Durham 67-7 Northumbria: Palatinates claim back-to-back BUCS Super Rugby titles

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Durham men’s 1XV were crowned Super Rugby champions for the second time in a row after putting 11 tries past Northumbria. The Palatinates went ahead within two minutes under the lights at a packed-out Hollow Drift and never looked back on their way to a relentless, ruthless 67-7 win.

Durham came into this game needing a bonus point win to guarantee the Super Rugby title. Top of the league on 74 points after 17 games, Exeter were just a point behind. The south coast powerhouse faced 3rd placed side Cardiff Met at the same time. Cardiff eventually won that game 36-14, meaning Durham would have won the Championship regardless of their result today.

Yet Durham needed just 15 minutes to pick up that bonus point. Winger Paul Brown set the tone after just 90 seconds, finishing the first of his three tries in the far-right corner. Scrum-half Harry Craven sped through to cross just minutes later and made it 10-0.

Northumbria then threatened to get back into the game, having perhaps their strongest five minutes of the night as they started to press the home defence. Yet, eleven minutes in, the Durham flankers combined brilliantly, as a powerful break from Brayden Barratt set England Sevens star Jamie Adamson free to side-step a couple of defenders and finish.

Max Pepper crossed easily for Durham’s fourth after 15 minutes, before Brown and Craven added their second each with less than half-an-hour on the clock. Brown’s second was probably the best in a night of excellent tries. Picking up the ball on the half-way line, Brown ducked and dived through a sea of Northumbria bodies on the right touchline to set himself free and speed over.

This was an incredibly fast-placed, flowing game of rugby

The second half started in the same vein as the first ended. Mikey Ford, Ewan Murphy, and captain (and all-time record try scorer) Fred Davies had crossed within ten minutes of the restart, putting Durham 53-0 in just 50 minutes. This was Davies’ 22nd try of a record-breaking Super Rugby season. The hooker recently signed with Bristol Bears for the 2022/23 season.

Northumbria then got on the scoresheet, as substitute Joe Lilley broke through after a defensive lapse in concentration from Durham. This was the only real chance the boys in black had to score all evening.

Within minutes, business as usual resumed for Durham, and Paul Brown completed his hat-trick with a similarly mazy run to his second. The winger was exceptional all evening, and Northumbria simply could not handle his speed or technical skill.

Durham’s eleventh, and final, try came as prop Monty Royston broke into space, starting a move which ended with Adamson grabbing his second try of the night.

Whilst Will Nicholson had struggled with his kicking in the first half, the fly-half more than made up for it after the break, converting all five second-half scores.

This was an incredibly fast-paced, flowing game of rugby. Durham constantly broke the lines and side-stepped a Northumbria defence that just didn’t quite have the quality to match the speed and skill of players like Brown, Craven, and Adamson.

This was a performance of champions from Durham. They were in total control throughout, as they have been throughout a campaign which has seen them go from strength to strength. The performance, and the championship as a whole, was testament to the brilliant coaching of former Saracens captain Alex Keay, who has led the Durham rugby programme since 2010.

Durham were in total control throughout

Durham won 16 of their 18 Super Rugby games on their way to the title and picked up 79 of a possible 90 points, breaking the previous record for most points in a Super Rugby season. The men’s win follows on from the women’s 1XV being crowned National Premier League Champions 2022 against Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. Both wins cement Durham’s position as one of the premier universities for rugby in the country.

Speaking to Palatinate after the game, captain Fred Davies said the feeling amongst the players was “pure ecstasy more than anything.” He was quick to emphasise the role of the entire DURFC community in the win, telling us, “Massive credit to the lads who didn’t play today. They come here every week and make noise on the bank. A particular mention to Sam Harris and the committee members, who’ve raised almost 40 grand for charity.

“There are things bigger than the Palatinate shirt this year, but I’m massively proud of my boys. It’s a long, tough, brutal season, but what a way to finish. We can certainly enjoy tonight.”

The Palatinates will now look ahead to their Super Rugby Championship knockout ties, starting with the Quarter Finals in two weeks’ time. Whilst the 18-game league season is a championship in its own right, there’s also a knockout competition, which ends with a final at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium on 13th April. Durham will be looking to further confirm their dominance by winning the knockout trophy too.

Durham: 1) Monty Royston, 2) Fred Davies (C), 3) Matt Woodward, 4) Ewan Murphy, 5) Marijn Huis, 6) Brayden Barratt, 7) Jamie Adamson, 8) Jack Hill, 9) Harry Craven, 10) Will Nicholson 11) Max Pepper, 12) Mikey Ford, 13) Olly Walker, 14) Paul Brown, 15) Nick Jonas

Subs: 16) Jacob Head, 17) Oscar Stott, 18) Hamish Murray, 19) Rhys Belcher, 20) Henry Higginson, 21) Morgan James, 22) Will Morris, 23) Charlie Coe

Tries: Brown x3, Craven x2, Adamson x2, Pepper, Ford, Murphy, Davies

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