England Universities claimed their first President’s Cup win in five years, following victory over UK Armed Forces in the third and final round of the 2023 competition, also claiming a clean sweep of victories.
The 32-12 victory was a resounding win for the team who now look forward to a friendly match versus HM Prison Service on 7th June before the 2023 Student Rugby League Four Nations kicks off in July.
In what proved to the game of the tournament, both sides gave no quarter, exchanging big hits and probing kicks as they tested each other out. It took ten minutes for Luke Phoenix to breach the Forces defence, going in on the right wing after a sublime ball from Joe Wardill, but the kick was a stretch to far for Matty Rudd.
Kieron Prescott slicing through the right hand side of the field brought UK Armed Forces level, with Jake Boardman’s towering conversion moving them ahead just after the twenty minute mark, setting up a thrilling encounter for the vocal crowd in attendance.
Wardill found space to fly through a gap on the half hour mark, with Rudd this time on target and flying winger Jack Cherry stretched his legs on the opposite side of the field to give the students a vital further score just before halftime, although Rudd was unable to improve, giving England a 14-6 edge at the break.
Having initially been selected for England Universities in 2020 and missing out due to the pandemic, then to injury when the programme resumed in 2022, Jake Lightowler crowned a superb debut with a try, barging through in the middle of the field to touch down under the sticks, giving Rudd an easy shot on goal and it was shortly after that England struck again with Charlie McCurrie powering through a line bust on the left hand side to England further ahead, Rudd again on target with the kick.
In true military spirit, the Forces refused to give up and Joe Thresh was rewarded for his quick reactions, collecting a fumbled ball to go 60 metres up field to reduce the deficit, Boardman kicking the conversion with ease at the hour mark.
But England were in fine form, despite being down to one available substitute through injuries, the side dug deep and as they kept the Forces at bay and forced their way back up field, the superb captain’s knock from Prop Jordan Bull, dabbing the ball into the in-goal area for Luke Phoenix complete showed the hunger and desire of the England Universities team to get the win. Rudd added the extras and despite as the Armed Forces threw everything at the students for a consolation try, they were held out until the final whistle.
With both sides full of praise for each other in the post match presentations and improved performances from GB Police and GB Teachers throughout the tournament, the 2024 tournament will already be something to look forward to!
England Universities 32
Great Britain Teachers 12
Wednesday 24th May, 8pm
Orrell St James ARLFC
Nathan Redmond, Luke Phoenix, Joe Wardill, Chris Ball, Jack Cherry, Matty Rudd, Joe Riley, Aaron Powell, Alfie Crawford, Jordan Bull, Charlie McCurrie, Leon Stewart, Jake Lightowler. Interchanges: Callum Scott, Adam Lavin, Nathan Rushworth, Ed Brown, Iwan Orr
Tries: Luke Phoenix (10, 75), Joe Wardill (29), Jack Cherry (38), Jake Lightowler (50), Charlie McCurrie (55)
Goals: Matty Rudd 4/6
UK Armed Forces
Kieron Prescott, Joe Thresh, Jack Bartlett, Juite Tupua, Danny Dainty, Jake Boardman, Matty Gaskell, Ryan Watkin, Ewan Makinson, Adam Middleton, Charlie Mattison, James Teixeira, Ben Taylor. Interchanges: Cameron Lees, Connor Morris, Micky Hoyle, Sam Roberts, Jordan Kerman
Tries: Kieron Prescott (23), Joe Thresh (61) Goals: Jake Boardman 2/2
Referee: Scott Houghton