Friday the 6th of October saw the two Manchester universities go head to head in the 2017 Varsity at the AJ Bell Stadium. The doubleheader was opened with the women’s game as they looked to continue their winning streak over their MMU rivals.
It was UoM who started the brightest, forcing MMU back into their own half, and with only eight minutes on the clock they secured the first try of the evening. Nyamedo Hannah showed a good turn of pace to get past the MMU defence and put her side ahead. Megan Grant-Harris converted and UoM found themselves with a seven-point advantage in the opening stages.
The MMU fans were certainly the louder of the two as they looked to pick up their team from the early setback. From the first UoM try onwards, it was all MMU as they looked for a way back into the game. UoM defended well though, and MMU did not have any clear sight of the try line.
The half an hour mark was approaching as MMU did manage to get points on the board. Number 13 of MMU pushed high up the field, which in turn allowed the number 3 to score the try. However, the conversion was not taken and UoM maintained their lead, which had now been cut down to two points.
Despite the uneven scoreline, the game had been a fair, balanced contest and the sides went in at the break with the 7-5 scoreline intact.
The second half was a different affair though, as UoM really pushed to gain dominance. Just ten minutes after the restart, Hannah scored her second try of the night and while Grant-Harris was this time unable to convert, UoM extended their lead to 12-5.
The game was drawing closer to the end, and there were some nervy moments as one try and a successful conversion would put MMU level. Any unrest was put to bed though as a scrum win gave Zoë Childs Ford the chance to power her way to the try line.
The conversion was missed but the 12 point lead of UoM looked unassailable for MMU. The game finished at 17-5 and the winning UoM team celebrated with their fans.
After a race between the two mascots, which MMU’s bird won easily, it was time for the men’s game. The 2016 encounter saw MMU defeat UoM 10-5 so UoM were hoping for a chance at redemption.
It was not long before MMU were ahead. Having been awarded a penalty, their number 10 made no mistake and put three points on the board for his side. In opposite fashion to the women’s game, it was MMU who started brightest; the opening penalty was being built on with some good rugby.
UoM, meanwhile, were struggling to get going and were forced to kick it long just to get the ball out of their own half. This relief was short lived though, as MMU regained possession and pushed UoM back into their own half.
The work of MMU allowed their number 5 to score the first try of the game and give the team an 8-0 lead.UoM continued to look for a way out and eventually they got their reward.
UoM continued to look for a way out and eventually they got their reward; Ross Bennett squeezed the ball over the try line and Charlie Reed converted to take the score to 7-8 in favour of MMU. Then four minutes later, UoM converted a penalty. Reed made no mistake to give UoM the lead for the first time.
After taking the lead, UoM were on top. A try was ruled out and a penalty kick was narrowly missed. With UoM in the ascendency, it was perhaps harsh that MMU were to go ahead again.
A penalty from a good distance was converted by the MMU number 10 making the score 10-11 in their favour. The penalty was the last kick of the first half and after a sluggish start, UoM fought their way back into it and can be considered unlucky to go in at halftime down.
In the same way the UoM women dominated the second half, the MMU men did so here. They started on the front foot, pushing UoM into their own half more and more. This eventually resulted in the number 5 getting his second try of the night, and number 10 proceeded to score the conversion.
Another penalty converted by MMU’s number 10 gave UoM a mountain to climb, which unfortunately they were unable to do. The game ended 21-10 to MMU, and their fans proceeded to storm the pitch, lifting their players aloft in the air.
Both games consisted of an even first half performance met with a strong second-period display. So the 2017 Varsity ended with victory for the UoM women, but defeat for the men.