Photos: Jack Western
Derwent sealed their place as 1st seeds in College Varsity as they dispatched Halifax 39-5 in what turned out to be an enthralling match. The hallowed turf of 22 Acres resembled Murrayfield’s pitch of late, with the surface badly chewed up in places. Halifax kicked off into a strong headwind and the wind proved to be a significant factor in the game. With the wind behind them, Derwent chose to kick more often than not, with fly half Kristian Elgheim and centre Alex Cochrane-Dyet repeatedly launching kicks into Halifax territory. Derwent looked very solid from the set-piece, with both scrums and lineouts functioning well. From one such lineout, the ball was shipped to Cochrane-Dyet, who delicately chipped the ball behind the Halifax backline.
A footrace ensued, with Derwent’s outside centre Marcus Goss outrunning the covering defenders to dot down in the corner. Elgheim missed the difficult conversion from the touchline, with the score remaining at 5-0. The game restarted in a similar fashion,and after choosing to keep the ball in hand, Derwent spread the ball left and found themselves five metres short of the try line. After several phases of pick-and-go, the determined Halifax defence finally relented, allowing flanker Josh Clewes to score in the corner. Following quick recycling of possession, Cochrane-Dyet scythed through the Halifax defence. He drew the final Halifax defender, and popped the ball to full-back Hugo Marino who ran in a try under the posts. Elgheim converted Marino’s try, extending Derwent’s lead to 17-0.
Derwent now started to control the game, with captain Cameron Strange dictating the play from scrum half. Strange sent a box kick long down field, with the ball eventually bouncing out for a lineout ten metres from the Halifax line. Derwent stole the lineout, and set up a maul, allowing Clewes to grab his second of the match after the Derwent pack rumbled over the line. The first half was brought to a close with Derwent leading 22-0. The conditions aided Halifax’s cause as Derwent’s kicking game became less potent in the face of a strong wind. After spending several minutes camped in Halifax’s half, the Derwent backs fed the ball through the hands, releasing their winger to score in the corner. Elgheim slotted an excellent kick from the touchline, taking the score to 29-0 after five minutes of the second half.
A lovely move from the Halifax backs resulted in winger Tom Giles scoring in the corner. An impressive conversion from Batchelor reduced Derwent’s lead to 29-7. Derwent’s scrum still had the upperhand, and this was strengthened even more with the introduction of influential prop Chris Judge. Minutes after his introduction, Judge embarked on a barnstorming run which resulted in a try. In the final minutes of the game, Derwent forward Paddy Reilly-o’Donnell crashed over the try-line from close-range to cap a fine individual performance.
Despite a late spell of pressure from Halifax, the game ended 39-7. Derwent will be pleased with the professional performance they put in, whilst Halifax will look to sharpen up a few aspects of their game ahead of College Varsity. With the standard of College Rugby at all-time high, the fixtures against Durham’s Colleges are definitely not ones to be missed. Derwent captain Cameron Strange told Vision, “It was the perfect performance ahead of Varsity and above all great revenge.”