All Golds are Champions of Great Britain
University of Gloucestershire All Golds 14 Loughborough University 6
Driving rain, sleet and bitterly cold conditions were no barrier to the University of Gloucestershire All Golds as they conquered a very fine Loughborough side to become British Champions in a mighty clash at St Peter’s Catholic High School in Gloucester. From the outset crunching tackles amidst punishing defence were the order of the day as both sides set about each other in such a rip roaring fashion that the spectators hardly had time to draw breath.
Victory, and only victory, would suffice for the All Golds as such an outcome would ensure that the University of Gloucestershire took top spot in the nation for the first time in the institution’s history and leap frog perennial and erstwhile champions, Leeds Metropolitan University.
Sports Officer for the University of Gloucestershire, Chris Ridings, was delighted by the result: “It’s a great day for the University of Gloucestershire, the students union and the rugby league club. Every one of the All Golds players should be proud of their achievement, to win a league of such prestige is amazing for such a small sporting university and to beat both Leeds Met and Loughborough on the way is remarkable. The Students’ Union would like to congratulate all players, coaches and management for this incredible achievement.”
Both the All Golds and Loughborough are laced with professional and representative players and the entire clash was worthy of such high quality combatants. When the sides met in the Midlands in October Loughborough ran out convincing winners, 30 points to 4, but the locals were determined to reverse the situation as they sought to defeat Loughborough for the first time in their history.
The opening quarter saw the All Golds in the ascendancy as they dominated territory but no matter how many assaults were inflicted on the Loughborough line the visitors defended as though their very lives depended on it. Indeed all varieties of attack were repulsed from the powerful surges of Mike Stewart, Ash Haynes, Joe McClean and Richard Jones to the fancy footwork and handling of the All Golds revered backline with Maxime Claustres, Callum Mulkeen, Yannic Parker and James Gahan to the fore.
In a courageous Loughborough defence, Tom Hughes, Nath Brittain, Stu Houghton and others stood out. The All Golds scrum half, number 7, Matt Bradley kicked superbly and forced no less than three consecutive goal line drop outs. However the only reward for the hosts, despite all their domination, was a solitary Bradley penalty and thus the All Golds led 2 – 0 after eighteen minutes.
Loughborough are not a top side without reason and the pendulum swung dramatically as the first half unfolded. Accurate handling and a delightful kick to the corner by Mark Wilson was skilfully plucked from the cold air by Rory Campbell but the score was ruled out after the excellent referee Ken Edwards, of the London society, deemed the Loughborough player had initially nudged the ball forward. The frantic flux of this superb encounter continued and finally in the dying embers of the opening period the All Golds prised open the hitherto impregnable Loughborough defence. Swift dummy half delivery from Rory Sharatt found
Bradley who fired out a long pass to Wales International Parker who stooped to gather, shrugged off defenders and powered over. 6 - 0 to the All Golds at the break.
The second stanza continued in much the same vein in what was now a classic. Loughborough resumed in command and sixteen minutes into the half they rightly drew level when James Plumb plunged over the All Golds line. Matt Brewer converted to level the scores at 6 – 6. At this juncture the visitors had the momentum and looked set for success. Their handling in the conditions was exceptional and first rate passing amongst the back line featuring Anthony Squires, Will Collins, Tolu Odusanya and Wilson was troubling the All Golds defence. In the final analysis it was a thunderous tackle by All Golds Marcus Brown, in which the ball was dislodged, that was to be the catalyst for Gloucestershire to surge to victory.
With fifteen minutes remaining Haynes fed the impressive Parker who scythed through from forty metres out who then drew the remnants of the Loughborough defence to send outstanding French winger Claustres on an arcing run to the sticks. The conversion was missed but the All Golds led 10 – 6. Despite the tension and passions of this quite splendid game of Rugby League the discipline of the players and sportsmanship on view were without equal so much so that there was not a single indiscretion by either side in terms of unacceptable play or conduct. A true testimony to the high standards that appertain in the top echelons of university Rugby League. And so as the final hooter approached the closing minutes were to see the All Golds camped on the Loughborough line. The last act of a day to remember was a delightful James Walter offload to Scotland International Stewart who crashed over. The final score was 14 – 6 to the All Golds.
Head Coach, Brad Hepi, was clear where the seeds of success were sown:
“Hard graft in the gym and on the training paddock will always empower individuals with the tools needed to come together collectively as a team to achieve great things and this is exactly what the University of Gloucestershire All Golds have achieved in beating Loughborough today and winning the BUCS National Premier League title”
History was made – the University of Gloucestershire reigned supreme over the British game at Varsity level. All of this was reflected in the joyous scenes at the end which set in train celebrations long into the night. The Loughborough players and staff were gracious in defeat. They have been on the podium before and knew what it meant to the All Golds. Accordingly they were fulsome in their praise and a credit to their famous university. They have an outstanding set of players and will be back challenging for honours.
To pick an outstanding All Golds individual would be unwise as all the players were tremendous – in addition to all those mentioned above - from Phil Cowburn at fullback through to James Greene at Number 6 and including skipper Sam Blaney, Jake Thomas and Ollie Yeats.
The final word is rightfully that of Dr Andrew Pitchford, the Director of Sport at the University of Gloucestershire:
"This is the university’s biggest ever sporting achievement. We have risen through the leagues in an incredibly short space of time and have now beaten off all of the big names in university sport. We are really proud of the team and the coaching staff. The whole University is behind the All Golds as they face their next big challenge of professional rugby league when they make their debut on Good Friday, March 29th, against Oxford in the Kingstone Press Championship 1."