Jesus Fail To Halt John’s Juggernaut

John’s secure Division One title with 26-22 win over third-placed Jesus.

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John’s 26 – 22 Jesus

John’s yesterday overcame a determined Jesus side to secure the Division One title for the 9th time. Despite a heroic hat-trick from Jesus’ U21s Varsity try-scorer Rob Stevens, the Red Boys have still not lost a match since their shock defeat to Pembroke in 2006.

Jesus opened the scoring, Ian Childs converting a soft penalty inside the John’s 10m line. The response was predictable from John’s, who resorted to aggressive forward play and strong running that rarely ventured out wide.

Soon afterwards, a line-out drive allowed the John’s 9, Ben ‘the Boyband’ Wilson to sneak his first try round the blind side, escaping the attention of a dozing Jesus pack.

Jesus’ response was to probe deep into the John’s half with some intelligent kicks, Rob Stevens finishing a fine show of kicking from hand with a chip-and-chase that required the simplest of finishes. Childs’ conversion made the score 10-5 to the home side.

The Red Boys once again lapsed into familiar patterns of forward play, ending with Chris Hall taking a majestic offload from Wilson and running in the short yards to the line. The resulting conversion by Aaron Sonenfeld took the score to 12-10 at the interval.

Tempers flared after the restart after Johnians Lum and Linton put in two slightly belated tackles, one of which (termed “dubious but legal” by the referee) saw Jesus scrum-half Jon Cross taken off with a neck injury. Jesus retaliated in kind and were penalised for it.

The resulting John’s penalty was drilled down field and the first of the Red Boys’ second-half tries followed, a Sonenfeld break and inside passed allowing Rich Spense to rollick into the Jesus goal area.

Soon afterward, Ben Wilson scored his second try, this time from the base of a ruck, in similar fashion to his first. Jesus’ defense, so strong throughout the game, was sloppy on this occasion, mirroring the John’s players flooding the open side and giving Wilson free reign blind of the ruck.

Sonenfeld, galvanised by his first miss, converted both these tries – crucial points which would eventually prove the difference between the two sides. These were, however, the last points that John’s scored as a lapse in concentration – or lack of fitness – allowed Jesus to counter in the closing stages of the game.

Speed merchant Stevens took the match into his own hands with two stunning tries. A delicate switch and a breathtaking individual run from the half-way line took his team to within four points of John’s with only minutes remaining.

At this point, Jesus felt themselves agonizingly close to a shock win over their long-time rivals but, despite a heroic last-ditch effort, John’s did just enough to close the game out.

Jesus captain Miles Daly, though disappointed with the result, was proud of his side, merely remarking “I’m glad to see Rhemayo Brooks and James Dibble [Downing RUFC players present at the game] are bricking it”. Jesus face Downing in crunch fixtures to decide second place.

The John’s captain refused to comment on the match afterwards, perhaps indicating an unhappiness with the way his side played. Double try-scorer Wilson did, however, go on record as saying he “enjoyed it”.

With an almost insurmountable points difference, the Red Boys have already got two hands on the League trophy. Again. However, the race for second place is now on. Luckily for college Rugby, both Downing and Jesus are showing signs of challenging John’s dominance at the top and Cuppers later in the season may herald some changes in next year’s league.

See The Tab‘s pictures from the game here.