Imperial College 1st XV 24 - 13 Brunel 1st XV
The 1st XV arrived at fortress Harlington for the final home game of the season and the last before Varsity. For many of the team it was to be their final game at Imperial Rugby’s spiritual home. After an emotional speech from IC’s teary-eyed captain Mike O’Connell the boys were pumped and ready for a big performance.
The game kicked off with Harlington’s unrelenting wind blowing across the pitch. The emotion of the game manifested itself in a number of big hits, as IC won a penalty after good work by the front five. Choosing territory over points at the early point in the game, Cox kicked for the corner for an Imperial lineout.
Winning the lineout and driving forwards through a powerful maul, IC powered deep into the Brunel 22 but were held a couple of metres out from the line. With Brunel backtracking in defense, Imperial capitalized on their disarray as scrum-half Scott Fraser saw a gap, picking up from the base and nipping over on the blindside to put IC into a 5 - 0 lead. The extra 2 points were added as Cox slotted the ball over the posts from wide out on the right.
The Brunel pack looked fired up after their early humiliation in the driving maul and wanted to hit back hard. This aggression resulted in them winning a penalty against the always-graceful Shuz, who was somehow spotted by the referee lying on the wrong side of a ruck. The Brunel kicker had no difficulty in claiming 3 points from the tee, and to make matters worse the officials decided that Shuz’s offense merited 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Down to 14 men on the field, IC knew they needed to shift up a gear. After some solid work at the lineout and confident drives up the pitch Brunel were themselves reduced to 14 men for repeatedly collapsing the IC maul. From the penalty Cox opted to kick to the corner once again and Imperial looked to strike from another lineout five metres from the line. After some huge crash balls from centres Jack Flanagan and Chris Macbeth the ball was switched blind and Cox ran in IC’s second to put them into a 12 - 3 lead. As the sin bin period ended, Imperial returned to a full complement five points better off.
Brunel looked shell shocked and resorted to a kicking game, which was dealt with easily by man mountain Josh O’Donnell at full back. IC defended well and went into half time with their 12 - 3 lead intact.
Half-time: Imperial College 1st XV 12 - 3 Brunel 1st XV
The second half started with the same pace and ferocity. The Brunellians were awarded a penalty when the referee spotted the over eager IC defense creeping offside. The kick flew between the posts, narrowing the lead to 12-6.
Imperial responded immediately, building up several phases on strong pick-and-go rugby around the rucks to make space for the backs out wide. After a series of line-breaks by the back row, the ball was spun out wide allowing winger Jon Mann to fly down the wing for IC’s third try of the afternoon, 19-6.
After the restart the game began to open up, it was clear Brunel were determined to try and play some running rugby, throwing the ball around like hot library cafe potato. ICs defense stood firm, driving the Brunel boys backwards at every opportunity. A brief lack of concentration was punished however, when a quick tap penalty from Brunel was spun out quickly creating space on the inside for the Brunel fullback to run in under the sticks. Try converted 19-13.
As the match drew to a close, Imperial looked to close it out on the front foot. The momentum swung back IC’s way as they maintained possession in the Brunel half. With the Brunel back line tiring, Cox drilled a miss pass out to right wing Jon Mann, who beat his man. Surging down the touchline he offloaded back inside to Cox, who found flanker Tom Murray in support, who inturn drew his man before offloading to Olisa Ufodiama for the try.