By Henry Woodsford
UCLan made a winning return to rugby union action as they defeated University of Manchester at the Sports Arena.
It was the home side’s first fixture of the year, and the opening phases of this tie were rather scrappy. Both sides were trying to establish themselves early on which resulted in various errors.
Once UCLan got rid of these mistakes they became the dominant side. A strong scrum in Manchester’s half resulted in the game’s opening score as number 8 Matt Frings dodged a few defenders before offloading to fly-half Jack Donnellan who scored in the corner. Outside-centre James Gibson missed the conversion, but UCLan were now in the ascendency.
Quick as a flash the home side doubled their advantage. Olly Stables broke Manchester’s defensive line and Gibson’s boot added 2 more points. UCLan deserved their lead even though there wasn’t a lot to split the sides.
Manchester began to overturn UCLan ball with their forwards rucking and scrummaging very well before having 2 tries held up by a resolute UCLan defence. But just as the visitors were coming into the tie, UCLan grabbed their third try, taking a 19-0 lead into half-time.
The visitors started the second-half strongly; they gained plenty of ground, turned over balls and eventually their hard work was rewarded with a converted try. Manchester now sensed the upper hand and the next score in this game would be pivotal.
But it was the home side who got it with the try of the game, if not the season. Forwards Sam Emmitt and Dylan Modeste exchanged offloads before Matty Dawe broke the line and popped the ball to Andrew Selby who touched down under posts. Gibson added a deserved try moments later and with a 31-7 lead, UCLan could relax for the last 10 minutes of the game.
UCLan took their foot off the gas but when 2 players were sin binned late on, the visitors grabbed 2 converted tries of their own. The win for UCLan means they remain third in the BUSC League. They face second placed Keele University away next week.
UCLan XV: Birckbeck; Dawe, Gibson, Stables, Ogundeyin; Donnellan, Nelson; Farrer, Emmitt, Modeste, Thresh, Swift, Tavender-Tait, Henderson, Frings.
Replacements: Selby, McCartney, Hudson.