By Abi Curran
Durham University Rugby Club are off to a flier in the BUCS Super Rugby League following a promising set of opening fixtures.
The club hope to defend their title as BUCS Super Rugby Champions after 18 months without a ball being thrown, kicked or touched.
The Palatinates were relentless in their recent fixture against Bath, gaining an all-important bonus point from the 45-17 win.
An opening try from Matt Woodward inside the twelfth minute reaped the rewards of a trailblazing attack from scrums galore that just couldn’t be held up by the Bath defensive line.
And Durham know how to entertain this season. Roars from the stand and the hill alike rippled through Hollow Drift when on the stroke of half time Patrick Bishop, in true heroic style, prevented a Bath opening try after a blocked kick.
Though Bath held their heads throughout, Durham dominated. Deserved tries from Paul Brown and Will Morris simply could not be stopped with the pair gliding past the Bath line at points.
The Palatinate’s thrillers do not end there. A hard-fought 13-13 draw against Cardiff Met in the first game of the season came to a nail-biting end with Tom Fletcher bagging a try in the final moments to secure a vital two points.
Then there was Exeter, made all the more significant by its charity match status. Durham entered half time, disappointingly, 17-5 down against a travelling Exeter side. Though with the backing of an electric crowd and a solid winning kick by Patrick Bishop, the Palatinate-clad team emerged with a victorious 23-20 result.
Another win on the road at Swansea and DURFC are eyeing up a perch on top spot of the Super Rugby League. Their biggest rivals as it stands are Exeter, and we all know who came out on top of late.
1XV Captain, Fred Davies gave Palatinate his assessment of the recent fixtures at home and on the road, “The first four games have been a test both home and away. We have had some great results but have also learnt a lot in these early stages of a long year. It has been useful to bring some confidence to some of the younger lads, however, among the older boys we know how long and attritional the BUCS Super Rugby League is.”
The club as a whole is going from strength to strength with the whole of DURFC’s large cohort bagging recent wins across the board against the likes of Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh 1XVs.
Davies spoke of the atmosphere in the dressing room after 18 months without the sport at university level, “Getting back in front of crowds at Hollow Drift has been a privilege and something we’ve really missed over the last 18 months. The atmosphere in the changing rooms has been a mixture of sore bodies and immense gratitude to be back doing what we love.” A record crowd of over 4,000 flocked to Hollow Drift for Durham’s charity game against Exeter. This was all in aid of Sport In Action, a non-governmental organisation that works throughout Zambia to improve people’s quality of life through sport and recreational activities.
In total, £12,055 was raised at the Exeter charity thriller, with a further £2065 raised at last week’s Bath game for ‘blOKes’, a mental health charity that focuses on removing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. This is a continuation of the clubs’ commitment to raising money for charity and giving back to the local community.
Movember and NHS charity fundraisers are just a couple of successful campaigns the club has actioned of late with £9,000 raised for Movember last year. It is this spirit which is also being championed through college rugby. Hatfield RFC’s recent game against the Philippines raised £717 for Movember. The unique fundraiser drew the crowds in to see the Philippines narrowly win 15-10.
Davies emphasised the importance of using rugby union to promote charitable initiatives: “At our home games we have a great opportunity to raise as much awareness and money for some important charities” and also mental health campaigns. “The feedback has been fantastic and we shall continue to break the stigma surrounding speaking out.” The rest of DURFC’s season certainly promises to be testing and “attritional”, but it is also set to be an unmissable title defence run in for the XV in Palatinate.
Durham 1XV next play Northumbria away in the BUCS Super Rugby League on Friday 29th October at Kingston Park.
Image: Durham University RFC