Jeanine Stephenson powering toward the try line. Photo Credit Mike Powell
University of Exeter Women & Men's Rugby Union 1st XVs in Semi-Finals of Championship Cup
Last weeks quarter-finals saw the Green Machine march one step closer to Rugby HQ and a shot at winning the cup and glory.
EURFC Men’s 1st XV were playing a side that adopted a ‘Devil May Care’ attitude, as Cardiff University fizzed the ball from left to right and had everything to prove. The new competitors in the league finished 8th meaning they were in the draw for cup competition cutting the once mighty Loughborough out of any shot and bottom of the league for two consecutive years, Nottingham Trent.
With the last league game of the season well behind us and consecutive league titles won, the Men's 1st XV would have liked a repeat of the second half they had on the rubber crumb winning 44-22 in what was a close game at half time. Cardiff however, had adapted from their last encounter and when had the ball in hand were clinical and classy finishing try’s often off first phase play.
EURFC in parts showed how dominant they can be with their set piece play and a few moments of individual brilliance from both scrum halves, Peierre Thomas showing a clean pair of heels to go through a gap and finish under the posts and England U20 and Exeter Chief Sam Maunder finding a half gap and offloading to centre Will Hollis to finish what was an essential score. Harry Bazalegette, who replaced an injured Sam Morley at Fly Half, stepped up to put EURFC back in front for the final time with a difficult 40m kick in a unpredictable wind, with the weight of everyone's hopes also watching on.
With the score now 34-31 the drama was far from over, as the home side failed to see out the game without infringement and gave a penalty away allowing Cardiff to draw the scores if kicked. A draw would’ve pushed the game to overtime, and there was no time on the clock to play. It was the home side though that was going to finish with the final luck as the ball drifted wide and dead forcing the referee to blow for full time.
Pushed to a very narrow win Exeter now move into a semi-final against a Leeds Beckett team that is coming off the back of a winning streak, and also has a nothing to lose attitude against league champions EURFC.
If the men’s game was an example of how to induce unprecedented stress throughout the home supporters, the women’s game was a perfect example of the opposite effect. Out of the blocks as the whistle went to start the game and outplaying and performing against Loughborough University in every facet of the game. The well-oiled undefeated league winners were ruthless in their play. With maul trys powering over Loughborough's try line and line breaks coming from Kim Grundy, Jeanine Stevenson, and a match fit Lagi Tuima, it was one-way traffic and a pleasing display of how to flex well-trained training park moves.
The Women's side will be facing old rivals in Cardiff Mett, and know the threat that they pose coming down to Topsham on Wednesday. Looking forward to this Wednesday 27th and another display at the University’s premier sport facility Topsham, both coaches have expectations of very rigid competition.
Keith Fleming, Director of Rugby noted that last weeks’ marginal win was "lucky and undeserved, but a win none the less which is all that counts in knock out rugby. The boys know they could’ve been a lot better and in parts showed what that looked like when we were doing what we train to do, so this week it will be do or die as we face a side that has a lot of confidence and momentum coming down to us”.
Jo Yapp, Head of Women’s Rugby was positive about the way in which Exeter executed against Loughborough and look forward to what will be a very different fixture against Cardiff Met. Although the EURFC Women’s 1st XV went unbeaten this season Jo is adamant that "the focus for Wednesday has to be right or what were tight fixtures in the season will lead to big pressure situations in the semi-final. If the girls play to their potential and focus on what we have been training for I think the game will be competitive, playing in these matches is where we want to be and what the team have wanted to achieve all season, so now they have the opportunity to show what they can do against a challenging opposition which is exciting for everyone involved.”
This will be Jo’s last fixture as Head of Women’s Rugby at the University and I am sure it will be on the forefront of everyone involved mind’s and a fixture not to be missed as hopes and expectations grow for the climax of the University season.
Get down to University of Exeter’s Premier Sports Pitches in Topsham on Wednesday 27th for what will be a hugely entertaining afternoon of the best university rugby in the country, admittance is free and all welcome.
EURFC Men's 1st XV vs Leeds Beckett 1st XV - 1pm Kick Off
EURFC Women's 1st XV vs Cardiff Met 1st XV - 2:45pm Kick Off
Written by James Fleming
Date: 26 March 2019