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Improved 2nd Half sees Manchester edge physical encounter

The University of Manchester Rugby League team put in a performance to be proud of against a strong Man Met Cheshire side at the Armitage ground on Wednesday.
The match started under some controversy due to the referee being unable to make it to Fallowfield because of the strikes. However, Manchester started very brightly with two tries within 15 minutes, whilst Man Met Cheshire engineered one of their own.
Joe Butcher and William Dawbarn finished off some brilliant moves out wide, an area of the game where Manchester Uni felt they could dominate due to their expansive and entertaining style of rugby.
With early parity awarded to Manchester, both sides ran at each other very hard which required stern defence and big hits at the breakdown, confirming this game was going to be a very close affair.
Man Met Cheshire scored two tries in quick succession; however it was more to do with Manchester University’s poor defence than anything else. A couple of missed tackles were the cause but it seemed to kick Manchester University into a higher gear as they realised how fine the lines were going to be between winning and losing this match.
Despite the obvious setback, calm remained amongst the home side and they set about constructing waves of pressure by keeping the ball tight and kicking the ball long down field.
With simplicity appearing to be the key for scoring tries, the forwards began to win the battle in midfield through direct running lines and good use of width when gaps were created. Eventually, Man Met Cheshire began to tire after being unable to do anything with their possession.
Manchester took full advantage and the “destructive duo” of Bower and Bates overpowering the midfield resulted in a try out wide for Chris Bates who clattered through two defenders on his way to the line.
At half time the score was 18-16 to Manchester, and during the break, Coach Neil Blackburn demanded more positivity from his team and more communication in defence.
With the second half underway, Manchester set their stall out with some thrusting runs out wide and an increase in commitment at the breakdown. Through sheer intensity they scored an early try which set the marker for the rest of the game.
From the restart, Jack Bower caught the ball on his own 20m line and crashed through five tackles to carry the ball up by himself into Man Met Cheshire’s 20m line. This sent the Armitage crowd into a frenzy of testosterone fuelled pleasure, and the chants of ‘Moooo’ could be heard around Fallowfield in tribute to the oxen-like forward.
The resultant passing phase ended in a debut try for Oli White who outpaced his opposite winger, following some fine handling out wide. This seemed to put Man Met Cheshire into a five minute state of dejection as they replied with lateral running and dropped passing.
However, after a clumsy turnover from Manchester, Man Met Cheshire capitalised on an overlap and managed to score in the corner, and a period of pressure followed which had Manchester Uni well on the back foot and learning that basics would be the key to winning this closely contested match.
Realising it was very much their game to lose, Adam Seabrook scored a brilliant individual try to regain dominance in Manchester’s favour. Again Man Met Cheshire found a way to exert prolonged pressure, but the home defence stood firm against the onslaught.
Oli White rewarded the team with another two tries to have himself a debut hat trick, one of which was made by a pitch long run from Imad Nasir who gathered the ball from inside his own 20m line, broke through two tacklers and offloaded in the tackle. The word glorious was mentioned to describe this feat of skill.
Man Met Cheshire managed to pull a try back in the last ten minutes and got within one failed swan dive attempt of scoring another. The winger in question (with no defenders near him) did not realise that after jumping, he had to hold on to the ball until his body had regained contact with planet earth.
Failing to adhere to this principle the player ended up accidentally jettisoning the ball over the dead ball line whilst in mid air. Beautiful.
Manchester finished the game battered and bruised, but victorious, much to the pleasure of the large crowd who had come to watch.
Captain Chris Bower said ‘The Backs were brilliant today and the team as a whole reacted to little setbacks that could have undone us in the past. We had to work extremely hard for this win, it definitely wasn’t easy and I’m really glad we’ve got back to winning ways’.
The University of Manchester Rugby League club would like to invite everyone to come and watch their Varsity game on Wednesday the 7th December where they take on Manchester Metropolitan University at Broughton Park.
Tickets are £3, there is bus transport to and from the game and kick off is at 8pm.

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