Rugby union firsts battle to victory

University of Hull 15-20 University of Sheffield

The men’s rugby union firsts continued their unbeaten start to the season and remain joint top of Northern League Division 1A with a hard earned win over league newcomers University of Hull.

It was three tries a piece for both sides but it was the boots of inside centre Matt Cooper and full back Matt Poulton that saw Sheffield home.

The game started in the worst possible way for Sheffield. After initial early pressure on the Hull 22, indiscipline at the breakdown gave Hull the chance to clear their lines from a penalty. From the line-out, the Hull pack formed an impressive driving maul which they eventually pushed over in the far left corner. The conversion was missed and after two minutes was 5-0 to Hull.

This initial scare sparked Sheffield into life. Hull were unable to advance out of their half of the pitch for the rest of the first period. The majority of play was on the Hull 22 where possession was being kicked back and forth. Poor discipline from Hull resulted in a penalty for Sheffield 40 metres out. Full back Matt Poulton stepped up and converted. The score was now 5-3 to Hull.

Now with their tails up, Sheffield continued to exert pressure on a tiring Hull side. The Hull fly-half cleared his lines once again but instead of making touch, the ball was gathered by Poulton who put winger Keith Wardley into space.

Fantastic footwork from Wardley put Sheffield on the front foot with the try line in sight. Supporting Wardley was blind side flanker Will Maundrell who gathered Wardley’s offload and after handing off the last of the Hull defence, he ran in under posts and scored the first of Sheffield’s tries. Maundrell’s try was easily converted by Matt Cooper and the score was now 10-5 in Sheffield’s favour going into half time.

The second half began with Hull keeping hold of their position. They were unable to exert any pressure in the set piece, but they used their strength at the breakdown to their advantage. They threw everything at the Sheffield defensive line and after a number of phases the ball was shipped wide and the Hull winger touched down in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score was now 10 points apiece.

In similar fashion to the first try, Sheffield came out of the blocks and responded immediately. From the kick off Hull looked to clear their lines however hesitation from their fly half caused his clearance kick to be chased down by Cooper who collected the ball and went over in the right hand corner. Cooper’s conversion hit the left upright of the post and the score was now 15-10 to Sheffield with twenty minutes left to play.

Sheffield now looked to put the game to bed. An impressive turnover from open side flanker Barney Goodchild on the Hull 22 put Sheffield back on the front foot. Scrum half and man of the match Danny Rapallo saw a small gap at the side of the ruck and snuck through the Hull line to run in for Sheffield’s third try. The conversion from Cooper fell just short and the score was now 20-10 to Sheffield.

With less than ten minutes to play, Sheffield opted to keep the ball in hand and run the clock down. However the referee became impatient with repeated infringements at the break down and prop Jack Fitzwilliam-Pipe saw himself sin binned for going off his feet and Sheffield were a man down for the remainder of the match. Hull chose to kick for touch and from the lineout they were able to exploit the man advantage in the pack and push over another rolling maul in the corner. The Hull fly half missed the conversion and Sheffield’s lead was cut to five points with the score now 20-15.

In a nervous final five minutes, Sheffield managed to hold on to the lead until the final whistle. As in previous weeks, Sheffield dominated the set piece, especially the scrums. However Hull’s weight advantage proved effective but the superior fitness of the Sheffield squad proved to be the decisive factor. A good win away from home and Sheffield remain on course in their campaign for promotion.



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