Team Bath end BUCS Super Rugby league season on a battling note as they make Leeds Beckett work hard for victory
Team Bath men’s 1st XV showed great spirit and determination as they made a larger and more experienced Leeds Beckett side work for a narrow 31-21 victory in the final game of the 2019-20 BUCS Super Rugby league season.
The Blue & Gold – sponsored by Fulkers Bailey Russell – twice led in the first half at the University of Bath Sports Training Village thanks to well-crafted tries from Elliot Berryman and George Worboys but were pegged back by the visitors, who took a 21-14 advantage into the break.
They scored again midway through the second period but Team Bath refused to let the game get away from them, as it had during a heavy defeat at Hartpury last week, and they notched the final try of the game through Caley Gray.
Aaron James, Head of Rugby at the University of Bath, said: “I’m pleased with a lot of our performance and the way we fronted up. We knew Leeds had a strong scrum and were physically bigger because they are an older team but I’m really pleased with our application.
“We scored three tries and if we’d backed ourselves we probably had another one or two more in us. I’m pleased we put last week behind us and we showed tonight what kind of team we can be.”
Just five minutes were on the clock when second-row forwards James Fitzmaurice and Berryman combined brilliantly for the hosts, the former punching through a gap in the Leeds defence before offloading for his partner to power over in the corner. Worboys added an excellent conversion from the touchline.
Leeds hit back strongly but were kept at bay by some excellent Team Bath defending before the pressure finally told when prop Conrad Cade burrowed over and Steffan James levelled the scores at 7-7.
The home side responded well to the setback and regained the lead with a brilliant solo try from Worboys, the Bath Rugby Academy fly-half breaking through a tackle and then producing a brilliant burst of pace to race over from 35 yards.
He added the extras once again but a penalty try just after the half-hour mark restored parity and Leeds edged ahead on the stroke of half-time when exerted pressure on the Team Bath line ended with number 8 Nick Brown crashing over. James’ conversion was the last kick of the half and put the visitors 21-14 ahead.
A scrappy second period saw Leeds use their extra strength and power in the pack to put the hosts on the back foot. Prop Will French was sin-binned as Leeds applied pressure on the scrum and, after several resets, the ball was eventually spread wide for Will Lewin to score the bonus-point fourth try.
James again converted in fine style but Team Bath, with players coming off the bench to good effect, fought their way back into the contest with great determination and deservedly closed the gap to 28-21 when hooker Gray found a gap following a series of sorties on the Leeds line.
Leeds thought they had scored again when centre Charlie Dixon ran in but the try was disallowed for crossing. However, play was called back for an offside decision against Team Bath and Leeds elected to take the kick, James’ penalty securing the victory.
Team Bath, who are also supported by Rengen Developments, placed eighth in the final league table and have qualified for the end-of-season knockout competition.
They face a tough first step on the road to Twickenham, an away quarter-final against newly-crowned champions Durham on Wednesday, March 18 (6.30pm).
Team Bath starting XV: 15 Paul Altier, 14 Cal Barrett, 13 Sam Kennaugh, 12 Alex Nisbet, 11 Ethan Hutt, 10 George Worboys, 9 Ed Rimmer (c); 1 Arthur Cordwell, 2 Caley Gray, 3 Will French, 4 James Fitzmaurice, 5 Elliot Berryman, 6 Edoardo Balocco, 7 Tom Williams, 8 Henry Purchase. Replacements: 16 George Holroyd, 17 Tom Rowland, 18 Archie McNicol, 19 Olu Odulami, 20 Cameron Keys, 21 George Wootten, 22 Tom Pittman, 23 Luca Mignot.
Tries: Berryman, Worboys, Gray.
Conversions: Worboys 3.
Leeds Beckett starting XV: 15 Kieran Davies, 14 Will Lewin, 13 Charlie Dixon, 12 Charlie Venables, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Steffan James, 9 Connor Lloyd (c); 1 Conrad Cade, 2 Lotu Nuku, 3 Rhys Charalambous, 4 John Ofakor, 5 Adrian Wadden, 6 Jonny Teague, 7 Toby Francis, 8 Nick Brown. Replacements: 16 Will Routledge, 17 Jarod Leat, 18 Jacob Percival, 19 Tom Collins, 20 Michael Etete, 21 Spencer Cope, 22 Elliott Rayment, 23 Jonny Keh.
Tries: Cade, penalty, Brown, Lewin.
Conversions: James 3.
Referee: Iain Kiy.
Assistant referees: Mark Doran, Steve Hambley.
Fourth official: James Maby.