Avid rugby fan and team player James Chittick writes a match report on UoP's ecstatic victory against Marjon in Men's Rugby 1's.
University of Plymouth RFC 20-6 University of St Mark & St John
Tries: Angus Hayward
Penalties: Jon Hill x5
UPRFC 1st XV:
1. Arron Chiplin
2. Fred Dalton (C)
3. Shaun Leader
4. Ally Short
5. Shek Sheriff
6. John Kelly
7. Jack Mason
8. Ben Golds
9. Jon Hill
10. Daniel Allan
11. Jordan Huie
12. Dan West
13. Angus Hayward
14. Michael Johnson
15. Garin Price
16. Dan Shortland
20. Jack Birks
17. James Lautch
21. Toby Williams
18. James McQuillan
22. Tom Neame
19. Jordan Gray
23. Alex Mawdsley
It was a varsity day to remember for UPRFC, with both men’s teams recording memorable victories over their Marjon rivals, securing bragging rights over the city for the year to come. Coming off the back of a resounding 22-7 league victory over high flying Gloucestershire, the Uni 1st XV would have been full of confidence leading up to Varsity, particularly having witnessed the 2nd XV putting away their opposition in some style to win 41-8 earlier that day. However, Marjon have always been known to rise to the occasion come V-day, having edged the previous two Varsity fixtures by the finest of margins. Although Uni entered the game as slight favourites, a passionate and physical Marjon outfit certainly didn’t let them have it all their own way, and after a nervy opening quarter there was little to choose between the two sides.
With both sides giving away several penalties from kickable positions, it was Marjon who moved out into a slender 6-3 lead, with the boot of scrum-half and varsity veteran Jon Hill gaining Uni their only points early on. As the Half went on, however, Marjon’s discipline began to cost them, and with Hill’s goal kicking as reliable as ever it was Uni who began to take hold of the game, going into the half-time break leading 12-6. It could very easily have been more though, with inside centre Dan West slicing through Marjon’s midfield to finish off a well worked move under the sticks, only to have play called back for a forward pass.
Despite this, the Uni side would have been reasonably happy to enter the changing rooms in front at half time, having weathered the initial exchanges and slowly begun to take a grip on the game. The second half started in a similar fashion to the first; with both sides throwing everything at each other, neither defence would budge, and the intensity of the encounter seemed to increase once again. It was Uni however who drew first blood after the break, Jon Hill again converting a penalty off the tee to extend his side’s lead to 15-6, and with that score the momentum began to swing towards the men in black and gold.
With Marjon forced to chase the game somewhat to try and overturn a two-score deficit, now was the perfect time for Plymouth to utilise their strong replacements bench. With fresh legs on the field and running against what was an aggressive but now tiring Marjon defence, it wasn’t long before Uni managed the breakthrough they had been pushing for. After some sustained pressure deep into opposition territory, the ball was worked out to the left-hand side and Marjon eventually ran out of defenders, allowing Angus Hayward to cross the whitewash in the corner and score what was to be the winning try.
Despite missing the conversion from a tight angle, this now gave Uni a solid 20-6 lead, and with no more than ten minutes of play remaining there were few who would have believed a Marjon comeback was achievable at this stage. Those were to be the final points of the game, with Uni closing out the match in a controlled manner until the final whistle.
It wasn’t the prettiest of games from a neutral standpoint, but with both teams giving absolutely everything from start to finish you certainly couldn’t have questioned the desire of either set of players. As is always the case with Varsity, the result is all that matters at the final whistle, but although Uni eventually emerged as convincing winners, credit must be given to a Marjon side who battled ferociously to the end and helped create another gripping contest between the two fierce rivals.
After the game, I spoke with UPRFC Social Sec, Daniel Allan, who was starting at Fly-half in his first 1st XV Varsity for the club:
DA: “I'd be lying if I said there weren't any nerves flying around before the game, but once you get past that first hit or a few kicks you don't really notice the crowd. It was just a bit of nightmare trying to hear each other over the noise!
“[Winning Varsity was] Unbelievable, the squad has put in a huge amount of work and made a lot of sacrifices leading up to this game and we feel as though we got the result that we deserved.”
Finally, a statement from outgoing Chairman Jack Mason, who reflected on his team’s victory to cap off a fantastic year for everyone involved with UPRFC:
JM: “It's been a really exciting season gaining a number of new players and seeing a lot of boys develop into competent players. Having lost the 1st XV varsity for the last two years, the build-up was very tense as we felt we had a big point to make in order to bring the varsity cup home. The first half of the match was very slow and we put a lot of pressure on Marjon which they absorbed without giving us much. However early on the second half we got the all-important try which possibly won us the game. The determination of the boys to then spend the remaining time on our line but not let Marjon through our defence was immense. It was an unforgettable night for the boys playing, the club and all the supporters. On behalf of the club, I would like to thank all of the supporters for coming, Plymouth Albion and the organisers of a brilliant event.”