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The team celebrating after the match

University of Exeter Men’s Rugby team win BUCS Championship!

The University of Exeter headed into the final after an unbeaten campaign and as the Number 1 ranked University for Rugby in the UK. This was a special occasion for the club and the coach, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at Twickenham, the home of English Rugby. The game was hard-fought, with a final score of 21-19 thanks to some excellent team work and a drop-goal in the final minutes. Exeter and Loughborough both ensured the game would be remembered for many years.

Before the game, the winners of the Students’ RFU awards were announced, several of which recognised the efforts of individuals and teams from Exeter. Keith Fleming, Director of Rugby, won University Staff Member of the Year; the Men’s 1st team won Team of the Year; and Poppy Leitch was awarded Female Player of the Year.

From the very start of the match, Exeter started in a nerveless aggressive fashion attacking Loughborough immediately deep inside their half, putting pressure on their defence. Loughborough’s defensive line came up fast to engage, but a clever offload from Exeter’s Ted Landray put Sam Waltier in behind the line and through to score under the posts for the first points of the game. Gavin Parker hit the post with the conversion but scored a penalty soon afterwards. Exeter were applying pressure, but it was Loughborough who hit back with a superb long penalty bringing the score to 8-3. Following a period of intense play, Exeter second row Freddie Hosking found himself in some space out on the wing, driving past two defenders and freeing up his arms to put the ball down. Gavin Parker added the conversion, bringing the score to 15-3. With half-time looming, another penalty kick from Exeter’s Gavin Parker gave Exeter an 18-3 lead but the gap was short lived after a converted try from Loughborough’s Brendon Mandivenga and a penalty brought the half to a close at 18-13.

Exeter needed to keep the intensity in the second half, but it was it was Loughborough who were first to strike with a penalty, following a ruck allowing Loughborough’s kicker to close the gap to 2 points at 18-16. The pressure was now on the Exeter players, who responded magnificently with wave after wave of attack – however, the Loughborough defensive line repelled Exeter time and time again with some stubborn and organised play. With Exeter gaining possession inside the Loughborough 22, it was a surprise to see Loughborough race away and get points on the board. With just 5 minutes remaining in the game, Loughborough held a 18-19 lead. The fans of both sides were on the edge of their seats, the atmosphere was electric and noise was deafening.

Exeter now needed to win the restart and attack. Captain Sam Skinner climbed high into the air and brought the ball down for Exeter 10 metres into the opposition’s half, then carry after carry from Exeter’s hard-working pack brought them inside the Loughborough 22. The play was then set up for replacement number 10 James Doe to hold his nerve and score a drop-goal leaving the game in Exeter’s favour 21-19.

Credit must go to both sets of players and fans who all contributed to an unforgettable encounter. The University of Exeter Men’s Rugby team rightly take the plaudits with an incredible achievement to be crowned the BUCS Champions 2016. Exeter player Ted Landray was also awarded man of the match for excellent play throughout. This is the first time since 2004 that the Men’s Rugby Club have reached the final and they last won the trophy in 2001. In 2004 the coach was Rob Baxter, who is now Head Coach at Exeter Chiefs.

Sam Skinner, the Exeter captain summed the game up perfectly after the match, “It was an intense game and I thought we dominated a lot of it, but credit to Loughborough because they defended really well. When they got their chances they took them, and I think we weren’t clinical enough at times and it took something extra special to win it at the end. We want to come out of the blocks firing in every game, and we went out there and played the game - and not the occasion.” Sam also spoke to England Rugby, hailing the team's spirit and performance throughout the game.

Alison Davidson, Director of Sport at Exeter, was delighted by the result: “This is a fantastic achievement and well deserved. The players, the coaches, the fitness team and the entire team of people who support the players deserve a lot of credit. We are The Times and The Sunday Times Sports University of the Year 2016 and now BUCS Rugby Champions!”

Rugby is one of Exeter’s nine focus sports, and in the 2014/15 British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) rankings the institution was ranked 1st for Rugby overall. The University of Exeter Sports Scholarship Scheme is one of the most prestigious in the UK, helping the best student athletes reach their full potential. The scheme provides a comprehensive support package and is tailored to suit the needs of each individual athlete. Many of our graduating scholars have progressed to a professional level in their chosen sport and represented their respective countries on the global stage.

The University of Exeter has been awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Good Universities Guide 2016 Sports University of the Year, following significant investment and development over the past 10 years. The University has also achieved a Global 100 ranking in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The prestigious rankings, which mean Exeter retains its position as best in the South West, take into account a wide range of factors, including student satisfaction and research excellence. 

Date: 24 March 2016