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Words by Zack Foulds

 

With an earlier kick-off time than the Rugby team had been used to in previous years it didn’t take long for the most physical match-up of the day to get underway and treat the Essex support to a first win over UEA for many years. Some readers may recall how the 1st XV threw away a commanding lead at half-time to end up losing by one point and it was clear to see from the outset that both teams were incredibly fired up for this game and that Essex were prepared to battle hard to prevent any sort of repeat.

The conditions for the game were not particularly conducive to the fast-flowing attacking style of rugby that Essex has become accustomed to this year and so with that in mind the forwards set out their stall for the long hard slog to come. The two teams were relatively evenly matched on paper, with UEA being one league above but Essex being undefeated in their respective league this season.

The game was a feisty affair from the start with the opening phases of the game seeing UEA hold the upper hand following some powerful running from their sizable centre partnership. The first score of the game came against the run of play with Dan Dimoline breaking through the UEA defences to sprint home from fully 70 metres out. The tackling had been strong up to that point so it was a welcome gift to Essex at a time when the first score could easily have gone the other way.Essexbarely had time to celebrate before they found themselves under their own posts following some sloppy play from the restart. Failing to secure ball from the kick, Essex were punished with the UEA scrumhalf putting through a well placed kick, aided with a somewhat fortuitous bounce, falling into the attackers hand for them to score under the posts making the score 5-7 to UEA after 20 minutes of play. Play remained tight for the remainder of the half with the only other score coming from the boot of Rob Baynes, although to the delight of the crowd Tom Wheatley did at least try to start a fight every time a UEA player stood within 5m of him!

With the score at 8-7 to Essex and with everything to play forEssexhad the elements at their back as well as their slender lead; well for all of 2 minutes anyway. The wind that was behind them had reversed and was now blowing torrential hail into the faces of theEssexteam. Nevertheless Essex managed to get points on the board almost straight from the restart as they were awarded a penalty that Baynes duly slotted to take the score to 11-7. Another penalty stretched Essex’s lead to 14-7 but it wasEssex’s second try with just over 10 minutes to go which really struck a blow to the hopes of UEA. Great work from the front row of Barr, Lei and DMJ led to Essex winning a scrum against the head deep inside the opposition 22. Quick work from D. Whiteman at no.8 (on as a replacement for J. Bocking) saw him outpace the blindside defence to score out wide taking the game seemingly out of the grasp of UEA, with the score at 19-7. A last minute try from the UEA open-side was nothing more than consolation asEssexsecured a memorable 19-14 win, which was celebrated in typical style as the evening wore on.

A special mention must go to JC Sagoe who was Essex’s MoM. His tireless work in defence as well as repeatedly giving his side forward momentum in attack was crucial in the victory and in placating the main threat of UEA, which was undoubtedly their bigger, more experienced centre partnership.

1st team captain Oliver White had this to see on his team’s victory: “I felt a large amount of responsibility and pressure during derby day in this, my final year and as 1st team captain. Having won not only the rugger but the whole day meant we celebrated in a big way, Nails, well done us.”

“Winning the league outright and beating our rivals is the best way to finish off my fifth and final season of being part of UERFC.” – James Barr,Rugby club president.

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Words by Joshua Tait

 

With this year’s Derby Day theme of Spartans Vs Athenians heavily promoted all over the University of Essex campus, it seemed inevitable that both Derby Day’s hosts and UEA would be out for blood, particularly after Essex’s men’s football firsts were handed a comprehensive defeat in last years encounter at the University of East Anglia.

 

Although Derby Day had already been decided in Essex’s favour by the time of the match’s 7.15pm kick off, there was still much to play for, a point proved by a tempestuous opening that saw UEA giving away two free kicks in the early minutes. Essex found it difficult to control the opening exchanges, and at times found themselves penned into their own half by an aggressive UEA side. Despite some resolute defending, the Blades found themselves on the back foot for most of the first half hour, and struggled to contain a rampant UEA midfield, with the pace of their rangy number 11 causing problems up front. Although the visitors were able to enjoy clear dominance, they created few clear cut chances, and Sam Little in the Essex goal had only routine saves to make in the early stages. It took a moment of magic on the half hour mark to break the deadlock, UEA’s busy number 11 winning the ball on the left wing and scoring with a superb curled finish from thirty yards out. Following the opener, the away side took their foot off the gas and allowed the hosts back into the match, Essex enjoying their strongest spell so far and threatening through a dangerous floated ball in from the left hand side shortly before half time. The opening goal had hardly come as a surprise, but Essex would no doubt have been disappointed to go in behind at the interval after a solid defensive showing.

 

The opening moments of the second half saw a second UEA goal rightly ruled out for offside after a corner was sloppily defended, although this certainly did not set the tone for the following 45 minutes. UEA looked happy to sit on their lead, allowing Essex to dictate the tempo of the game and though the Blades struggled to create clear cut chances Essex’s midfield were beginning to control the match. It was certainly not against the run of play when the hosts equalised through a Shaun Brown header, the second half substitute rising high to open their derby day account fifteen minutes into the second half. The Blades were hardly done celebrating when, almost directly from kick off they found themselves in front, Tom Green converting after a blunder from the UEA goalkeeper left him with the goal at his mercy. It was backs to the wall stuff for Essex for the remainder of the second half, and despite keeping UEA at bay they began looking increasingly tired as the game edged towards its conclusion. Just when it was beginning to seem as though they had done enough to see of the visitors, UEA pounced, scoring the equalising goal with a low finish on the right hand side of the penalty area, with just five minutes left to play. It was a blow for a Blades side that had generally kept UEA at arms length despite struggling to create any clear cut chances of their own. With the tie seemingly heading for a 2-2 stalemate, it came as something of a surprise to even the most ardent of Essex’s supporters to see the hosts bursting forward in search of a dramatic winner with minutes remaining. UEA once again looked sloppy following kick off and were punished minutes later when Mark Maher pounced, converting from close range following a flick on from the substitute Shaun Brown, who had once again looked threatening in the opposition penalty area. There was pandemonium throughout the sizeable home crowd, Essex having killed off a match that had at times looked out of their reach. Two minutes remained, but there was a growing sense of inevitability about the result, albeit one that did nothing to quell the rapturous celebrations at the final whistle. Despite their dearth of chances Essex had been clinical in front of goal throughout, punishing a UEA side that switched off too often at key moments of the game. Derby day may have already been decided, but Wednesday evening’s triumph seems sure be remembered as a famous victory for the Essex firsts.