MMU unable to reverse Varsity fortunes

Robbie Gill

As the sun set on a glorious, early autumn evening, the MMU students packed into the Heywood Road terraces were filled with optimism and hoping to halt the run of twelve consecutive UM wins in the fixture.

MMU 11 – 29 UM

After some early promise, MMU held a half time lead. However it was not to be their day as two tries in quick succession mid way through the second half left them feeling deflated and they eventually succumbed to valiant 29-11 defeat which on another day could easily have gone the other way.

MMU began the game with a determination and spirit matched only by their supporters, who were described as ‘Brilliant’ after the game by MMU’s try scorer Rupert Broadley. MMU were given the first chance to open the scoring, however Michael Catt was greeted by a chorus of boos from the UM fans behind him and the attempt sailed wide.  Although they went down soon after 0-3 to an early UM penalty, MMU had looked powerful up front and were soon back on level terms, with Catt this time successful with the penalty.

MMU continued to press and although they found themselves with some defending of their own to do, eventually, the try, which proved so elusive last year, arrived. It was no less than their efforts deserved and came as the result of poor handling from the UM backs as their failure to deal with a long clearance close to their 22 presented Rupert Broadley with a chance which he gleefully took. Running onto the bouncing ball, claiming it superbly and going over near the corner to give MMU a 8-3 lead. An unsuccessful conversion from a difficult angle followed leaving MMU 8-3 ahead at the break.

As the MMU fans buzzed with talk of a famous victory and the thousands swarmed the bar to better last years tally of 5,177 beers consumed, no less than four people stripped naked and ran across the pitch. The party atmosphere was soon over as the teams came back onto the pitch to resume the hostilities.

With tensions running high, the penalty count was increasing, giving Michael Catt a chance to stretch MMU’s lead. The heckling which Catt had been subjected to on the opposite side of the pitch was replaced by a deadly silence, all be it only briefly, from the MMU fans who soon erupted again as the penalty made it 11-3.

However midway through the second half disaster struck as a period of pressure from UM resulted in a try, and subsequent conversion bringing UM within a point at 11-10. MMU had hardly had time to regain focus and with the team still reeling from the shock UM went over again, although this time missed the conversion putting them ahead 11-15.

Soon after MMU had a chance to bring themselves back to within a point, but the attempt was missed. This seemed to be the turning point, as from then on MMU appeared to lose their intensity. A view shared by Broadley who cited the need to begin training earlier and build on the progress made this year as the keys to coming back stronger next time.

When asked what he thought turned the game, UM player Rob Saltrick stated that it was the substitutes, ‘And the grilling we took at half time.’ It certainly seemed to have worked as the final stages of the game contained two further converted tries, although by the time the final try was scored the UM fans had already began to leave. When the ref called an end to proceedings the score read MMU 11 UM 29.

In an interview after the game try scorer Rupert Broadley described the encounter as ‘Frustrating’ and it could not have been closer to the truth. A game which offered so much eventually ended in a defeat in which the score line did not tell the full story. A game of blood, sweat and streakers in which the team fought hard ultimately left a bitter taste in the mouth. The MMU lads were left wondering what might have been, reflecting on a game that was lost on slim margins. Knowing that a bit of extra conditioning could hopefully help them come back next year and taste sweet victory.

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