The final fixture of the Nottingham Varsity series 2017 had all the hallmarks of a cracking match, as two top university rugby union sides clashed at the Lady Bay Stadium in the last clash of the Nottingham Varsity Series 2017. After the women defeated Trent comfortably 21-7, it was now time for the men to do battle. The weather was perfect, and the crowd were in full voice for the game.

Head to head

Last year, the University of Nottingham opened up a 17-5 lead at half time in the 2016 Varsity match only to lose 20-17 after a fearsome Trent comeback. Meanwhile in the league this season, NTU were rampant in BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) North A division after winning the league by a 14 point margin with 10 wins and 4 draws. UoN finished fifth with six wins and eight defeats over the campaign.

The Green and Gold therefore will have dismissed the form books prior to yesterday’s game as everybody knows league matters go out the window when it comes to Varsity.

A bright start from UoN

Early in the game both teams were sparring with each other, and trying to settle the pre-match nerves. A couple of phases for either side ended with a break for the University of Nottingham as Trent conceded a penalty in the midfield. Paul Aguele sprinted down the touchline after some good handling from the UoN backline.

The Trent defence shifted across well, but the inside offload from Aguele to the captain Ben Latimer was perfect and the skipper crashed over for the opening try of the match. The conversion was missed, which left the scores at 5-0.

After the kick to restart the game, Trent went through a few phases and eventually won a penalty kick. The kick for the posts was 30 metres out and directly in front of the uprights, however it was missed which left the score at 5-0. UoN then managed to get some phases together when Trent won a couple of 50/50 penalties, taking them further up the field.

Trent moved the ball wide really well, and exploited an overlap but somehow managed to pass the ball forward 5 metres out from the try line. There were some huge tackles from both teams, and Rob smith stayed down after a late challenge from Trent during a clearing kick.

UoN came out of the traps early at Lady Bay

George Felgate then scored a great try for the Green and Gold off the back of a rolling maul. The phase play around the Trent line was fast and incisive, and UoN came away with another five-pointer. The conversion was missed so the score remained 10-0

After this play was a very contentious period where the referee gave two yellow cards to UoN within 30 seconds of each other. This gave the players in pink a two man advantage and they made full use of this with a try directly under the sticks. The Trent fly half converted to make the score 10-7.

The Green and Gold boys responded well to this setback however and won a penalty for Nottingham, and Tom Allott slotted away the penalty to make it 13-7. This phase was followed by more scrappy play in the midfield, as both teams struggled to get a real grasp of the game before half time. A late first half Trent penalty reduced UoN’s lead to 13-10.

Nevertheless, Nottingham’s lead at half time was highly welcome and unexpected given that UoN went into the match as severe underdogs, playing against a team which topped the BUCS (British Colleges and Universities Sport) North A division by a fourteen point margin this season.

Half Time: UoN 13-10 NTU

The NTU comeback begins in earnest

After the break the action resumed almost instantaneously, with both teams eager to get what might prove to be the crucial try. After some early Trent pressure, Tom Allott went for a chip and chase on a penalty advantage. That endeavour didn’t pay off unfortunately but the resulting penalty went into touch on the Trent 22.

The next passage of play was a scrappy period where both teams showed their attacking intent but couldn’t gain proper possession. There was a smart grubber kick from UoN to capitalise on poor fullback positioning from Trent but unfortunately the ball went dead.

More loose play from Trent nearly resulted in UoN capitalising on an interception, and this was a big chance to get back into the game. After this, Trent managed to get a foothold in the game and gathered some momentum. The opponents got their next try after a rolling maul off the back of a lineout following a UoN penalty. The Trent tryscorer hit a nice line and the Nottingham defence couldn’t organise quickly enough.

Trent had another few breaks after this and came incredibly close to another try, if not for a great try saving tackle from George Bolster covering on the wing. However, after this point the game was dominated by Trent and they scored another try on the 62nd minute. After the conversion the score was 22-10

UoNRFC had a late rally and got another penalty, but unfortunately this all-or-nothing approach left some gaps and Trent exploited the tired legs of the UoN players with another couple of well-executed tries.

Full Time: UoN 34-13 NTU

Club president Alex Griffith-Jones after the match praised his players for a great performance: “Overall it’s a shame not to win of course but you’ve got to give credit to the boys for putting in a massive shift today.

“We came out the blocks well but were of course playing a very strong Trent side who were good in the second half. But regardless it’s a massive day for all the players and fans and a great occasion for them all to be a part of.”

Overall, this was a game that on the balance Trent did deserve to win, and both players and staff after the game admitted they were up against a very strong Trent side. However, even against a strong Trent side the players played incredibly well, and was a fine way to end their season. The game was a fitting end to a great Varsity series, where the University of Nottingham have retained their title once again with the scores finishing at 12-9 to UoN overall after Sunday’s rugby matches!

UoN starting line up:
1. Alex Griffith-Jones
2. Paddy Jackson
3. Greg Blanchard
4. Gill Crouch
5. Ben Latimer
6. Jack Tinker
7. George Felgate
8. Matt Young
9. Michael Morris
10. Rob Smith
11. George Bolster
12. Tom Allott
13. Connor Field
14. Paul Aguele
15. George Saunders

Tom Elliman

Follow @ImpactVarsity17 on Twitter and Like Impact Sport on Facebook. Check out the sport section on the Impact website for all previews and match reports from the Nottingham Varsity Series 2017.

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