Rugby: UEL 34 Canterbury Christ Church 17
PUBLISHED: 08:19 25 November 2017
The University of East London bounced back from their loss the week before with a five try victory against Canterbury in the Cup.
UEL, often guilty of starting slowly, came out of the gates with a bang and Canterbury’s big men struggled to move quickly across the pitch as the exciting midfield of fly half and captain Lawrence Joel and centres Harry Walker and Finlay McDonald immediately showed the dangers UEL’s backline posed in getting the back out wide.
Not only did Canterbury struggle to match the width and speed of UEL’s backline but they struggled to deal with the hard carrying of UEL’s pack and principal ball carriers.
David White, covering at hooker this week, made hard yards from the restarts around the pitch in what was one of his best games of the season and number eight Tom Courtney carried strongly through traffic off the scrum half and clearing up at the back.
Meanwhile, openside flanker Nathan Musho’d bust through a gap just outside the 22, smashing his way through two players to score the opening try of the game.
Joel missed the conversion but made up for it moments later from a UEL lineout where the captain cleared up scrappy ball and showcased his speed and footwork to go half the length of the pitch for yet another spectacular solo score.
UEL took their foot off the gas a little after that, allowing Canterbury to get into the game, winning a lineout on UEL’s five-metre line from where a strong maul drove over the line despite the best efforts of White to get underneath the scorer.
This try was followed by Canterbury again getting themselves in a good position and then catching UEL off-guard by attacking the blindside and going over in the other corner to narrow the gap to two points.
However, UEL responded immediately to this second score with a fantastically-worked move where White overthrew the lineout, hitting Joel in the middle of the pitch who was able to offload to Courtney to score the easiest of tries.
This seemed to signal UEL taking control of the game, but towards the end of the half they put themselves under pressure when Walker was sent to the sin bin.
Unable to win their own lineout, UEL tried to play beyond the 40 minutes to eat into the time on the sin bin but Joel was turned over and UEL were put under pressure while a man down.
They managed to hold out and had eaten up almost half the time on the sin bin, but at the beginning of the second half Canterbury managed to use their man advantage to get around UEL’s stretched defence to score in the left corner.
UEL were put under extra pressure by this by the loss of prop Batandwa to concussion, which saw a brief cameo by Mason Durard, who was not supposed to be available for the day but who had nobly brought his kit in case he was needed.
Durard’s introduction shored up UEL’s struggling scrum and he made bullocking run on the crash ball before unfortunately having someone go over his ankle that forced him off the pitch and second row Alex Alman moved forwards to prop.
Aware that UEL was only narrowly leading their opponents, Joel began making the decision to slow the game.
Kicking the ball down the pitch, UEL were only just stopped from scoring on three occasions with Cracknell, Roberts and Reid all following up kicks through.
Joel also made the decisions to kick for points to lengthen the gap but missed a penalty before quickly getting another chance that time he scored.
The penalty proved moot, though, as UEL earned a penalty on Canterbury’s five-metre line and Joel, instead of opting for the points, took the tap and gave the ball for Courtney to crash up and through the opposition line to score his second of the day under the posts.
The scoring was finished off when full back Reid, fielding a much-pressurised kick upfield broke through a number of tackles before getting the ball to Joel who went over for his second of the day.
With the game threatening to get scrappy, Joel made a final attempt at a drop goal that just slipped wide but was the last play of the game for a UEL victory.
The improvement from the week before was immense. Defensively UEL did not look complacent, and more importantly, stung by last week’s defeat, showed how much they wanted the win by how they got into the defensive line and matched up, only being caught on small occasion.
While UEL still need to improve their support play with ball in hand, this was the springboard to work off for the rest of the season in their hunt for the cup title and league promotion.
UEL: Kay Batandwa, David White, Joe Bridger, Alex Alman (jt mom), Brandon Cooke, Callum Griffin, Nathan Musho’d, Tom Courtney, Rob Woodgate, Lawrence Joel, Tashan Best, Harry Walker (dod), Finlay McDonald, Cassius Cracknell, Shem Reid (jt mom), Mason Durard, Jack Roberts, Tony Knowels, Seb Craven.