Loughborough Students Rugby suffer narrowest of defeats at Twickenham
On a cold March evening Loughborough Students Rugby suffered an agonising two point defeat at the hands of the University of Exeter in the BUCS Rugby Union Final.
Aiming to bounce back from a closing stages defeat at Twickenham twelve months ago, the Loughborough University side acquitted themselves superbly, soaking up long spells of Exeter pressure without ever looking out of the game.
However despite taking the lead with just five minutes to go the men in purple were unable to hang on, as Exeter snatched a drop goal in the dying moments to seal a 21-19 victory.
The University of Exeter got proceedings underway as they kicked towards the North Stand, and after a tense first five minutes opened the scoring with a well worked try. Surprisingly their number 10 missed the easiest of conversions, leaving the score at 5-0.
With play toing and froing Loughborough won a penalty just outside the 22, which number 12 Dan Watt duly scored. However just minutes later Exeter exposed the Loughborough defence once more to score their second try of the game, which they this time converted to take the score to 15-3.
George Davis’ introduction in place of Joe Cave gave the team in purple some increased vigour in defence and soon after they won another penalty that Watt dispatched. As the clocked ticked down towards half-time Loughborough finally had their first try after some sustained pressure inside the opposition 22. It was number 14 Brendon Mandivenga who finally took the ball across the line and Watt converted to make it 15-13, but a late Exeter penalty left the score at 18-13 at half-time.
Ciaran Beattie’s men came flying out of the blocks in the second half to win an early penalty, and it was that man Dan Watt who again converted a long range kick to take his tally to four from four.
The momentum looked to have swung in Loughborough’s favour, as after a flurry of half-time substitutions they looked full of running. They did had to have their whits about them in order to save a try inches from the line though.
There was real cause for concern though when just over 10 minutes into the second half try scorer Brendon Mandivenga was stretchered off with what looked like a head injury. Shortly after the restart Loughborough were let off the hook once more as Exeter missed another straight forward penalty, leaving the score finely balanced at 18-16.
Even with five minutes to go there was further drama to be had, as Loughborough were awarded a penalty just inside the Exeter half. After sustaining a long period of pressure, last year’s runners up had a chance to take the lead, with Dan Watt stepping up to take the kick. True to form, Watt made it five from five to send the travelling Loughborough fans into raptures.
However a night of twists and turns wasn’t over, as after more heavy pressure Exeter put a drop goal between the Loughborough posts to flip the score in their favour and clinch the match 21-19.
Having gone unbeaten since last year’s final defeat at the hands of Leeds Beckett the Loughborough University team were understandably gutted with the outcome, especially having suffered a similar fate twelve months ago.
Post-match, BUCS 1s Head Coach Ciaran Beattie commented:
“It’s a tough pill to swallow but we were second best on the night. We gave a good account of ourselves defensively but we didn’t get our attacking shape going. As I said in the build up to this game, this is a really strong Exeter team and we’ve defended for 40 minutes in our own half and only lost the game by two points. This shows what a special team we have.”
Maybe it’ll be third time lucky next year?
“Absolutely; the planning starts tomorrow.”