UEL's hard-working rugby men have to settle for the runners-up medals in final
PUBLISHED: 15:00 13 March 2018
University of East London's men saw their title hopes crash back to earth as they finished second best to a well-drilled Middlesex team in their final meeting.
It proved to a be a frustrating first half for UEL as they gave their promotion-chasing rivals and their ability to move the ball too much respect.
Sitting back more than usual, rather than showing the aggressive, hard-hitting defence that has been a feature of their play this season, UEL fell behind to a penalty and then saw Middlesex run in four tries before the half-hour mark.
UEL number eight Tom Courtney was then shown a yellow card after conceding two penalties in quick succession on the five-metre line, but going down to 14 men seemed to ignite the east Londoners.
After taking line-out ball, they saw captain and scrum-half Ross Skinner go over from close range to get them on the scoresheet.
And the UEL fightback continued in a far more competitive second half, with Courtney keen to make amends for his earlier indiscretion.
After producing a big tackle and some excellent counter rucking to force turnover ball, it looked like UEL had turned a corner in the match.
But, despite plenty of passion and heart, UEL saw the slick and clinical nature of Middlesex’s play pay dividends.
UEL tried to disrupt the flow and rhythm of the Middlesex play, with second row Elliott Cohen giving another immense display, making metres and always threatening to put team-mates through.
Courtney carried well, with fly-half Harry Walker and Joe Morris also a threat with ball in hand.
There were some strong hits from Tashan Best, while full-back Tim Eves took the man of the match award for UEL following an impressive performance.
But hopes of a consolation score were dashed as Walker put Courtney through a hole in the defence, only for him to be hauled down short of the line.
UEL must now put their cup final disappointment behind them as they focus instead on the return to their own promotion aspirations.
UEL: Bridger, Clarke, Durand, Cohen, Willis, White, Olajide, Courtney, Skinner, Walker, Best, Winfield, Morris, Cracknell, Eves. Replacements: Allman, Kay, Crooke, Mann, Wahib, Roberts, Trantor.