UoN’s men put on a display of tenacious defending and clinical finishing to maintain their lead going into the final event of the Varsity series.
With Trent going into the game full of confidence, after promotion from their league and an impressive BUCS cup final win, UoN knew it was essential to get a good start. The first points of the game came from a Dave Heads penalty, which was important in settling the team’s nerves and going some way to quieting the Trent dominated crowd.
A smart move of the back of the scrum saw Heads break from the half-way line, his grubber through was well chased and resulted in a free kick to Nottingham, which they took quickly, sending Jack Cooper, who was an injury doubt going into the match over for the first try of the game.
UoN rode their luck regarding penalties, with Trent’s kicker missing his first two attempts at goal, but Trent were given a big chance to get back in the game as Don Blake was Sin-Binned for holding on.
Trent failed to turn their pressure into points and their opponents made them pay, scoring a fortunate try, which again saw Head’s as the creator, as his attempt at goal rebounded of the post to Dom Wood, who shrugged off two tackles to score. Sam Wood’s had the chance to make it an unassailable lead when he intercepted some sloppy Trent passing, but despite his flash boots, he did not have the pace to reach the line. Head’s first half performance was emblematic of the Uni display, as he buzzed around the pitch, eager to exorcise the demons of last year’s performance.
Trent came out strongly after half-time, as expected and proceeded to barrage the UoN defence with attack after attack. After some resolute defending, Charlie Armstrong’s huge tackles epitomised their impassioned play, Trent eventually scored through a penalty try. The penalty try was awarded for repeated scrumming infringements, but was the only off note from an otherwise strong performance from the Uni pack.
At 13-7 to UoN going into the final ten minutes, nerves started to get to Nottingham as Heads missed a penalty attempt that would have put the game out of reach. Trent sensing this dug deep and after a series of rucking infringements from UoN, they had a line out deep in UoN’s ’22. Nottingham’s defence again held firm and turned the ball over, which allowed Will Beach to tear down the blindside and offload to Cooper for his second try of the game, providing a fitting end to a great game.
Cooper, who takes over the captaincy from Bill Hill next year, has been a revelation in his debut season and hailed the good start as crucial to the side’s win. Whilst his two tries, which he admitted was a rare but pleasant occurrence, were the obvious markers of his performance, his defensive work was equally crucial, preventing Trent from turning their domination of possession into points.
(Editor’s note: Match report for women’s rugby coming soon!)