When the events of the third day of Roses began there was still a tournament to be won. However, despite the men’s rugby games making up what might have ostensibly been viewed as the climax to the weekend’s sports, they were not to be the deciding elements to Lancaster’s victory. Before the 3rd team had finished off their match at around 1:30pm, word was already getting round that Lancaster had already accumulated the necessary 176 points needed to secure automatic victory from other events. Whilst some might have felt that the upcoming rugby results would be rendered a little redundant because of this, let us not forget that this is Roses; the only thing better than beating York is beating them by a lot. Every little bit of bragging rights counts. But it wasn’t going to be easy to obtain them.
By the time the men’s 3rd team game kicked off, the pitch at the campus stadium had probably experienced a deluge of drizzle for upwards of 4 hours that wasn’t looking likely to stop any time soon. But both teams came out raring to go, unfazed by the inclement weather conditions and the ground growing ever more sodden by the minute. York, who at this point did still have a tournament to fight for despite the enormity of Lancaster’s overall lead, elected to immediately put the pressure on and go on the offensive. There were several attempts at breaking through to Lancaster’s half, but the defence wasn’t having any of it, wearing down the York attackers until they could be held at the halfway line. After that, it was Lancaster’s turn to show what they could do. Initially, they seemed to be far more successful at attacking than York were, quickly progressing well into York’s half and getting within spitting distance of their 5 metre line. York held on and attempted to push back but Lancaster kept going strong and soon enough they had their first try, with a conversion from number 10 Ryan McFall sweetening the deal. York delivered the expected counter attack but failed to capitalise on their control of the ball and territory. A missed penalty kick sent them away at half time still 7-0 down.
Once play restarted York were immediately back on the attack, but so were Lancaster. Captain Sam Merriman did well in the tricky conditions to keep his team moving forward, with brilliant defensive support from McFall and his back five. However, York’s tenacity eventually paid off with the reward of a converted try, levelling the score at 7-7. Following this, both sides’ pace slowed significantly, the game getting bogged down in line-outs and scrums on either side of the line. The only break was a penalty kick awarded to Lancaster in the late stages of the match, but this was taken unsuccessfully and the game reverted back to its somewhat sluggish pace until the final whistle was blown, ending the game with a draw while the men’s 2nd teams took their place on the field.
Before the 2nd game commenced Lancaster had already won the tournament; York could only hope to salvage a little of their pride. The playing conditions had also deteriorated markedly, as was very noticeable in the opening stages of play. The slippery ball and surface proved a problem for both teams, with errors and fumblings resulting in Lancaster losing possession whilst on the offensive, while York struggled to clear the ball away from their territory. York’s mistakes eventually cost them a penalty kick in their own half, with number 10 Ali Dunn securing 3 points for Lancaster. After this it was York’s turn to go on the attack, but the tricky conditions and Lancaster defence proved frustrating. After numerous attempts on the try line they too were awarded a penalty kick, taken successfully to level the score at 3-3. There was an extended pause in the match after Lancaster’s number 13 went down with injury and had to be treated on the field. Once the game restarted Lancaster made a big push into York’s half and were eventually rewarded with a try to bring the score to 8-3 to Lancaster at half time.
When the match got under way once more Lancaster’s captain Will Bussey attempted to lead his team to even more points. While they initially had the impetus, the attack got bogged down due to the worsening pitch conditions and a strong York defence. Advantage eventually swung York’s way, and it was Lancaster’s defensive tactics that had to step up to the mark. Thankfully they managed just that, and Lancaster were able to keep York’s consistent attacks and line-outs at bay long enough to run down the clock and ensure a 8-3 win before the final match of the tournament got started.
The men’s 1st game got off to a very promising start. Lancaster kicked off and were able to maintain possession and attacking momentum for long enough that after 5 minutes Lewis Cornelius and his team had managed to get one try past York’s unprepared defence to go 5-0 up. This seemed to shake up York enough to get their heads in the game and start seeking out points themselves, beginning a long duel of offensive play from both sides interrupted only by a disallowed try from Lancaster. For every strong attacking manoeuvre York made, Lancaster matched them defensively, leaving the score at 5-0 at half time.
In the second half things got far more interesting. Lancaster found themselves a man down after their number 12 player found himself in the sin bin following one of York’s attempts on the try line. York were able to seize on this, putting 2 penalty kicks between the posts to bring the score to 6-5 to York. Lancaster responded in kind, earning themselves a successful penalty kick to retake the lead at 8-6. Back up to full strength they were able to respond effectively to York’s attempts at winning back the game. The clock ran down, and it all seemed highly reminiscent of the 3rd teams’ second half; not much of anything interesting taking place. Until, once the 80 minutes was up and the ball was waiting to go dead, one crafty Yorkshireman had the bright idea to do a Jonny Wilkinson and take a successful drop goal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. 9-8 to York at full time. We can’t be too bitter of course. We gave some struggling fellow students a little reason to smile on their way home. We gained a resounding victory over our rivals, but we’re nice people. We like to share a little of our victory.