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A spirited second half performance from Lancaster’s rugby union firsts was not enough to earn the points, as the away side edged a scrappy encounter 21-15.
Both sides were greeted to a rapturous reception upon entering the field, with the Roses stadium in good voice ahead of its third fixture of the tournament. It was hardly a classic encounter and the nerves appeared to get to both sides early on, with both teams missing chances to break courtesy of some poor handling.
York started the brighter of the two teams and registered the first points of the contest, with two well-taken penalty kicks from fly-half Peters giving York a 6-0 advantage. Lancaster exerted some sustained pressure for good periods of the first half, penning York back deep into their own 22, but the visitor’s defence stood firm and was resolute as the Cats couldn’t quite find their way through, despite good drives from Vidgeon and Akers.
It was York however who registered the first try of the game, a clever kick through found Osbourne, who showed great pace to beat the Lancaster defence and add five more points to the York tally. Peters made no mistake from the conversion and took the total to 13-0.
With half time approaching, Lancaster’s task got even more difficult following an Arnott try that took the York lead up to 18-0, as the Cats got in at the interval to re-group.
The home side raced out of the blocks for the second half and forced York back deeper and deeper through some aggressive attacking play. The constant Lancaster pressure had York on the ropes, pressure which only increased following Osbourne’s yellow card and sin-bin for dangerous play.
Lancaster pressed incessantly and eventually were rewarded for their patience, as Sam Akers made no mistake as he received the ball out on the left and finished confidently in the corner. Lancaster now were on the ascendency, despite Elliot Burton failing to add a further two points from the conversion.
Unfortunately for Lancaster, a nasty looking injury to York’s Tristan Burd forced a lengthy stoppage and meant the momentum that had been building for the home side was lost. After Burd was stretchered off to a warm reception from both sets off fans, Lancaster looked to attack once more.
The slower pace proceeding the injury suited York, who were content to absorb the pressure and looked to counter. This tactic proved fruitful, as a sloppy pass was intercepted by Ekip-Utip, who’s pace allowed him to race clear and add another five points to York’s tally, against the run of play. The drop-goal was missed, but York now had a 23-5 advantage.
The spirit of the Lancaster team however was undeniable, as within a minute of conceding the try they responded in kind; an excellent charge down from James Hawkins saw him tackled close to the line. The ball was then offloaded to Chris Wickington who did well to get the ball down to score in the corner.
Fresher Elliot Burton had a mixed afternoon with the ball, he looked nervous and failed to convert any of Lancaster’s trys, but kicked well in-play and found touch consistently. His second conversion miss left the scores at 23-10.
Lancaster with their last roll of the dice threw everything at York and went within eight points of their rivals, the excellent Sam Ackers scoring in the corner again. With the scores poised at 23-15, Lancaster fought valiantly to try and find a final try, but the away side stood firm and held on until the end.
The game marked a significant moment for the Lancaster University Rugby Club, who despite the loss were rightfully cheered off by an adoring home crowd. Lancaster’s second half performance was a vindication of the way the team has sought to transform itself over the last year or so.
Outclassed by the York first team last year, the Lancastrian side can be proud with the progress they’ve made in just 12 months. Under the stewardship of captain Ollie Vigdeon, the club have looked to change any negative reputations gained over the last few years. The introduction of coach Fergus Owens and the impact of chairman Arthur Haynes have also had a huge say on the professionalism of the club; their decision to abandon the traditional dyed blonde hair being just one of the steps taken towards this.
Professionalism leads to success, and this has been thoroughly evident in the fantastic season they’ve enjoyed, as well as the huge victories at Roses for the second and third teams. Although this Roses firsts defeat will hurt, the club are certainly moving in the right direction.