With most of the country looking forward to the England/Australia game at Twickenham on Saturday, the attention of Loughborough was drawn to another set of Australian tourists. Like the national team they were here on rugby duties but the Queensland University side were here to play Loughborough as a part of their World Varsity tour.
It did not take long for the Loughborough Stadium to fill to capacity and the strength of the support was evident in the masses of pink and purple shirts. After a rousing rendition of both national anthems there was a brief pause as the referee waited for the clock to tick over to the symbolic time of 19:09. As soon as the clock changed, the ball was kicked deep into the Queensland half.
Queensland held possession in the opening moments but Loughborough earned a penalty that allowed them to gain important ground. Any hope of an early try was squandered however when Queensland also received a penalty and cleared the ball back up the pitch.
The visitors came back strong from the line-out with a promising break from Jack de Guingand but he was eventually tackled. Loughborough had a chance of scoring from the Queensland ruck when they intercepted a pass but a knock-on prevented any further progress. The resulting scrum collapsed and led to a quickly taken penalty for Loughborough who made a dash for the Queensland try line but were cut down by the opposing defensive line.
After yet another scrum collapse, Loughborough were awarded a penalty but Tom James was unable to convert this seemingly simple kick into three points.
Shortly after the missed penalty there was an exciting break on the wing that set the crowd alight. A lack of support for the runner led to a cross-field kick that was well received. The Loughborough catcher drove through several attempted tackles but was unable to reach the line. From a scrum the home side came very close to a try in the corner but were pushed back by Queensland. There were several more efforts to get the ball over the line but nobody could penetrate the Queensland defence until Isaac Miller pushed through and touched down to open the scoring. With Tom James’ conversion the score stood at 7-0 to Loughborough.
It did not take long for Loughborough to make another break for the line and this time it seemed much easier to get through as Rhys Davies scored in almost exactly the same place as before. James was unable to make the conversion this time but the home side were still 2 points to the good.
The energy around the stadium was thrilling as several chants started, not all related to the rugby, but everyone got behind Miller as he tore through the Queensland defence. Unfortunately for Loughborough, the breakaway did not make it very far into the Queensland half before it was cut down. Loughborough were awarded a penalty that was struck well by James to take Loughborough 15 points ahead.
When Queensland kicked off again they had barely touched the ball, they seemed to have spent more time kicking it than actually carrying it. Play slowed down over the next ten minutes as Queensland struggled to burst through the Loughborough defence even though they were starting to maintain possession.
Despite a window of good play, Queensland started to lose the ball through silly mistakes and a yellow card only helped the Loughborough cause. Very soon after the Queenslander was sin binned, Loughborough squeezed through the back line but a forward pass denied them of another try in the same place as before.
Loughborough were awarded a penalty that was kicked into touch within a few metres of the Queensland try line and when the resulting line-out went to plan, Rhys Davies was able to push his way over the line to add to the Loughborough tally. Tom James missed another conversion and the score remained at 20-0.
With halftime getting very close, Loughborough were determined to add to their rapidly increasing tally but could not gain the last few metres of ground to get over the line. Possession was lost and Queensland booted the ball up-field and into touch. Halftime came about after a messy knock-on from Queensland.
Going into the second half, Queensland trailed by 20 points and as they kicked-off so did the Mexican Wave that did a few laps of the stadium before dying down. The second half started slowly with the first ten minutes becoming a bit of a kicking match but Loughborough still looked strong and came very close with a powerful scrum on the Queensland 22 yard line but they lost possession and could only watch as the ball was kicked into touch just short of the halfway line.
Queensland’s Hugo Marks danced around the Loughborough defence but was eventually cut down and Queensland were awarded a penalty that was kicked into touch on the Loughborough 22 yard line. By this point Queensland were looking much stronger than they had all game as they were able to hold onto possession and come very close to scoring on the wing. The ball started to move between hands and make it to the opposite wing but the Queensland flanker was cut down at the last moment to the great relief of the crowd.
A yellow to Henry Spencer put Loughborough one man down and the Australian tourists took advantage of this as they powered over the line despite the best efforts of the Loughborough defence. Brandon Murray converted and the score moved to 20-7 to Loughborough.
With a try to their names, Queensland started to play like a completely different side. Just as they started to gain some momentum they conceded a penalty that allowed Loughborough to gain ground deep into their half. Jack Wardel was then able to go on to score right under the sticks for Loughborough before James converted. The score was now a rather one sided 27-7.
An hour into the match there was another break towards the Queensland line that looked promising until a spilt catch caused a knock on. From the scrum, Loughborough took possession and after a series of attempts, Tom James scored just wide of the posts before going on to convert. With two tries conceded in very quick succession the Queensland team seemed completely deflated and the 34-7 score-line reflected this.
Both teams were fighting for possession but neither could make an impression upon the other as the ball went back and forth between the two sides. When the tempo did pick up, the home side struggled to make it count until George De Conthi kicked the ball across to Brendan Mandivenga who was able to go on to score a further try for Loughborough. Dan Watt converted and moved the score onto 41-7.
The final nail in the Queensland coffin came in the form of a penalty that did not go into touch but was picked up by the Loughborough backs and carried almost undisturbed over the Queensland try line by Ryan Redman before Watt converted again. To the relief of the visitors the final whistle blew and the game finished as a 48-7 drumming from Loughborough.
It was nice to see the Loughborough players leave the pitch through a guard of honour formed by the Queenslanders as they shook hand and went on to lift the 1909 Cup.