Imperial College 1st XV 35 - 0 Kent 1st XV
A scrappy game of rugby looked to be the order of the day as Imperial 1st XV welcomed bottom of the table Kent to a wet Harlington sports ground. Coming off the back of successive 24 - 0 victories confidence was high in the home dressing room. With fresher Masters student Tom ‘the mole’ Catchpole having done the dirty on his old team, IC felt they knew the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents.
Kent kicked off playing with the wind behind them. Immediate handling errors from Imperial and a good line break from the outside centre allowed Kent an early visit into the home 22. The sloppy start to the game continued as Imperial were penalised at the ruck giving the Kent captain (Catchpole: “he’s an incredible player”) an easy chance in front of the posts. Imperial held their collective breath, as the end of their 160 minutes of unbroken defence seemed nigh. The kick flew wide.
Encouraged by this sign, IC grew into the game and worked up the pitch through the forwards, with powerful carries from O’Connell, Hardisty and Nielsen-Vinegar-Scott. Under pressure, it was the turn of Kent to infringe and James Cox made no mistake with his kick at goal to put IC 3 - 0 up.
As the half progressed there were an increasing number of dropped balls. The scrum count rose and props Jon Lineham and Tom ‘momentum fresher’ Shuz stepped into the spotlight. Aided by the lithe, otter-like frame of Tom Hobson at hooker, the Imperial front row manshamed their rural counterparts. The resultant penalties allowed IC to gain good field position via the boot of Cox. The forwards battered towards the line drawing in more and more of the Kent defenders to repel the barrage, and when the ball went wide Catchmole was in acres of space to touch the ball down into the corner. Cox was predictably baffled by the faint breeze leaving the score 8 - 0.
Imperial stayed on top for the rest of the first half. A good kicking game from scrum- and fly-half, assisted by breaks from centres Jack Flanagan and Jon Mann and some gangly yet effective counter-attacks from full back Josh O’Donnell ensured IC were dominant. The proof came as skipper Mike O’Connell converted pressure into points, squeezing over in the corner from a maul. The shock of scoring confused the Captain, forcing him off the pitch to recover. It was Imperial’s International, recently returned from representing Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, Olisa Ufodiama who stepped in for his long awaited return- after a slight reshuffle of the pack. Proving that they were better with the Captain off the pitch, IC built momentum, with Olisa crunching the Kent 15 to leave him gasping on the ground trying to find his windpipe.
Half-time: Imperial College 1st XV 13 - 0 Kent 1st XV
The half ended at 13 - 0 and the two props gave way to Jake Bagby and Dave Jones, deservedly making the team off the back of huge performances for the 2nd XV last week. Both carried on where their predecessors left off, Bagby taking a leaf from the WWE handbook to extract both yards and penalties from his man whilst Jones showed great enthusiasm in the loose. A classic IC driving maul in the corner gifted Tom Hedley his third try of the season with Cox slotting the conversion to surely guarantee the result at 20 - 0.
With Kent running for their white cliffs, more fine work in the forwards culminated in Ufodiama breaking through the line from 30 meters out before offloading to Hardisty. The Club Captain put his head down and three trampled tacklers later added five points to Imperial’s tally.
The Imperial forces marched on; replacement winger Jack Dunning made his mark at the breakdown, winning a penalty in front of the sticks that any flanker would have been proud of. Cox put the ball over to make
it 28 - 0 with around five minutes to go.
In a great display of determination Kent rallied in the final moments of the game, choosing to attack from deep. Unfortunately for the visitors a tap penalty on their own tryline only served to send South African poacher Charles Price-Smith in for an interception try, who displayed stunning arrogance to swan dive under the posts on debut. Cox was successful with the conversion to give a final score of 35 - 0.
The result places Imperial at the top of the league and now makes it over 240 minutes since a point was last conceded. With performances like this, Imperial 1st XV will have an excellent season.