Lancaster Men’s Firsts Rugby Union team will be bitterly disappointed after their 18-8 loss to UCLAN. The weather, in particular the wind, made kicking duties difficult for both teams with a bitterly cold swirling wind. Alongside Cumbria University, UCLAN represent Lancaster’s main local rivalry, and as such the visitors had brought along a crowd of supporters to match the Lancastrians. With local bragging rights at stake, and tensions on both the field and touchline beginning to simmer, the game looked set to be a brutal one.
The afternoon started well , as with Lancaster coming away from the early exchanges with a penalty conversion, slotted over from outside the opposition twenty-two by fly-half Anthony Coulson. This seemed to galvanise the opposition to new efforts, and UCLAN proceeded to lay siege to the Lancaster line for the remainder of the first half. All credit must go to the Lancaster defence, which succeeded in holding out the UCLAN offensive for vast swathes of time.
In Rugby, like football, if you control the ball, you control the game. The previous night, Barcelona showed Arsenal that you need the ball to win the game. And although a far flung cry from the sunny stands of Camp Nou, the style of play that UCLAN were adopting was proving as equally effective. They dominated the majority of possession, and their offence was truly testing the tackling abilities of Lancaster’s back division.
But Lancaster never looked like going down without a fight, and it was only after some desperately remarkable tackling that UCLAN finally managed to convert their pressure into points with a try in the corner. The wind proved to be the nemesis of the goal kicker, as his conversion attempt sailed wide. However, he had a chance to reconcile the loss just minutes later, as Lancaster committed a penalty and UCLAN succeeded in converting the three points with the final whistle of the half.
The second half brought very little change into the game, as UCLAN continued to batter away at the ever solid Lancaster defence. However, Lancaster were starting to gain more possession, as the UCLAN forwards began to tire. It also became apparent that UCLAN’s lineout was under a bit of pressure, as Lancaster managed to win all of their own ball and even steal a fair number of UCLAN’s.
But it was the small mistakes that were beginning to cost Lancaster, and although their offense was bold and daring, knock-on’s and spilled balls were damaging their ability to finish off their attacking moves. UCLAN unfortunately proved that they could muster an attack, and it was a devastating blow for Lancaster when the UCLAN outside centre carved open the defensive line and proceeded to swallow dive over the line. The conversion was successful, and Lancaster found themselves fifteen points adrift with only ten minutes remaining.
But Lancaster still had some fight left, and the arrival of regular First XV captain Dave Wrightson off the bench seemed to galvanise Lancaster’s dejected forward pack. Lancaster proceeded to drive and punt their way up field, and UCLAN ill discipline began to fray as the referee award several penalties in quick succession to the home team. Lancaster needed to score quickly, as they would still be a score short after a converted try.
As the forwards continued to bombard the UCLAN try line with a series of explosive pick and drives, the UCLAN defence was slowly sucked in. This left a wide gap far out on the left wing, and it was the keen eye of fly-half Coulson who spotted it. Lancaster managed to pull off a fine cross field kick try, and although the conversion was missed, pride seemed to be back in the ranks.
But the rally had come slightly too late as the final whistle blew. A defeat yes, but the score line did not reflect the gutsy way in which the Lancaster side had pushed the victors all the way to the finish.