- University of Exeter triumph in BUCS Championship after gripping comeback
- Sustained pressure late on led to historic win over defending champions, Cardiff Met
University of Exeter 17 Cardiff Metropolitan University 15
The University of Exeter's women pulled off one of the biggest shocks in recent years to win the 2013 BUCS women's Rugby Championship final against favourites Cardiff Metropolitan University. Cardiff Met went into the fixture reigning champions, undefeated in almost two years and having amassed 94 points against Exeter already this season without conceding any in reply.
30 minutes in, the final was looking like it might go the same way. Despite a good share of possession Exeter found themselves 12-0 down following two tries from the defending champions; the first, an unconverted try scored by Nia Davies, was then followed by another scored and converted by full back Mary Ann Gittings, who touched down after a good kick into the corner was fumbled by her opposite number.
At this stage the points difference between the two teams so far this season was 106-0 in Cardiff Met's favour. However the momentum would swing in the remaining five minutes of the half. First Cardiff Met suffered a double injury blow losing both try scorer Gittings and their scrum half, Ireland international, Larissa Muldoon within a minute of each other to serious looking injuries.
Then within minutes Exeter recorded their first points against Cardiff Met this season. After being awarded a penalty Exeter kicked for the corner and found touch five metres out. From the resulting line out their forwards drove the Cardiff Met pack backwards and over the try line allowing back row Ellis Collins to ground the ball and make the score 5-12. The successful conversion reduced the gap to just five points going into the break.
The first score of the second half went to Cardiff Met, three points came from the boot of Delyth Davies who converted a penalty to give the lead back to her team, 12-15. As the game neared its conclusion it was Exeter though that were making most of the running and dominating possession, their captain and fly half, England's Amber Reed, kept her team moving the ball through hands breaking the gain line again and again.
Cardiff Met defended desperately but with less than ten minutes remaining they were dealt another blow when Carys Phillips was sin binned, giving their opponents a person advantage for the majority of the remainder of the match. Sensing their chance, Exeter threw everything forward and it looked like they would certainly level the game when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts.
However Reed surprised everyone by kicking to the corner. What followed was five minutes of heart-in-mouth rugby as time after time Exeter were rewarded for their forward pressure with penalties that if kicked would have taken the game to extra time. However each time Exeter went for the victory, declining the opportunity of three points in search of more. With added time being played a quickly taken penalty was lost forward handing possession and possibly the game back to Cardiff Met.
Photo: RFU Archive
Exeter must have been questioning whether they would get another opportunity, but they didn't have to wonder for long as they were awarded another kickable penalty, which was again tapped and taken quickly. It was now or never for Exeter and after recycling the ball through several phases of play, it was spread wide into the unlikely hands of prop Poppy Davis lingering on the wing, who dived over the line to cap a well-worked team try.
The conversion was missed but it didn't matter as just moments later the final whistle sounded to conclude a fantastic comeback by Exeter, who came from 0-12 down to win 17-15 and be crowned BUCS champions.
Following the match Cardiff Metropolitan's captain, spoke of her pride in the team: "In the first 30 minutes we were flying, we were confident we knew what we were doing and our structures were working well, then we lost two of our key players, Larissa and Mary-Anne, and they seemed to gain the momentum.
I'm so proud of the girls, we've worked so hard all season; we fought to the last minute today and unfortunately it just didn't come off. Now we look ahead to next season."
Reed, captain of the winning side, also reflected on a great day for her and her team: "That was unbelievable, it was the perfect way to end my university playing career and I'm so proud of the girls.
We knew that everyone viewed Cardiff Met as the favourites, we've played them earlier in the season and they had put on some hefty points against us so we knew they had a lot to offer, a really good squad with good depth. But saying that, we knew if we did the simple things well and if we put pressure on them there was no reason we couldn't come away with the win."
Speaking about the decision not to kick the penalties to tie the game late on, Reed added: "it was a feeling I had on the pitch, I knew three points were an option but I was confident in the players around me and felt with the momentum we had and the pressure we were putting on Cardiff Met that it was only a matter of time before we scored that try."
Her decision paid off and Exeter followed victories over Loughborough and Leeds Met with a famous win over the defending champions to ensure they left Twickenham with BUCS gold.