The rain and granite skies of the day had given way to a dark crisp evening on the night of Durham’s charity fixture vs Loughborough, their first BUCS game of the season. There had been much anticipation in the build up to this game and the early passages of play did not disappoint the Durham massive who had come down in their thousands to witness this spectacle of rugby.
The sides engaged in an early stalemate of pressure with both teams looking dangerous but unable to make the incisions necessary to convert this pressure into points. The Durham defence stood fast against flashes of applied possession from Loughborough deep in the Durham 22. This tide was turned however by a moment of counter attacking brilliance off a Loughborough clearing kick. Some neat phases of possession allowed Tim Turner to break down the blindside, offloading to Buchan Richardson in close support who cantered along the touchline, stepping inside to offload to Rory Hardman, who in turn slipped the ball to Justin ‘Devvo’ Clegg just short of the line for him to cross the whitewash on debut.
Unfortunately this was quickly replied to by a try of Loughborough’s own making out wide through multiple phase play and some good hands to finish in the corner. Both tries went unconverted to make the scores 5-5.
Positive passages of play by Durham were encouraged by the Palatiante army of supporters, who got behind their side with raucus enthusiasm and energy. A crunching hit by centre Fraser Mosely was greeted with roars of approval from the stand, and the side continued to be spurred on by the wall of noise.
Some Loughborough phase play saw them go touchline to touchline after a break and they snuck in a second try before the halftime interval.
The second half was a different story however and saw an end to this back and forth play as the Durham side, revved up by a riling half time team talk by Alex Keay, began to dominate the game in both the possession and territory stats. Camped in the Loughborough half and 22 they began to turn the screw on the Loughborough defence and test its metal. Despite a series of penalties and a period of increased pressure from the side in Palatinate they lacked the incisive dagger blow to slice through the heart of the opposition and create the game winning score. A late break from Fraser Mosely looked promising but in the end the Loughborough defence stood fast and the game finished 12-5.
A hungry and wounded Durham side will look to bounce back in the coming week against Nottingham, and exact their revenge later on in the season when they visit Loughborough for the return away leg of their BUCS Northern Premiership campaign.