On Wednesday, 28 March, the men’s rugby first team will play UWE Hartpury in the BUCS final at Twickenham.
Durham’s first XV tasted BUCS success at the home of rugby last year after dramatically edging out UWIC 25-23.
The victory completed an unbeaten season for Alex Keay’s men, and this campaign the ‘Invincibles’ have continued their imperious form.
Aside from a narrow loss against Newcastle Falcons’ professional development side in a friendly, Durham have conquered all-comers en route to Twickenham in the BUCS cup as well as in the league.
Indeed, the Palatinates stormed to a second consecutive Premier North A league title with a perfect 100% record, amassing a points difference of over 400 in the process.
Their most recent league victory came on a strong Leeds Met side’s turf, with five Palatinate regulars missing through England Students duty (indeed, seven current DURFC players travelled to L’Aquila to face an Emerging Italy side).
The sheer strength in depth in the squad was illustrated by the emphatic 39-25 scoreline, a victory that ensures the club’s winning momentum is maintained before Twickenham.
The club’s third team have also done their part in preserving the aura of invincibility surrounding DURFC after they secured the Northern Conference Cup at the expense of Manchester on Wednesday.
A comprehensive 47-20 win means the 2011/12 trophy cabinet is already being filled and sets the benchmark for both the first and second XVs on Wednesday 28 March.
The second team play UWE at Richmond at 11:00am in the Trophy Final, four hours before the first team kick off at Twickenham.
The Palatinate Army – who travelled en masse last year to help inspire Durham to victory – therefore have time to create a ‘Sea of Purple’ at both fixtures.
The second XV finished an agonising second in Northern Premier B, but have a huge chance to assert their status as one of the country’s best university teams against UWE in Richmond.
It is an encouraging fact for Durham’s first XV that Hartpury, their opponents in the showpiece event at Twickenham, finished second in Premier South A behind Bath.
Durham overcame Bath 18-13 in a thrilling semi-final at Moseley, meaning they travel southwards as favourites to retain their title as Britain’s finest university rugby team – within, of course, the nation’s finest university rugby club.
First team captain Josh Bayford spoke to Palatinate ahead of the momentous day for the club.
“The lads are absolutely buzzing,” he said.
“The whole squad is really driving each other on in training. Both the club as a whole and the individual teams are all really together and the atmosphere and banter are great.”
Bayford believes last year’s triumphant experience will have a positive effect.
“For the first team there are plenty of blokes who can already relate to the fantastic feeling of winning at Twickenham, and that is a real motivator,” he said.
“To win at Twickenham 2 years in a row would be amazing and a great way to end the journey that a lot of this team have been on together for 2 or even 3 years.
“Obviously there will be a lot of emotion, for the occasion itself but also the fact this will be the last time a lot of us play together.”
“We just have to make sure we channel that in the right way.”
“We are very confident as a side, compounded by the results of the last 2 seasons. In every position there is competition and depth; and Alex Keay our coach has implemented a playing structure that we know can take on anyone.
“The lads are chomping at the bit and hopefully the evening of the 28th March will be one of celebration.”
Tickets for the Twickenham final are a very reasonable £5.
Contact Laura Green of Team Durham for more details at email@example.com
Supporters t-shirts will be on sale at Richmond and then at the entrance to Twickenham for just £7 – there are limited numbers so to reserve yours email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Schedule for the day:
11:00am: Second XV kick-off vs UWE at Richmond
13:00: Chariots of Fire bar open at Twickenham (no food – vendors on concourse)
15:00: First XV kick-off vs Hartpury at Twickenham
16:30: Presentation of cup/medals on pitch
16:30: Chariots of Fire bar open
18:30: Players Presentation to supporters in Chariots of Fire room
19:00: Raffle draw
20:30: Bar closes – Palatinate Army head into London