DURFC 2nd XV vs University of Birmingham 1st XV
Wednesday saw the Durham 2s open up their away account in the BUCS league coming off the back of a hugely impressive home bonus point win against a big and physical Loughborough outfit. A long bus journey down to the midlands ended with the boys stepping out into arguably perfect playing conditions with a warm dry evening promising an exciting game. Durham were keen to build upon their stellar start to the season and Birmingham were determined to impress the sizeable home crowd that had gathered along the side-lines.
At 6.30 pm the referee started the game with Durham in their palatinate strip receiving the kick off from the Birmingham men in red. The first 15 mins saw Durham caught off guard by a ferocious Birmingham attacking and defensive outfit who pressured them mercilessly, turnover after turnover from 22 to 22 left even those spectating struggling for breath. The deadlock was finally broken by some Durham indiscipline, caught offside on their own 10 metre line, which allowed the Birmingham fly half to slot a long-range penalty goal. 3-0 to Birmingham. Soon after from a centre field scrum, One of the Birmingham backs showed great feet and speed to make a clean break and sail in for the game’s first try which was then successfully converted. This left Birmingham 10 points ahead which then became 17 after an admittedly pin-point cross-field kick saw them cross over for another converted try. 17- 0 down in the first half may have crushed the resolve of lesser teams such as Exeter, but Durham heads never dropped and the start of the comeback was sparked by a powerful rolling maul from a precise Harri Guy dart, allowing space out wide for Charlie Spawforth to dive over for a try which Kippa successfully converted, 17-7. Birmingham were not willing to simply accept the comeback and quickly hit back with a converted try of their own through some slick hands and dancing feet from their outside backs which saw the lead extended to 24-7. Towards the end of the first half, Durham seemed to be beginning to find their feet in the game a bit more and this was rewarded by another Spawforth try when the Durham pack began shoving the Birmingham scrum backwards towards their own line, forcing the half back to rush the clearance. Spawforth managed to dive on the loose ball after Hutchy’s charge down. Conversion missed, 24-12. The half finished unfortunately with another Durham offside allowing Birmingham to slot another penalty leaving it 27-12 at the break.
Half time saw the players realise that more was needed to overcome a resilient Birmingham, guidance from Keaysey and chat amongst the players readied Durham for a big second half to keep the winning start to the season for the 2nds and also for the club.
The referee blew for the restart and from the outset a change was noticeable, a try from Jamie Adamson two minutes into the half using physicality and benefitting from a superb Morgan James offload, which silenced the confident crowd as they realised that Durham had finally arrived, a simple conversion from our resident Kiwi Kippa Fawcett saw the scores tighten to 27-19. The change in attitude from the first half was palpable. Big hits were flying in from palatinate shirts with strong defensive shifts from the likes of Hedge in midfield as well as Adamson and Tasker in the back-row, the back three of Bargh, Woolatt and Gleave began finding gaps in the tiring defensive line, and Kippa kept the team in the right areas of the field with some huge touch-finders. The reinvigorated defensive effort from the Durham boys finally yielded some reward when a fumbled pass saw Gleave pounce and show ridiculous speed to fly past any would be tacklers and dot down for another try which was converted to leave the score 27-26. Durham smelled blood and wave after wave of attack came so close to breaching the Birmingham line. A Lineout maul on the Birmingham 22 marched all the way to the line before Birmingham pulled it down just short and despite the ball being available a scrum was given to Birmingham, much to Durham’s frustration.
With the clock ticking down Durham needed a hero. That hero came in the form of Ciaran Armstrong, who smashed over a penalty kick which sent Durham into the lead for the first time in the game. 29-27 to Durham. In a tense last few minutes which saw some clinical phase and set piece play bossed superbly by Ciaran, the ball was finally kicked out over the heads of the stunned Birmingham crowd. Celebrations erupted on the field after a hard-fought victory and comeback, the evening was about to get better as Keaysey answered a phone call straight from the Charity game at Hollow Drift against Exeter. News of victory sent the boys into overdrive with the rendition of “I just can’t get enough” ringing out into the Birmingham night sky.
All in all, a rollercoaster of an evening that had the highs and lows required of any good sports fixture and surely paves the way for a continued season of success for the 2ndXV.