Hartpury edge a tight BUCS Rugby Union Championship final at Twickenham 30/03/2017
BUCS Super Rugby Champions, Hartpury College overcame a tough University of Exeter side to lift the prestigious BUCS Rugby Union Championship trophy.
BUCS Super Rugby champions, Hartpury College lined up in the Twickenham tunnel against reigning BUCS Rugby Union champions University of Exeter. The fans came in their coach loads for both finalists and were in full voice from the opening minute of the final.
Within the first 10 minutes, Exeter were the first on the scoresheet as Aaron Bagwell went over under the posts, leaving a simple conversion for the BUCS Super Rugby top points scorer, Ted Landray. 7-0 they led in the early stages.
Both sides were mounting slow, strong attacks after Exeter’s early try, but the defensive outfits of both team were looking up for the Twickenham task.
Hartpury recorded their first points of the fixture through the third highest BUCS Super Rugby points scorer, Sam Leeming as he kicked a 35-yard penalty from a tricky angle.
Exeter showed some nifty handwork in the centre of the park – quick offloading and feet just as quick as they looked for a gap in Hartpury’s defensive line. Eventually, they gained enough territory and force a ruck over Hartpury’s try line. Matt Eliet the man who put it down, with Ted Landray again converting – 14-3 in Exeter’s favour.
At 36-minutes, Hartpury’s Sam Leeming broke through the centre of the pitch before an outstanding last ditch tackle stopped him scoring what would have been an excellent try. But, on the stroke of half-time, Hartpury did get a try of their own through Maliq Holden. Sam Leeming’s conversion went over, and the score at half-time was Exeter 14-10 Hartpury.
The second half started as the first finished – lots of kicking from one back line to the other. Battles continued in the middle of the field, with no side showing chinks in their defensive armour.
In the 48th minute, try scorer Maliq Holden was shown a yellow card and sent to the sin bin – Hartpury conceded from the resulting penalty and had to play the next 10 minutes with 14 men. Exeter extended their lead to 17-10.
Despite being a man down, Hartpury mounted a dangerous attack at the 49-minute mark and scored in the corner through Jonus Mikalcius. Sam Leeming again nailed the conversion to make things all-square – 17-17.
Hartpury had the chance to go ahead for the first time in the match in the 54th minute, but Sam Leeming, on this occasion, missed the penalty uncharacteristically.
A huge blow for Hartpury followed shortly after the penalty miss - their captain, Seb Negri was stretchered off with an injury and would play no further part in the final. His replacement was their number 17, Joe Wrafter.
Hartpury’s continued pressure saw them break through via England U20 international Harry Randall’s quick feet. He went over in the corner after sidestepping the last Exeter defender, but this time Sam Leeming couldn’t convert. Hartpury took a 22-17 lead.
Just a few minutes later, Harry Randall had his second. This time around, it was inch-by-inch attacking that saw them battling just two metres from Exeter’s try line. Randall was the man to bundle it over the line to give Hartpury a 27-17 lead. Sam Leeming missed the resulting conversion.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Exeter were looking for a big reaction if they wanted to retain their BUCS Championship title. And a reaction they got. On 76 minutes, Callum Roberts went over and BUCS Super Rugby top point scorer, Ted Landray did what he does best in scoring the conversion. With just a few minutes left on the clock, it was Hartpury 27-24 Exeter.
Exeter gave it one last passionate push, but it was Hartpury who held out until the end to seal the BUCS Rugby Union Championship to accompany their BUCS Super Rugby League title!
Player of the match: Harry Randall (Hartpury)