Manchester men’s rugby union team preparation for the varsity took a hit with a defeat against the University of Nottingham at the Armitage centre.
The match started brightly for Manchester, crossing the try line after a grubber through from Blyth, however, the ball was judged to have been knocked on over the line so the try was disallowed.
Despite Manchester seemingly controlling the early exchanges of the game, Nottingham went on to score against the run of play with a good line from their fly-half Williams splitting the Manchester defence making the score 5-0.
The match had a pre-season feel about it, and both teams will know that a more consistent performance in the backs will be needed if they hope to be successful this year.
Most of Manchester’s creativity in the midfield came through centre Coskie, but most periods of possession ended with the ball being lost through handling errors after a few phases. Nottingham had similar issues as they wasted a glorious two-on-one chance to take a commanding early lead.
Manchester were much stronger up front, they forced a turnover on their own try line and moments later a brilliant recovery tackle from Secker helped keep the score at bay.
Although there was a lack of match readiness in terms of skill, the intensity and effort of the players could not be doubted.
The commitment was epitomised through several strong runs from Manchester winger Akinloatn, as well as the incredible pace of the Nottingham full back Hemming.
A tit-for-tat first half climaxed five minutes before the interval when Manchester’s line was broken by another try against the run of play with flanker Sves crossing after a scrum close to the Manchester try line. The home side then managed to get on the score sheet just before half time. Manchester will hope to exploit their scrum dominance against MMU, as continued pressure finally paid off after destructive props Walden and Richardson caused the scrum to collapse, leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty try.
The dramatic end to the first half saw Nottingham score again after strong play in the midfield left the half time scores at 17-5.
Nottingham extended their lead even further after the interval when full-back Hemming broke Manchester’s defence, running in unopposed to score under the posts, making the score 24-5.
This did create a resurgence amongst the Manchester ranks with great interplay between Blyth and Barrett forging a chance to score, but a lack of support left him isolated, before another Manchester break was turned over by Nottingham on the line. After a period of sustained pressure, centre Coskie managed to cross for Manchester after 15 minutes of the second half and a successful conversion made the score 24-12.
Nottingham continued their attempts to play everything through the middle but the physicality of Manchester saw their efforts go unrewarded. Then, in a mixture of skill, speed and a bit of luck as well, the ball broke to Nottingham substitute Foster, who picked and ran around the outside to score in the corner, leaving the score at 29-12.
With the match all but over, a small scrap emerged amongst a few players. Perhaps Manchester’s players felt small sparring session was needed before Wednesday’s game where tensions will be slightly higher than in this week’s match.
In many ways it was a bittersweet result for Manchester. They can be content in the fact that Nottingham will be playing in the league above them this season, whereas Wednesday’s Varsity opponents are a league below Manchester’s 2nd XV. However, Manchester will feel aggrieved by what was a flattering score line constructed by Manchester not taking their chances and a few defensive errors.
Elsewhere, the men’s 2nd XV played a thrilling match against Nottingham University 2nd XV coming from behind to win 14-12.