On Wednesday, the 11th November, IC 2nd XV travelled to Regents’ Park to face the School of African Studies in the first cup game of the season. After four consecutive wins for IC, the last two of which were by over 50 points, playing a team from a different league meant a solid performance would be necessary. Motivation for IC was at it’s peak with the whole squad knowing that the toughest teams we will face will be in this cup, so progression would be crucial for the teams development this season.
After some focused warm-ups, and a minute’s silence in remembrance of veterans from World War I, Ali Jones kicked off for IC and the intensity from both sides was obvious from the first collision. Early pressure from the IC forwards forced a penalty at the breakdown and Ruairi Dunne landed the kick putting Imperial into an early lead. SOAS then retaliated and after several phases of clean ball, were able to cross over the whitewash to score the first try of the game.
IC were able to regroup and hold onto possession for several phases in SOAS territory and the communication between forwards and backs throughout these attacks led to long periods of sustained pressure in the SOAS 22. Unfortunately mistakes and ill-discipline meant the lads went unrewarded for their efforts in attack until a slick lineout-and-drive allowed for a man who always ensures family comes first, Adam Motley, to touch down and score for Imperial in the corner before halftime. Dunne was unable to add the conversion but a slim lead at halftime meant the next points would be pivotal to the final score.
Although the boys were fired up from the team talk during halftime, poor communication in defence meant that SOAS were able to create an overlap and their winger scored to take the lead from Imperial. Some friendly chats ensued with the ref when both sets of players realized he had the wrong score written down. Much to the sadness of Imperial hearts everywhere, the correct score was clarified and the game played on.
IC was forced to play catch-up for the remainder of the second half and after another SOAS penalty due to some dubious work at the breakdown, the game seemed beyond saving for Imperial. To further IC’s struggle, Rob Lawrence decided to take a 10-minute breather IC were forced to play until fulltime with 14 men.
It took until the very last play of the match for the 2nd XV miracle man, Will Goldberg, to work his magic and sidestep two defenders to score under the posts. Dunne kept a cool head and slotted the conversion leading to a final score of 15-15.
A draw after 80 minutes led to some confusion amongst the players; some where thanking the SOAS boys for a good game, some thinking about curries and
nightclubs, but el capitán, Gavin Roberts, had his mind on the game and realized a cup game can’t be left at a draw. After confirmation from ICURFC headquarters, a further 20 minutes were about to be played to decide the winner. The lads regrouped and immediately got fired up to win the game and stay in the cup.
IC kicked off through Jones and SOAS quickly worked their way back into Imperial’s 22. SOAS shifted the ball through the backline, which was brilliantly read by the phoneless Oli Parker, who intercepted the final pass and ran the length of the field to touchdown under the sticks for IC.
IC finished the first half of extra time with a seven point lead and strong commitment to keeping an overtime clean sheet. Throughout the second half of extra time, IC kept possession and territory to keep SOAS pinned in their own half. Some good phase play from the forward pods and silky backs allowed flanker Roo Mitchell-Heggs to burst through a gap and offload just before the tryline to fresher George Nicholas who touched down over the line unopposed. Dunne added the extras and sealed the win for IC.
There was a small sense of disappointment that we did not settle the match through a historic round of penalty kicks but there will be opportunity for that later in the cup. The victory song and port tasted extra sweet after a hard-fought win for the 2’s, and the unbeaten record holds up for another week. Onwards and upwards.