There are two standout fixtures in the annual Sheffield Varsity calendar – the 1st Team Men’s Ice Hockey and the Men’s Rugby Union. Hallam Sports Park was rocking for the climax of an exciting days action, with vocal and at times boisterous support from both sets of supporters. Uni led the overall Varsity contest going into tonight’s contest, and whilst the point on offer was desperately sought after by both sides, pride was also at stake.
League leaders Hallam started very brightly, forcing early pressure with some quick hands through midfield. Both sides were perhaps guilty of wasteful kicking in the opening exchanges but this has to be put down at least partly to nerves. The Hallam forwards managed to drive the ball towards the Uni line, and Lewis Bloor was at the bottom of a combined maroon drive. Hallam Fly-Half Harry Pratt missed an admittedly tricky conversion, keeping the score at 5-0. Uni were able to secure plenty of ball but far too often handling errors cost them. They were made to pay a short time afterwards as Lewis Bowman dived over for five more, but the plaudits must go to Josh Britton who with some excellent play at centre securing the ball at the breakdown after a fantastic run. Hallam looked imperious and in the mood. Pratt made no mistake with an equally difficult kick, making it 12-0 to Hallam. Uni managed to create some late pressure though, and on the stroke of half time Sam Tipper capitalised on a great offload from full back Ferg Wood to give Uni hope going into the break. Andrew Hodgson converted to make it 12-7.
What followed was an enthralling second half which in truth could have swung either way. Soon after the break on the 50th minute mark Hodgson kicked a good penalty to make it 12-10 – the momentum had turned the way to the men in black and gold. It was Hallam’s turn to make some unnecessary errors now, and Hodgson managed to kick another penalty to put Uni into the lead at 12-13 after some good pressure. From here on in it was a tense affair, with possession switching back and forth. Hallam had their chances but some good defending from the Uni backs, who according to Captain Jonathan Karimian made some ‘crucial tackles’. With the pressure mounting on the Uni line Andrew Hodgson was gifted a chance to kick his side into what would surely be an unassailable lead with seconds left on the clock. With crowd trouble and smoke bombs adding unneeded pressure to the kick, Hodgson split the posts. Cool as ice.
Uni held on in the closing stages and were good for their win – but in truth this one could have ended either way. Both teams showed moments of great promise, and equally sometimes frustrating sloppiness. Karimian also took a moment to acknowledge the ‘great’ fans who had made the trip to Hallam Sports Park, he was delighted to give them a hard earned victory and another Varsity point.
Full Time: Sheffield Hallam University 12 – 16 University of Sheffield
Catch up with Forge TV’s full replay of the Rugby Union Men 1s game near the end of the Hallam Sports Park Day coverage below.