England Universities put last year’s defeat by Great Britain Police to bed, with victory in the second round of the 2023 President’s Cup, but were pushed all the way by a lively and enthusiastic Police team.
It took ten minutes to break the deadlock when Joe Riley dummied and did his trade mark scamper in on the left side of the field to open England’s scoring. Matty Rudd didn’t have the distance for conversion, and also missed his second attempt as Conner Gilbey finished a right to left move with an overlap five minutes later.
Ryan Pickles collected a long pass to dive into the right corner in reply for the Police shortly afterwards, but Scott Leatherbarrow couldn’t convert from the touchline to improve the score.
Both sides locked into the arm wrestle, with Jordan Bull and Charlie McCurrie doing the hard work in the middle of the park for England, whilst Jimmy Connaughton and Ash Wildman were impressive in the forwards for the Police side.
Prop Chris Gale looked almost surprised as he found himself a space and danced over for a try on the half-hour mark, scoring directly under the posts to give Rudd and easy shot on goal.
But the Police were not giving up and on the stroke of half time, Jay Panter found space on the left wing to keep the Police in touch, with Leatherbarrow on target to make the half time score 14-10.
The intensity continued after the break, but Chris Ball who appeared to have been tackled short of the line managed to get his arm free and plant the ball down to move England further ahead on the right hand side, with Rudd’s towering conversion giving England a ten point advantage, but it wasn’t long before that was reduced again as fullback John O’Donnell sliced through on the left edge, although Leatherbarrow couldn’t convert for the Police.
The decisive moment for England came when Alfie Crawford burrowed his way through from dummy half with 12 minutes to go, giving Jack Mallinson an easy shot on goal, with Mallinson added to with five minutes remaining after a break in play for an injury on the fourth tackle saw him add a well timed drop goal.
The final word went to Great Britain Police as O’Donnell scored a carbon copy of his first try, with Leatherbarrow this time converting, in testimony to the 80-minute spirit shown by the Police throughout the encounter.
Iwan Orr, Michael Holden, Conner Gilbey, Chris Ball, Jack Cherry, Matty Rudd, Joe Riley, Ed Brown, Alfie Crawford, Jordan Bull, Charlie McCurrie, Isaac Coleman, Nathan Rushworth. Interchanges: Delaine Bedward-Gittens, Christian Gale, Nathan Redmond, Harry Medlicott, Jack Mallinson.
Tries: Joe Riley (4), Conner Gilbey (15), Chris Gale (30), Chris Ball (52), Alfie Crawford (68)
Goals: Matty Rudd 2/4, Jack Mallinson 1/1
Drop Goal: Jack Mallinson (75)
Great Britain Police
John O’Donnell, Ryan Pickles, Josh MacDonald, Mick Ostick, Jay Panter, Jake Davis, Scott Leatherbarrow, Sam Wood, Ben Marsden, Jimmy Connaughton, Alex Shaw, Adam Coopman, Ash Wildman. Interchanges: Rob Froggat, Steve Costello, Lewis Peek, Jordan Cella, Tom Gallagher.
Tries: Ryan Pickles (19), Jay Panter (39), John O’Donnell (59,79)
Goals: Scott Leatherbarrow 2/4
Referee: Jack Baker