A stirring return for Wednesday Night Lights

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Photo: Saints Rugby
Photo: Saints Rugby
Photo: Saints Rugby

Leaving home is never easy. The University of St Andrews Men’s Rugby team learned that the hard way last season, facing arduous trips to Nottingham, Worcester, Loughborough and Birmingham. Those trips took their toll on the players and they were unable to really make a fist of the Northern division last season.

However, that provided valuable experience and this season a reshaping of the BUCS divisions saw St Andrews retain their place and it has certainly served them well. Despite suffering a reverse of their Varsity victory in their first game of the season, the Saints had won their next five fixtures, scoring 28 tries in the process.

With that in mind, and the high chances of victory against an University of Warwick side who had alternated wins and losses in the Midland 1A division this year, it made sense that Saints Sport would use this as a staging post for their second Wednesday Night Lights event of the year.

Although the first Wednesday Night Lights event of the year failed to live up to expectations, this one certainly hit all the right notes.

Music was provided throughout by Ashton Squires and there was an outdoor Union bar in addition to a BBQ throughout the game, despite the freezing temperatures. Likewise, an even stronger social media promotion effort by the Rugby club itself meant that there was a fantastic crowd in attendance for the game.

Plaudits must also go to Saints Sport for setting up a double-header of fixtures for the event. The 1st team cup game was followed by the 2nd team, who took on Dundee’s 2nd team in a top of the table Scottish 3A clash. This meant an earlier start which was certain to attract a bigger crowd and despite the bracing conditions, it meant that people were likely to stay and provide support to the 2nd team.

When the game came to start, the difference in quality was apparent. St Andrews were the better team, demonstrating some excellent handling and footwork in addition to being the much more physical side, meaning that it was a matter of when they scored their opening try rather than if. It was the visitors who opened the scoring though five minutes in, with Saints being penalised for making mistakes at the breakdown. That gave the Midlands side a penalty, which their fly-half duly dispatched for an early 3-0 lead. That lead lasted only three minutes, with St Andrews replying through a Scott Docherty penalty.

St Andrews had dominated possession in the early going and were rewarded for their dominance with a try after 12 minutes. The Saints forward pack strung several phases together, with James Wardle eventually going over in the corner. Docherty failed to add the extras but this score was the first of five St Andrews tries in the first half.

Domination of the scrums and lineouts is always a key battlefield in rugby and St Andrews seemed to have the better of their opponents time and again in these areas. Rob Lind went over after 22 minutes after some excellent forward play, whilst TJ Akinjobi, one of St Andrews stars of the game, crossed the whitewash following a scrum 10m out.

Scott MacGregor followed through on a Jack Casey chip kick to make it 25-3 after 33 minutes and St Andrews were unable to add a score with the final play of the first half following a driving maul. Scott Docherty added the conversion to mean that at the whistle, Saints led 32-3.

Photo: Saints Rugby
Photo: Saints Rugby

The chances of Warwick making a comeback looked slim at the start of the second period and were duly rendered obsolete thanks to St Andrews scoring just four minutes after the restart.

Winger Jacques Sharam went over in the far corner and despite the kick being the toughest Scott Docherty had faced all evening, he scored the conversion off the post to make it 39-3.

Warwick managed their first and only try of the game 15 minutes into the second half but that was their only highlight of an otherwise tough evening. That try had been preceded by St Andrews’ 7th of the evening and was soon followed by an 8th, both scored by Roland Walker. The second try was fantastic, a real example of champagne rugby that including a couple of no look passes by Docherty, before Walker showed some real gas to get past the Warwick defence.

Walker was then sin-binned for the final 10 minutes of the game after a monstrous tackle on Warwick’s outside centre, but Warwick were unable to capitalise on the man advantage and in fact it was St Andrews who would have the final say. Sharam had the ball on the 22 and elected to go for a chip over the top, which he was able to gather to score under the posts. Docherty duly converted to take his total for the match to 13 points, the game finishing St Andrews 58 – 8 Warwick. A brief interlude followed before the 2nd team game began. Unfortunately they went down 54-0 to Dundee, meaning they slip from the top of the 3A division and into third place.

Despite the second result, the event can only be deemed a success. It was a distinct improvement on the year’s first edition of Wednesday Night Lights and provides an excellent base for Saints Sport to build on next semester.

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