No charity for Northumbria

by Pete Vickers & Alex Stewart

In front of a 2,000-strong crowd at the annual Rugby Charity Challenge, Durham Men’s Rugby 1st XV cruised to a resounding 72-5 win over Northumbria University 1st XV.

Durham’s run of consecutive victories stretches all the way back to the beginning of last season.

Their success began with the appointment of coach Alex Keay, who will surely be delighted with the emphatic nature of the result against their local rivals.
Centre Tom Shiel and Winger Sam Rupar each registered a brace of tries as the Palatinates put on a vintage attacking display for the spectators.

Outside Centre Tom Shiel said, “Not only are we winning, we are playing well, which is something we didn’t always do last year.”
The team were equally impressive in defence, restricting Northumbria to a solitary consolation try in the closing stages of the game.

The day of showpiece rugby that had earlier seen a combined college ‘Barbarian’ XV convincingly beat a team from the HMS Bulwark.

The University 1st’s came racing out of the blocks against Northumbria, scoring within a matter of minutes.

A promisingly-placed scrum was driven over the opposition try-line by the ever-impressive Durham pack.

This allowed for Number Eight Harrison Collins to touch down and begin the rout.

Durham continued to dominate up front but the backs in particular were simply destructive, slicing through their counterparts on a regular basis.

Fly-half Mike Ward had a fine game, consistently finding gaps for his outside backs to exploit.

The speed of Danny Holmes, Tom Shiel and Sam Rupar in particular was breathtaking as they galloped down field with ball in hand.

Perhaps what impressed most about the attack was their ability to keep the ball live.

Some superb support running and sublime off-loading allowed Durham to attack at a consistently frightening pace that Northumbria simply couldn’t handle.

The match was over as a contest well before the half-time whistle blew, by which point the Palatinates had amassed an impressive 38 points without reply from the visitors.

The half-time on-pitch entertainment provided some well-needed respite for Northumbria.

The crowd treated to a performance from the Durham Divas and a surreal inter-college ‘Welly Wanging’ competition with college mascots, presidents and guests.

The spectacle continued as play resumed.

The Palatinates exhibited a fine display of creative rugby, moving the ball quickly and drawing some desperate and often late tackles from their frustrated opponents.

Second-row Josh Beaumont and flanker Jak Pattinson delivered high-quality performances, whether it be with ball in hand, in defence or at the breakdown.

Despite allowing Northumbria to register a try towards the end of the second half, Durham managed to rack up another five themselves before the final whistle.

The team clearly take well to the big-match atmosphere under the floodlights after thumping much-fancied Loughborough in their charity challenge a week earlier.

Next week, Durham travel to Leeds University for a showdown between two teams with 100% records this season.

It will surely be Leeds feeling the pre-match jitters as the Palatinates show no letting up in their quest for back-to-back titles.

Proceeds from the Rugby Charity Challenge went towards Sport in Action Zambia.

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