MMU Clinch Win over Neighbour

Adam Costello

MMU’s Rugby League side displayed their own unique brand of team spirit and staunch determination to topple Salford University when the two met, in what was a heated encounter on an otherwise freezing cold Wednesday afternoon. The visitors came with a sky high reputation and confidence to match, having been able to boast winning the league title the past two consecutive seasons. Yet there was never any danger of MMU showing the Salford side too much respect with a ferocious opening set of tackles that would set the tone for the rest of the game.

Historically the opening 10 minutes of every rugby match is known as the “arm wrestle” with both sides seeing multiple periods of possession in an attempt to gain dominance, yet defence remained well and truly on top, with neither side finding their way across the whitewash. Little did you know this was only the prelude to an impulsive high scoring demonstration of expert skill speed and strength. It was the visitors that opened the scoring, finally breaking MMU’s rear guard after three consecutive sets of possession, the ball was cleverly worked from left to right allowing the fullback to waltz in under the posts securing the 6 pointer.

What MMU needed was an immediate response, however it was Salford who compiled the misery for the home side with quick hands allowing the winger to slide in and just touch down on the left hand side, when the subsequent conversion clipped the bar and still went over, you could be forgiven for believing a MMU victory was just not to be. Yet MMU did force a goal line dropout in response, and persistent pressure on Salford’s tired looking right hand side led to a deserved 6 points of their own.

Both sides looked set to go in at the break with the scores at 12-6, what would in truth be a fair reflection on the game to that point. Yet a mix up in the MMU attack led to an interception. With just seconds to go until the half-time whistle a frantic attack ensued as Salford hared down the field producing a chip over the top that bounced perfectly in to the hands of the onrushing scrum half who proceeded to touch down under the sticks, with the conversion rounding off a tense first half at 18-6.

The effects of a highly physical first 40 were showing on both sides as they attempted to regroup to go out and do it all over again. MMU knew they needed one almighty 2nd half effort to overhaul the twelve point advantage. More importantly however they knew what they needed was a quick try, which duly came as quick hands allowed MMU’s Loose forward to crash over just two minutes after the restart to reduce the arrears. Cue an MMU ‘Try-athon’. Which first saw Captain and Man of the match Blake Malkovich produce the try of the game, breaking from inside his own 20 metre line before slaloming past 3 Salford defenders racing some 80 metres under the sticks to level the scores at 18 a piece. The Home side continued on the attack, making the most of lazy defending following a scrum in the Salford 10, attacking on the blind side catching the winger and centre napping which put MMU into a 22-18 lead.

Salford were clearly struggling to live with the speed and imagination of the MMU Attack, conceding several penalties in their attempts to slow down the play. Furthermore, terrific defending from MMU when Salford did manage to regain possession, limited any attempts to break out from their own half. You felt it was only a matter of time before MMU added to their lead, and when loose passing from the visitors led to a drop ball MMU seized the opportunity to strike on the counter, with several offloads leading to a chip over the top, that was caught on the run expertly by the skipper, who’s converted try gave MMU the breathing space they so craved making the score line 28-18 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

However it would be foolish to believe that a game that ebbed and flowed as this one did, would simply peter out too an end. As MMU looked to see the game out, Salford took advantage of finding themselves in a rare second half attacking position, as a seemingly poor grubber kick was received over the try line by the onrushing second row, proving the old adage correct that, ‘A kick is only as good as the chase.’

With the score at 28-22 and little over 5 minutes remaining the MMU side and their supporters on the side-line were looking understandably nervous. As they failed to retain possession at the most crucial of times, allowing Salford one last attack, the ball was shifted from left to right in desperate search of a try, and eventually Salford’s right winger, was controversially awarded with the try as he squeezed over, despite having what looked like a foot in touch. The subsequent conversion however was dragged wide and MMU were able to see out a hard fought, and deserved come from behind victory. And if this scintillating performance against last year’s reigning champions is an anything to go by, then there will be more to come, as our very own MMU Rugby League look to face bitter rivals Manchester University in the coming weeks, in a game that will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the championship come the end of the season.

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