After a phenomenal season the BUCS 1s return to the championship finals at England’s home of Rugby, Twickenham, where they were outplayed by Exeter in an enthralling game of top class rugby. Loughborough’s finale clash was 80 minutes of edge-of-seat action with a nail biting finish. The effort from both teams was outstanding and the performance was a testament to the quality of student talent in the sport.
Players and fans alike were pumped with nerves and excitement as both teams were charged with passion and ferocity in their effort to claim the win. Kick-off saw Exeter seamlessly find their attacking rhythm and Loughborough were forced to defend hard. Unfortunately this would become a common stance for most of the game. Exeter found a gap in the line and were first to put points on the board with an early try. Scrum-half Sam Waltier found the whitewash and with a missed conversion from Ollie Claxton the scored moved to 0-5.
Loughborough found themselves on the back foot with a relentless Exeter attacking line keeping them in their own half. A penalty just outside the 22 was the opportunity kicker Ollie Claxton needed, sending it through Exeter stepped ahead, 0-8. Loughborough responded and picked up the pace. After recovering a dropped ball, a timely pass to Brandon Mandivenga saw him able to shift the game into Exeter’s half. A penalty awarded within range of the post was taken by Dan Watt who split the uprights, score now 3-8.
Exeter replied immediately and Freddie Hosking raced the ball down the pitch and over the line with little opposition. Gavin Parker’s conversion was good and Loughborough’s joy was short lived as the scoreboard flashed 3-15. Loughborough’s momentum was still high and they put pressure on the guys in green forcing them over their 22. A penalty was taken cleanly by Dan Watt who sent it through and added to the tally, 6-15. Despite still having not found their full rhythm, Loughborough kept up the pressure and good work from the backs left Mandivenga with a clear chance to dot the ball over the line earning Loughborough’s first try. Dan Watt converted successfully with a brilliant nudge through the post and Exeter’s lead narrowed, 13-15. An Exeter penalty almost immediately after the restart was taken by Parker, who sent it through, 13-18, squeezing in the points just before the half time whistle.
The second half commenced with Loughborough applying good pressure on Exeter. It led to a penalty, which Watt sent through, and with renewed hope for the students the score stood 16-18. Loughborough kept up the tempo against an aggressive Exeter front line. An unfortunate pause in play occurred when medics had to attend to an injured Mandivenga. Play restarted with a penalty that Exeter’s Parker sent miles wide of the right post. Loughborough were still in the game, 16-18.
As the minutes dwindled, the sides locked horns around the half-way line. Another penalty at the scrum gave Exeter yet another opportunity to secure their lead. Squandered, Parker sent it wide again. The score still stood 16-18 with Loughborough seemingly being given a lifeline.
With six minutes on the clock and Loughborough’s hopes and dreams in the balance, they composed themselves for what would their last push. After putting pressure on the scrum, they earned a penalty just shy of the half-way line. Watt gloriously split the posts and Loughborough took the lead for the first time, 19-18.
With minutes to go, Exeter fired back with all guns blazing. Determined to not let Loughborough clinch the win, a drop goal put them back on top. As the ball soared through the uprights, Loughborough’s hopes were dashed in the storm of noise from the stands. FT score: Loughborough Students 19 – Exeter University RFC 21
It was a riveting, emotional rollercoaster game of rugby that was an entertaining final to watch. Coach Ciaran Beattie concluded: ”we were second best on the night and you have to hold your hands up to that. We gave it our best, really proud of ourselves defensively, we didn’t get our attack running at all, and because of that we weren’t a threat really.”
Despite the result the Loughborough team should celebrate an amazing season this year with some really outstanding performances. Beattie went on to say, “we defended 40 minutes in our own half and we’ve lost the game by two points, I think that shows a really special team – to be not performing and to be that close! I’m bitterly disappointed but it’ll go and I’ll look back on a great season. The boy’s should feel proud of themselves.”
1 – Sam Fisher, 2 – Jacob Fields, 3 – Joe Cave, 4 – Henry Wheadon, 5 – Harry Betts, 6 – Rhys Davies, 7 – Sam Harry (capt), 8 – Charlie Kingham, 9 – Sam Pointon, 10 – Cam Dobinson, 11 – Austin Beckett, 12 – Dan Watt, 13 – Matt Edwards, 14 – Brandon Mandivenga, 15 – Gait Currie
16 – Freddie Davison, 17 – Ben Christie, 18 – Musa Yusuff, 19 – Henry Spencer, 20 – Josh Sharp, 21 – Jack Wardle, 22 – George Davis
University of Exeter
1 – Jack Owlett, 2 – Paul Davis, 3 – George Beale, 4 – Freddie Hosking, 5 – Sam Skinner (capt), 6 – Matt Eliet, 7 – Harry Ledger, 8 – Tom Lawday, 9 – Sam Waltier, 10 – Ollie Claxton, 11 – Ned Warne, 12 – Pete Laverick, 13 – Ted Landray, 14 – Alex Brown, 15 – Gavin Parker
16 – Mike Perks, 17 – Thomas Rhodes, 18 – Fred Wheadon, 19 – Tom Edwards, 20 – James Doe, 21 – Tom Holdsworth, 22 – Adam Worth