Nail-Biting End to MMU Rugby Union’s Season
MMU Rugby Beat Doncaster in 26-24 Season Finale
MMU Rugby rounded out their 2022/23 season with a sweet victory over Doncaster and an unbeaten record at Platt Lane.
Defeat just wasn’t an option after the Blorange side scored over 100 points in their last two games.
Doncaster had the size advantage over MMU, especially in their pack, which made for an arduous afternoon of heavy tackles and driving mauls on this snowy Wednesday afternoon.
But size only got Doncaster so far, as MMU fronted up physically to create a very tight game which resulted in a final score of 26-24 to MMU.
The first half really set the tone for the rest of the game, with MMU leading 12 points to Doncaster’s 7, and both sides suffering penalty after penalty for dropped balls and offsides – most likely due to the adverse weather conditions and the magnitude of the occasion.
Despite the weather, Tom Walker (10) kept consistent accuracy in his kicks and conversions and became instrumental in MMU’s kicking game and the territory they were able to gain and the penalties they won, despite the snow.
Players like Greg Morgan (8) and Felix Lorimer (6) understood the day’s assignment; hit Doncaster hard and fast and secure a victory that could win them the league, provided Strathclyde played according to their plan – if Strathclyde lost their last two games against St Andews and Doncaster, and MMU achieved the full five league points from a win over Doncaster, the points difference would put MMU in first place and ripe for promotion.
Morgan was also put up for MVP for his efforts in defence by Club Chairman and my co-commentator Elliot Smith, but it was Vice Captain Dirk Bruil (4) who went home with the tub of NutritionX.
Lorimer, however, got a bit too excited in defending his line and was given a yellow card for a no-arms late tackle on Doncaster’s full back. Jack Martin Jr (14) moved from the wing to flanker to make up numbers in MMU’s scrum while Lorimer was in the sin bin.
But it came down to Head of Rugby Rob Jones to break the bad news in the half-time huddle: Strathclyde had beaten St. Andrews 55-12, and all MMU could do now is retain second place in the BUCS Premier North 2 league.
Doncaster had likely heard the same news, as they seemed rejuvenated from the second half whistle and one of their backs scored a highlight reel worthy solo try.
The second half saw all MMU’s substitutes come on for their final game of the season, including senior player Ryan Woolfenden (19) for whom the 12 minutes he saw of play were the last he would have for MMU.
One of the most influential of these replacements was Jack Ingram (22), who was dominant in the breakdowns he saw on the wing.
Driving maul tries were also a common theme in this matchup as both sides scored multiple tries from the set play. Harry Graham (2) performed particularly well in MMU’s mauls and came away with two tries off the back of them.
In attack, Aidan van Der Vyer (5) made a name for himself by putting in dominant tackles, and James Phillips (7) was disruptive in the breakdowns as MMU’s chief jackal-er.
As is often commonplace in close games such as this, a scuffle broke out after Josh Lugsden (15) put in a hefty tackle on a charging Doncaster scrum half, who took issue with the challenge and thumped Lugsden on the chin. Lugsden seemed unbothered as his knowing grin stretched from ear to ear.
Unbeknownst to the players, an erroneous double-tap on the livestream’s scorecard after a Doncaster try put the visitors three points ahead, 26-29, in the final minutes, when they actually trailed behind by two points when Tom Walker ended the match with a kick into touch.
With this confusion averted and MMU’s 26-24 victory set in stone, reality set in that the seniors had just heard their final full-time whistle at Platt Lane, evoking strong emotions in the squad. The leaving players all deserve to be celebrated and are as follows:
Captain Alex Brooks (1); Theo Hulbert (3); Greg Morgan; Toby Crane (13); Ryan Woolfenden; James Morris; Fergus Walker; Tom Charsley-Evans; Chimi Chukwudire.
In a post-match interview, when asked about his thoughts on his time playing rugby for MMU, Hulbert said: “it’s been a great four years, I’ve made some good mates, good memories – and for any lads that are thinking of coming, it’ll be the best three-four years of your life.” A true testament and ambassador for MMU Sport.