Even the return of winter failed to dampen the spirits of UK Armed Forces and England Universities as both were able to negate GB Police and GB Teachers respectively in Round One of the Presidents Cup, played at Saddleworth.
The Armed Forces started well and grabbed the first try when Matty Gaskell found Danny Johnson and he surged over. Kevin Brown goaled, the first of three goals for the experienced playmaker. Just a couple of minutes after that opener, Brown found a way to the line from close range and when Oli Toms picked his way through, the combined Forces side led 16-0.
They threatened again when from the restart Oscar Tamani carved through the middle and Police wing Ryan Pickles was sinbinned for slowing the big man down. Pete Holmes stretched the Armed forces lead to 20-0, before former professionals Scott Leatherbarrow and Jon O'Donnell linked from a kick. O'Donnell got free in the middle but the supporting Chris Smith was hauled down.
With ten minutes of the first half remaining, Leigh East's Kieron Prescott entered the game, and by half-time, his never-say-die-attitude brought him two tries with Micky Hoyle nudging over a goal to make it 30-0 at the break.
GB Police were much better in the second half and pushed the forces side all the way, but crucially it was they who got away in the last fifteen minutes, lofting another four tries to the score. Matty Gaskell kicked off scoring with a scything run to the posts before Hoyle scored the first of two tries. Jack Bartlett dotted down a 50 metre finishe with Hoyle adding two more goals before a storming effort from the centre at the death saw him finish with 14-points, Brown crowning a 52-0 success with his third goal.
The second encounter of the evening saw GB Teachers in defiant mood as they pushed England Universities for long spells before the students finally took advantage.
It was the Universities who took the lead after four minutes when Tyler Hepple picked his way over from dummy half for a fine solo score, Matty Rudd kicking the first of four goals for the night, but GB Teachers responded quickly when Lewis Fairhurst slipped through from a passing movement and Rob Marsh goaled.
Joe Riley kicked to the corner for Cameron Brown to take and score, and two tries in the last ten minutes of the first half seemingly had the Students in command. Matty Rudd zipped through with a fine turn of pace just after the half-hour mark and then with time ticking down on the first half, Riley kept moving to beat several defenders and it was 22-6.
GB Teachers enjoyed a superb opening to the second half and really took the game to the Universities side. There was little surprise when Marsh bobbed past two defenders and passed on for Elliot Liku to rumble to the line. Marsh converted and at 22-12, the game was in the melting pot.
The Students then enjoyed a welter of possession with Teachers resisting wave upon wave of attack until Jack Cherry found a way through and Rudd goaled in the 64th minute.
Then with ten minutes remaining, England Universities struck the decisive blow when West Wales winger Michael Holden finished well to claim their sixth and final try to help wrap up the 32-12 success. Even with Adam Lavin in the sinbin for the latter stages, there was still no denying the students.
Action now moves over to Lock Lane who will host Round Two on the 27th April.
UK Armed Forces 52 Tries: Danny Johnson, Kevin Brown, Oli Toms, Pete Holmes, Kieron Prescott 2, Matty Gaskell, Jack Bartlett, Micky Hoyle 2.Goals: Kevin Brown 3, Micky Hoyle 3.
GB Police 0 Tries: - Goals: -
England Universities 32 Tries: Tyler Hepple, Cameron Brown, Matty Rudd, Joe Riley, Jack Cherry, Michael Holden. Goals: Matty Rudd 4.
GB Teachers 12 Tries: Lewis Fairhurst, Elliot Liku. Goals: Rob Marsh 2.