick wall. The result from all of this hard-fought effort by UCLAN resulted in a scrum to MMU, which came about from a knock-on by UCLAN. As there was a fair way to go on the pitch, the captain Elliot Rowe used his authority on the pitch and sent the ball far and into touch, resulting in a line-out on the halfway line. Shortly after the line-out MMU knocked on and gave away a scrum. Did this matter?? Goodness no. The lads won the scrum but unfortunately were not able to keep the ball. The first scrum by the opposition was won by our boys. An instant boost to confidence for our forwards who were playing with sheer strength and aggression.
Once UCLAN gained control of the ball they kicked it into touch, towards the try line for a line-out. The line-out was won by MMU, once again showing dominance on the field. A quick phase of play and the result was a knock-on by UCLAN, resulting in a scrum on MMU’s behalf. The scrum was won and the captain once again, in a split second, analysed the field of play and kicked it into touch, rightly so. For the next few minutes there was a series of knock-ons and line-outs on UCLAN’s behalf until one of our players was caught offside. UCLAN took a line-out which wasn’t at all straight and MMU took to the scrum. The scrum was won but the ball slipped our grasp and another scrum came about UCLAN’s way however, shortly afterwards we were caught offside and it was within reach of their kicker who managed to get UCLAN onto the score sheet to make it 10-3.
The one thing MMU could not do was allow that to deter them and it didn’t. Right from the kick-off MMU defensively forced the ball out and the line-out went UCLAN’s way. The line-out wasn’t straight and MMU once again initiated a scrum. The scrum was won with ease and the ball came out and was offloaded to Jimmy Creighton who was able to power through the opposition and drive the ball home to make it 15-3. He was also able to convert the try, making the score line 17-3, 12 of the points belonging to Jimmy who is having a sensational game, much like every other MMU player.
So as half-time inevitably draws nearer, UCLAN kick it off once more and it was brought down into the hands of Ali Lang who made a blistering run through the opposition. He was eventually brought down and after a great phase of play by MMU, Johnny Xanh ploughed on through and gave MMU another 5 points, making the score 22-3. Due to distance and angle, the conversion was unable to be made but that was not going to bring anybody down.
Shortly after kick-off by UCLAN, MMU were awarded a scrum and due to the energy and intensity on the pitch, there was a minor scuffle, resulting in a yellow and a red card to MMU and two yellow cards to UCLAN right on half-time. All in all, a sensational first half display by MMU and based on previous performances, one would easily assume that they were as full of energy as they were before kick-off.
During the half-time period the team gather in a huddle and listen in on to what the captain has to say, no doubt emphasising the need to not lose any more players and continue to keep wearing the opposition down and running these great phases of play.
UCLAN begin by kicking off the second half. The ball is caught by Ali Lang who sees a gap in the opposition and makes a terrific break for it. I can overhear spectators acknowledging his efforts on the field, certainly a contender for man of the match with his great runs and fearless attitude. Shortly afterwards though, UCLAN are awarded a scrum and MMU were able to gain possession with Lewis Stockman making a break for it and kicking the ball forward. Unfortunately a member of the opposition team attempted to take down Lewis despite not being in possession of the ball and the frustration led to two yellow cards being awarded both ways. Despite the heightened tension on the field, MMU were able to continue running through some terrific plays. Together, Prentice W-Weir, Toby Russell-Vick and Ryan Frankland-Martin carried out an excellent run and the ball was kicked into touch, giving MMU the upper hand. The continuation of great play from MMU saw Sam Harper play some terrific rugby, kicking the ball through and chasing it down at the speed of a thousand gazelle’s. A scrum was awarded to UCLAN and their efforts were squandered, resulting in some great team work being displayed by Reuben Mitchell and Sam Bennett, driving forward, however on this occasion, possession could not be kept and UCLAN were awarded another scrum.
Not long after all this great action from MMU, a phase of play, going from left to right and left again saw Reuben Mitchell smash through the opposition to sink it home for another try making the score 27-3. Due to the weather being against us in the second half, the conversion was incomplete. Despite a towering effort by Jimmy Creighton, he fell inches short of gaining another 2 points. Again, the team was not to be down-trodden and it was straight back into it.
The ball was kicked into touch with UCLAN taking the line-out but MMU, once again, winning the ball and, as if it was meant to be, Toby Russell-Vick with his skill and foresight, saw a gap and took advantage, taking the score to 32-3. Again, the wind was against Jimmy Creighton so the score remained as it was.
Kick-off UCLAN and they were able to retrieve the ball, showing that they were indeed not giving up so easily, keeping the game very much alive, however you cannot write off the defensive abilities of MMU. As it seemed as UCLAN were about to score, like a brick wall, MMU stood and for quite a significant amount of time it seemed there was no way they would get past, but UCLAN’s determination paid off and they got their first try of the match around the 62 minute mark. A successful conversion attempt meant the score sat at 32-10.
Substitute time. MMU took off Jamie Slator, Oscar Rigby and Phil Imrie. All of which had put in a capital performance and deserved the ovation they received. Replacing them was John Scott, Phil Russell and Stephen bird whose energy added to the team’s already lively performance. The evidence of this came shortly afterwards with Toby Russell-Vick scoring his second try of the match and his fifth in 2 matches. Toby showcased his skill in the game, dummying the ball twice to deceive the opposition and create a gap. His reward, TRY. An incomplete conversion meant the score sat at 37-10.
One more substitution was made with Ben Burns replacing Ryan Frankland-Martin who had put up a great fight throughout the match. Ben made an instant impact with a great tackle on the opposition, forcing a scrum too MMU. With full-time drawing ever closer MMU were able to push forward one last time with some great dummy work from Sam Bennett.
The ball became UCLAN’s once more and they were able to create some movement and got their second try of the match. Coupled with a successful conversion, the final score sat at 37-17. UCLAN provided tough opposition but on the day it came down to the skill, teamwork and determination of MMU who deserved the victory and to advance to the quarter finals.
Photographs by James Brewerton. To see more, visit James’ FlickR page.