Wednesday afternoon means sport in universities, colleges and quite a number of schools throughout the country. ickledot’s usually working at this time but yesterday I managed to get away for some midweek rugby. The fixture was Leeds Beckett (men) against Cardiff Met University on a rather dull and blustery afternoon in Headingley. This was something of a first for me. I’ve photographed Beckett’s women’s rugby team twice in their annual varsity match against local rivals Leeds University, but never the men.
Little was I to know at the outset that the game would end in a first of another kind for me. More of that to come. Beckett kicked off and were almost instantly on the proverbial back foot as Cardiff set off down field. The visitors were clearly strong and quick in attack, passing along the line accurately and moving forward as a solid unit. Cardiff were ahead within the first ten minutes with a try. The onslaught continued and Beckett went further behind while offering little in attack themselves. When they did move forward, passes were intercepted or went astray.
When Cardiff scored a third try the contest seemed to be over. One spectator was heard to comment that the visitors were playing ‘on a different level’. With the first half coming to an end, Beckett opted to kick for points following one of their few phases of possession in their opponents’ 22. The successful kick gave a half time score of 3-22.
At the time I thought that might serve as something of a consolation or merely a welcome avoidance of a blank score in an afternoon of abject defeat. It certainly didn’t seem to be anything of a pointer to what happened next. The hosts were playing down the slope and with the wind in the second half but still there was a very high mountain to be climbed.
Cardiff kicked off to begin the second forty. Weirdly the kick went off the pitch directly, bringing a scrum for Beckett on the centre circle. Another sign of change perhaps? A seed of doubt planted in the Cardiff squad? Didn’t seem so at the time as they scored another converted try shortly after, making the score 3-29. I couldn’t find an official match report but there’s a live play-by-play account on Beckett’s Twitter account which is well worth a read. A telling and rather prophetic Tweet written just after Beckett scored their first try was “Late comeback on the cards?”
And so it began to happen. The Beckett pack, which had previously only stuttered, began to work together and put the Cardiff defence under pressure. As the weather deteriorated, Beckett’s belief and physical presence grew and further tries followed. Unbelievably the score was brought back to 22-29.
Although the recovery came largely through forward pressure, the drama was intensified as replacement back Jonny Keh (of Yorkshire Under 20s Championship fame) received the ball at speed, broke through the Cardiff defence and scored with a high dive between the posts. Unbelievably the successful conversion brought the scores level.
The last play of the game was a penalty attempt by a Beckett player named Kieran from the halfway line. It fell short and perhaps there was justice in the miss. Beckett earned their draw on the day but maybe a win would have been unfair on their opponents. Cardiff are clearly a strong and talented side which on most days would have gone on to win. But nothing can be taken for granted in sport and nothing is predictable. That’s why we love it! So, a first draw for ickledot (I think) and most definitely a game of two halves. Well done to both sides. You can see more pictures from the game here.