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  • Writer's pictureBen Macintyre

Courageous Comeback Falls Short

WURL made the commute from the culture and creativity of just outside Coventry to a muddy field and a garden shed in Oxford to face a side who started the season among the favourites for promotion and boasted the biggest side faced this year. Due to not being Cambridge, we managed to overcome the petty rules of the front gate and make it to the ground without a mile long walk first. On arrival we discovered that our particular corner of the wendy house acting as a changing room was also being occupied by 3 other teams. The limited space and lack of sufficient bathroom facilities delayed preparations but almost all the team made it to the pitch warmed up before kick off.

Captain George won the toss and opted to kick off before realising we had nobody to kick as Brad had only just turned up. After some not to subtle delaying tactics, the team was ready and the games kicked off. As WURL had lost one player through illness the morning of the game, the last thing that was needed was for Pierre to tear the ligaments in his shoulder making the first tackle but, in a representative showing of the team's luck this year, that is exactly what happened. Losing such an influential player so early on left Warwick on the back foot and they had to withstand a lot of early pressure. However, after gaining a repeat set via a drop out, Ethan Cross managed to capitalise on a rubber through for the opening score. Oxford hit back twice through some strong ball carrying to make it 8-6 to the home side. Midway through the opening period, WURL found themselves once again in a strong attacking position and Brad's chip over the top was spectacularly caught by Tom Palmer who's leap and finger tip grab managed to beat two defenders to make it 8-10. 5 minutes before half time, Oxford managed to score twice more and despite some strong attacking sets, Warwick could not break through to reply and it was 16-10 at half time.

The next 10 minutes after half time have been erased from the memory of every player for the sake of our sanity but rumour has it Oxford scored a few. With 10 minutes remaining in the match, Brad decided to inspire the tired legs of the travelling team to attempt an outrageous comeback. The chronology of the events is slightly blurred but it was champagne rugby that gave the team the belief that the miracle may be somehow possible. It began 10 metres from the oxford line in front of the posts. By tactical genius or extreme fatigue depending on your point of view, Adam Cox found himself gasping for air on the left wing with no defenders in front of him. A quick shout to Brad and a well judged cross field chip was collected for Warwick's first try of the second half. From the kick off, an audacious effort began 10 metres from the Warwick line when Brad fired a long cross field kick for George to chase down. Despite his international wing credentials, he was far too slow to collect it and the ball rolled towards touch. Drawing on his inner Messi, he then stuck out his right leg, chipped it over his head and in to the greatful on rushing arms of Sam Featherstone who made another 20 metres and the first tackle was made 20 metres from the line with the disorganised defence running like bees to a honey pot around the play of the ball to desperately try to stem the flow of attackers. There was then space left for Jacob Hewson to dive over and score. After more kicks caused chaos in the home defence, Joe Laverty managed to collect and pop inside to give Jacob another. WURL did score another but nobody has claimed it yet and I have forgotten so that mystery will remain unsolved. During the chaos of the Warwick onslaught, Oxford did manage to nick a try back after their attempted kick ricocheted off players of both sides and a second chip found an unmarked winger to dot down. In the end it finished 38-30 to Oxford.

Despite various moments of brain fade dotted throughout the game, there were signs of a really great rugby league side with both experienced heads and more recent acquisitions contributing to a performance that suggests the club is in good hands for future years. The positives were marred by probable season ending injuries to Pierre and Tom Palmer who is today having an operation on his jaw after a collision in the final few minutes. We wish them both well.

Man of the Match was given to Jacob and Ethan for their tries and tremendous ball carrying throughout the full 80 minutes but 9 different players got nominations as everyone put big efforts in due to the injuries we had which prevented anybody being allowed much time resting on the bench. A special mention goes to Jonathan Abass who was making his debut for the team and ended up having to play almost a full game and made a number of significant carries and tackles to prove he will be a valuable asset to the club.

The next two weeks WURL have consecutive home games against Derby, first in the league and then in the cup, as they look to secure a top half finish in the league and a potential bonus of a cup run.

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