Loughborough men’s rugby union 2nds played in a see-saw affair with Manchester 1sts on Wednesday. The thrilling match finished 27-27; Liz Tyler was there for Label Sport.
Wind, rain and freezing temperatures – the stuff winter rugby is made of. The conditions were bleak as the match kicked off and they certainly did not improve. However, the cold had hardly touched me before the first score was on the board.
Loughborough’s outside centre went over in the second minute directly under the posts, leaving an easy conversion for the fly-half. With the score at 7-0, Loughborough began to settle into the game.
Cold hands and a wet pitch led to a few sloppy passes but Loughborough managed to keep the ball, until they conceded a kickable penalty. Manchester’s number ten got them off the mark, taking the score to 7-3.
Next came some strong phases of play, with turnover ball from both teams, but Manchester dominated in the scrum and it was not long before their replacement scrum-half went over in the 25th minute for their first try. The conversion was successful, which put Manchester ahead 7-10.
Manchester were fully on the offensive now, camped out deep in Loughborough’s half and earning themselves a scrum in their opponents’ 22. Manchester went for goal in the 36th minute but missed.
However, it wasn’t long before they were applying the pressure again. They would have scored a try but for the ball being knocked on just before it was grounded. The resulting scrum to Loughborough ended in a penalty and allowed the outside-half to clear the ball away and give Loughborough some space. Soon after, Loughborough kicked the ball out and both teams left the pitch for half-time.
With the conditions clearly getting to Loughborough, Manchester were full of fight, back on the field long before their opposition and encouraging each other with shouts of “It’s all about us” and “It’s our game”.
Their energy, however, was matched by the returning Loughborough, who upped the ante in the second half. After winning a free kick, the home fly-half put them in a good position to allow Loughborough to cross for a try, which was converted. This was within five minutes of the match restarting.
Manchester retaliated almost immediately though, scoring two tries in quick succession, reinstating their lead 14-22. Loughborough’s rebuttal, like their opponents, was almost immediate. They added a third try just five minutes after Manchester’s score. The conversion was missed after the windy conditions had knocked the ball off its tee during the first attempt, leaving the score at 19-22.
A penalty came Loughborough’s way soon after, and they made no mistake with the kick at goal to level the score.
Loughborough upped the ante yet again with another try, just a minute after their penalty. The outside centre dived over for his second and Loughborough’s fourth. The conversion was missed, but Loughborough were ahead.
With the game drawing to a close and their opponents only five points ahead, Manchester began an impressive offensive and managed to push a rolling maul over the line. Tension peaked, a few handbags were thrown, and, with the clock in the ‘red’, it was all down to Manchester’s kicker to win the game. Unfortunately for the visitors, the kick at goal was sliced, leaving the score at 27-27.
A hard-fought, closely contested match ended in both teams leaving the ground a little subdued. It did, however, give the spectators a tantalising game of rugby to watch, even in the wintery weather.