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The University of Essex Rugby Club is topping the University form table with their first team and an improving second team. With half of the season complete and in the record books the firsts are desperate to achieve both an undefeated league championship and cup run to add. The New Year beckons with a difficult opening fixture against UCL 1st XI in the cup, an unbeaten counterpart a league above, however the Essex outfit remain upbeat about their chances. They welcome all-comers to Rugby Pitch 1 and fancy themselves against most teams in the BUCS Eastern Conference. The fixtures though begin with a third match up with the UCL second team, both times the Essex team proved to be superior in each area of the game. The league boasts one opponent who has the potential to be a banana skin for the Essex outfit; Universities at Medway firsts are unbeaten also, apart from their loss to the Essex side. The two form teams will meet in what will inevitably be the league decider in just the second week of this term. With home advantage the Medway side could prove to be more than a formidable opponent. If Essex go on to win this matchup it is more than likely that an unbeaten league campaign will be achieved.

The second team also has shown promising signs, with a difficult beginning with a team getting to know each other and learning week by week, they are surprising their opponents with performances that are both impressive and exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they were ousted in the cup by a team 2 leagues above but they still remain confident in securing a place in their league with the intention of gaining promotion following year. The second team are lying in a place in the league unrepresentative of their ability, suffering from the inevitable issues facing a team made up of predominantly first years. With the rapid rise in team chemistry and bonding the side really started to gel after a few weeks and are now a force to be reckoned with in their respective league.

The first team will be rebuffed by returning players of yesteryear who have been studying abroad and also with players returning from injuries that kept them out for the majority of the first term, these returning players should bring about new levels of competition for places and make the players work harder to impress. Not only this, there is a hunger to succeed, the mantle of being an unbeaten team come the end of the second term is one huge motivation. This includes success at the ever closer Derby Day in which the team is desperate to make up for their close and undeserved defeat on UEA grounds last year.

The first fixtures back has seen both teams continue to display their improvements with the 1st team overcoming a familiar opponent in UCL in a 46-22 victory and the 2nd team were beaten by two late break away tries against the side that only in October gave the Essex outfit a thrashing in their first fixture of 47-5 to a more respectable 22-29 defeat. These results show that the 2nd team has progressed leaps and bounds and the 1sts are still undefeated and showing no sign of stopping. Now the Christmas cobwebs have been dusted off we can all expect more of the same from the Essex Rugby Club this term.

 

Words by David Morgan Jones

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On a warm, still day on the Essex University pitches Essex Mens 1st XV welcomed Medway University for the second BUCS league fixture of the season looking to build on their promising win the previous week.  With a slightly depleted team Essex were looking toward some untried Freshers to really step forward and make a claim for cementing a regular first team place in front of new coach Nick Lloyd. After last weeks big win against UCL 2nd XV Essex knew that they would be provided with a sterner challenge from Medway who had come off the back of a win themselves the previous week.

Essex won the toss and chose to kick to the opposition and with some excellent forward play soon had the ball back in their hands. As would prove to be a common theme throughout the game the Essex forwards bullied their way deep into the opposition 22 and were rewarded when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts for hands in the ruck from the Medway flanker, Jack Marlow duly converted the penalty to give Essex a 3-0 lead within the opening two minutes. No sooner had the game restarted than Medway were to find themselves under their own posts yet again. The Essex pack were really imposing themselves on this game in its early phases and utilised their superior size to the full when driving over flanker Joss Nunn to score the first try of the game, the try was converted by Jack Marlow. The early signs were encouraging for Essex and the game continued in this very one-sided vein for the opening 20 minutes with Essex adding one more score in this period. A simple yet effective backs move with the Essex backline moving the ball swiftly through the hands to the winger Nick York who outpaced his opposite winger on the outside to score in the corner, 15-0 to Essex. This try was a prime example of the forwards dominance creating space for Essex’s ever dangerous back line and was a perfect example of Rugby being made to look simple through perfect execution.  Essex scored once more before half-time, debutant Ashley Clarke-Walkin sprinting in from fully 60 metres after the backline again created an overlap, the try was converted meaning that Essex headed into the break in a comfortable position, leading 22-0.

 

With a solid lead going into the second half the game plan for Essex would have been to build on the foundations that they had laid and continue to assert their dominance over the opposition in the forwards, unfortunately that was not to be. Whether Essex came out expecting the victory was unclear however Medway suddenly seemed to pose a much bigger threat than they had for the duration of the first half. Despite Medway having their inside centre sin-binned for hands in the ruck early on, they were still first to put points on the board, springing on some loose handling by Essex in their own 22 to score in the left-hand corner. What happened next is a rarity in rugby as Essex were shown two yellow cards within the space of 2 minutes, the first of which was a somewhat contentious decision to say the least. With Essex down to 13 men the team showed a brave and resilient streak that will bode them well going towards future games. Essex didn’t concede a point during this 8 minute period with 13 men and in doing so managed to secure that Medway had too much to do going into the final 10 minutes 17 points behind. Medway did manage to get a consolation score meaning the final result was Essex 22- 12 Medway.

The acting captain for the day Adam Atkins had this to say after the game:

“We got off to a great start today and although I’m disappointed with how we played in the second half the boys still showed passion to keep out Medway when we were down to 13 players. If we combine that passion with the attacking rugby we know we’re capable of it should be a good season.”