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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.

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.”