Hartpury and Exeter were crowned national champions at StoneX Stadium for the second year running, but all great victories have a great story.

The day kicked off with Hartpury and Exeter arriving at StoneX Stadium in the basking sun ready for the Women’s National League Final. The referee got the final underway, and the league and reigning national champions Hartpury got straight to work. 

Pressure was put on Exeter right from the word go and it didn’t take long for first score of the game. Hartpury’s star fullback Lucia Scott opened the scoring with a textbook Lucia Scott try. Since that moment, the girls from Gloucester never looked back, but after a few more tries including one for Exeter, the season came down to one final 40 minutes as Hartpury led 17-7 at half time. 

Early in the second half it was Hartpury who quickly took control of the final, scoring 14 unanswered points to take a 31-7 lead. The 2019 national champions Exeter never gave up, responding with a try of their own, before Hartpury went over for their sixth try of the game. 

Hartpury would go onto score one more try to make it 45-12 at full time and secure back-to-back national championship titles for the ‘pury. It was jubilation for the queens of women’s university rugby whose substitutes stormed onto the pitch at full time to celebrate, while head coach Mo Hunt embraced her Gloucester-Hartpury and England teammate Maud Muir as the emotions came out. 

In a full circle moment, Hartpury’s third trophy in 12 months was presented to captains Evie Roach and Abileigh Priestnall by last year’s winning captain Sophie Bridger. With Mo Hunt in charge, there’s no reason to believe that her side won’t be adding more trophies to their cabinet in the years to come. 

Next up was the BUCS Super Rugby Final, but no one was expecting what was to come, let alone 100 minutes of pure drama at the showdown at StoneX between Exeter and Loughborough. 

Much like in the women’s final, one side started quickly. It took Exeter just 90 seconds to opening the scoring through scrum half Niall Armstrong. Seven minutes later, the league champions responded with a converted try to lead 7-5. Then a few minutes later we saw some more Barton brilliance as he intercepted a pass from his opposite number Charlie Titcombe before racing under the posts untouched. 

The reigning national champions then scored another before two quick tries from the African Violet just before half time to give them the lead into changing rooms; 24-19 at half time with everything still to play for. An instant classic was on the cards, and boy oh boy is that what the two teams delivered. 

During the next 40 minutes, the pendulum kept swinging back and forth between these two fierce competitors. Exeter scored two tries after half time to take a 24-31 lead, before Loughborough responded with a vital three points. The final fifteen minutes of regulation was something that not many can say they have ever witnessed while watching rugby. The two teams kept on trading blows and scoring tries. 

With two minutes to play and Exeter leading 41-34, up steps Charlie Titcombe and Harry Rowson to turn this final on its head. An inch perfect pass from the Loughborough 10 found the electric winger Rowson to go over. Now it was down to Titcombe to slot the biggest kick of his life and take us to an unprecedented extra time. He did just that, and at 41-41 we were heading for another 20 minutes to decide this year’s national champions. 

In a game where the points were flowing, the first 10 minutes of extra time was a cagey affair. We only saw three points which went the way of the African Violet. Exeter responded with their eighth try of the game in the second half of extra time. This score ended up being the winning try, but of course there was drama up until the very final whistle. 

With the clock in the red and Loughborough bearing down on Exeter’s try line, there was a chance. Substitute Nathan Langdon found a gap in the green machine’s defence with a powerful run before looking to offload to a teammate, but instead finding Exeter’s 10 Josh Barton. The ruck was formed and ball passed back to Dan John who booted it into the night sky to bring an end to “the greatest game university rugby has ever seen.” 

Finally, it was the presentation where Exeter graduate and Harlequins player Tom Lawday was on hand to pass the trophy onto Ollie Leatherbarrow and Josh Barton who led the green and white celebrations, on a day they will never forget. 

It was a fitting end to an incredible campaign with the very best game of the season, and the very best game in BUCS Super Rugby history. Commentator Dave Rogers summed what he witnessed stating, "Last year against Durham was epic, but this victory [for Exeter] against Loughborough was quite simply the most astonishing rugby match I've ever seen." 

Another end to another enthralling season of BUCS Super Rugby and the Women’s National League comes to a close with Exeter and Hartpury lifting the trophies aloft at StoneX Stadium. 

We will leave you with this quote from Joe Byrnes, "The stars of tomorrow, the games that matter the most, HOW GOOD is BUCS Super Rugby?"

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