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The rugby union proved frustrating for Lancaster as York dominated, with only the women’s team gaining a creditable draw.
Lancaster men’s firsts took York all the way in an entertaining game, but could not avoid slipping to a 19-17 defeat. This despite a bright start which saw Lancaster take a 3-0 lead after Tony Coulson kicked a tricky penalty. The home side were also looking dangerous in open play, on seven minutes a powerful burst from Warren Wharton gained 30 yards before he was finally upended. Almost straight from the restart Spencer Brennand made a burst for the York line as Lancaster continued to dominate.
York’s first meaningful attack owed much to the windy conditions; with a Lancaster kick not reaching half-way, York besieged the try line with multiple phases being repelled just a few metres short. A huge tackle from Tim Holloway put Lancaster on the break and forced York back onto their ten metre line, where they conceded a scrum. Lancaster could not convert this into further points as York’s defence held firm.
With points at a premium, the positive decision from York’ fly-half to kick for touch when presented with a penalty 30 metres out was to pay dividends. From the resulting lineout, they were able to maintain possession and notch the game’s first try. It should have been a seven point score, but Coulson dragged his conversion to the left and Lancaster trailed 5-3.
Lancaster stood firm after the try and hit back on 23 minutes as Coulson kicked a penalty after York had been caught offside. Both sides were threatening to score each time they attacked and superb handling from Holloway allowed him to ground the ball as a grubber from York snuck over Lancaster try line.
York continued to play positive rugby and kicked a 30 metre penalty to within yards of the try line to put Lancaster under huge pressure. Fortunately Lancaster were able to steal the ball and gain territory. This reprieve would not last long however, as a powerful York scrum provided a platform for a break down the right-wing, earning York seven points and a 12-6 lead. They would hold this lead until half-time, although both sides had chances to score. York’s Grant missed a penalty right on 40 minutes and before that Coulson fell short with an effort from all of 40 metres. However, with the York defence static Nick Thompson pounced on the bouncing ball and almost scored a cheeky try for Lancaster.
Lancaster could not be too disappointed with their first half performance and were in touch despite trailing 12-6. The second period saw both teams squander try scoring opportunities early on. Lancaster were guilty of knocking-on after a slick lineout and York did the same just ten metres from the try line. Errors crept in to the game as 50 minutes passed, with Lancaster in particular giving away a penalty for not releasing the ball and then failing to deliver a straight ball in the lineout.
Just as the pace began to slow, a superb ten pass move let Terence McCaw crash over the York line in the corner to send the crowd wild and bring Lancaster to within a point, with the conversion to come. Unfortunately Coulson could not add the two points and Lancaster trailed 11-12 with 20 minutes left.
This scare seemed to galvanise York as they pressurised Lancaster territory for five minutes with their best spell of the match. Indeed they would have broken through immediately had Gabriel not inexplicably dropped the ball as he crossed the try line. York’s possession was to tell though, as they bundled the ball over from a scrum to extend their lead to 19-11.
With nine minutes to go, a huge effort was required by Lancaster to get themselves back into the match. By maintaining possession for long periods, they forced York into giving away two penalties, both of which Coulson converted confidently to make it 17-19. Despite a final push it was not to be as York held on, kicking the ball into touch with 80 minutes gone to claim a narrow victory.
After the game Lancaster’s captain Dave Wrightson was full of praise for the “excellent effort we put in”. He was particularly pleased with his sides comeback to lose by just two points, “to come back from 12-6 down at half-time and 19-11 (with 15 minutes left) was a great effort and I can’t fault the team for that”. He went on to confidently predict a victory next year, “as long as we can iron a few things out”. In what was the final game for many thrid year students, Wrightson highlighted the importance of their “experience and leadership”. He thanked Thompson, Taylor, Reid, Lambert and Brenand for their hard work over three years.
The women’s game saw solid defending from both sides but the evenly matched game was abandoned at 5-5 due to a serious neck injury.
Lancaster opened up the scoring early in the game, a loose ball was intercepted and Lancaster were on the break, leaving the York team trailing behind, turning into a sprint towards the try line. The follow up conversion struck the bar leaving the home side 5-0 up. York instantly responded to the early set back nearly grabbing a try of their own but last ditch tackling from Lancaster prevented York cancelling out Lancaster’s early advantage.
Lancaster adopted the short line out approach due to the windy conditions, a tactic which caught the York team off guard. The game died down in the middle of the first half, with neither team holding on to possession with the play stuck in the middle part of the pitch, with both teams guilty of mishandling the ball to gift possession to the other team. Five minutes from the end of the first half, York had two great chances to level the score but they were held back by great defending from the home side. However on the third attempt York finally managed to break the Lancaster’s defence, running through a gap to score an easy try. The subsequent conversion went wide of the target to level the score at 5-5 going into half time.
The beginning of the second half nearly saw a repeat of the first, with Lancaster running through the heart of the York team and it was another case of a sprint finish towards the York line; however Lancaster didn’t have the pace this time and York were able to prevent Lancaster from sprinting away and take the lead for the second time in the game.
The game was abandoned as a draw after 60 minutes due to a serious neck injury to a York player. St Johns Ambulance was on hand to provide medical care whilst the ambulance and helicopter arrived. The Men’s firsts rugby game had to be delayed to allow the ambulance to access the stricken player.
The Men’s seconds was a one sided affair. It was York who emerged victorious after scoring 43 unanswered points. Their superior movement and offloading in the tackle made Lancaster toil for 80 minutes.
The game opened with York on the offensive from the off, a flowing move had them in the Lancaster 22 before the referee called a forward pass to prevent the first score of the match. This would become the pattern of the first half, with Lancaster struggling to put any meaningful pressure on York’s try-line. The York lineout was also functioning effectively and they kicked two penalties into touch deep into Lancaster’s half to give themselves great scoring chances. The pressure told on nine minutes when a York switched play from the left and a well placed kick over the top was fumbled straight into the hands of the onrushing winger for the opening try which was well converted (0-7).
Lancaster looked determined from the restart but inexplicably gave the ball away on the right wing and York broke with ease to put themselves 12-0 ahead. Finally Lancaster came into the game, with Matt Beard driving through the mid-field and gaining ground on a number of occasions. The period of Lancaster pressure ended with York turning over possession, a feature of the game. All the good work in the middle period of the half was wasted after poor tackling allowed York to walk through the defence and make their lead 19-0 with five minutes of the half to go. It could have been worse but for some heroic tackling from Nick Halstead as York broke with the last play of the first half.
Going into half-time 19-0 the Lancaster had much work to do against a side who were moving the ball better and breaking effectively. However, within two minutes of the restart a Lancaster attack broke down and York broke to make the lead 26-0. The situation was not improved when Neil Chitty had to be replaced through injury after bravely battling on for 48 minutes.
Lancaster’s forward line was severely weakened and York were able to take advantage with powerful ruck and maul tactics giving them a fifth try. Mistakes were creeping into the Lancaster game, with several lineouts stolen and Williamson struggling to gain territory with his kicks. In contrast York came on strong, drawing Lancaster into tackles before superb handling allowed them to break and add a converted try to their points haul.
Into the last ten minutes and Lancaster looked resigned to a heavy defeat, their mood not helped when York strung together multiple phases of attack to give them a 43-0 lead. Despite the heavy defeat, there are positives to be taken from the game. Although his kicking game was affected by the tricky conditions, Williamson was heavily involved in Lancaster’s attacking phases. Halstead also put in a good performance, tackling like a man possessed to prevent York breaking the 50 point barrier.
By Matt Todd and Andrew Maggs