Shield Glory for Magdalene
In the last week of Lent Magdalene clinched the Shield in Cuppers rugby. Full match report and photos here
Magdalene 36 – 13 Sidney
The last week of Lent saw Magdalene clinch the Shield with an impressive win over a spirited Sidney side in the final.
The Shield may be somewhat less prestigious than the Cup and Plate, but it provides teams in the lower reaches of college rugby with an excellent opportunity to get their hands on some silverware.
It was clearly a big day out, with both teams attracting strong legions of supporters, including Sidney’s Master, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, who came down to cheer on his college’s League of Shame outfit.
Magdalene by comparison had a girl dressed in squirrel costume.
In spite of this borderline lunacy, both sets of fans helped to create an amazing atmosphere for the game that was to follow.
Magdalene, who will be battling it out with the big boys in Division 1 next season, went into the game as firm favourites.
Yet it was the underdogs who took the lead, as Sidney Captain Freddie Iron calmly slotted over a penalty in front of the posts.
Magdalene did not take long to respond. In an early glimpse of what was to cost Sidney constantly throughout the game, the Magdalene forwards caught the ball from the lineout on the Sidney 22 and rumbled over the try-line in a matter of seconds.
The Magdalene front row of Will Briggs, Frank Sanders and Miles Eason, considered one of the best across the university, was solid all game.
Their dominance at the set piece and breakdown starved the dangerous Sidney backs of possession for large periods of possession.
However, against the run of play, a loose pass from the scrum saw the ball find Sidney full-back Joe Pitt-Rashid.
Some sensational handling allowed Rugby League Blue Max Stechman to run in unopposed from 20 metres out, giving Sidney an 8-7 lead.
Catastrophically for the underdogs, ten minutes before the half, Sidney forward James ‘Shamu’ Shearman was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.
Magdalene immediately took advantage of their extra man, as centre Matt Jago crossed the line directly under the sticks.
The added conversion made the score 14-8 to Magdalene, who were never again to go behind in the game.
They added another try before half-time, the forwards rampaging up the pitch, making the score 21-8.
Magdalene’s squirrel was dancing; Sidney’s master was not.
The second half was a similar story to the end of the first. Sidney, despite their attempted creativity and never say die attitude, were simply unable to retain possession for long enough to pose any real threat.
The dominance of the Magdalene forwards saw them race to a 36-8 lead inside 65 minutes. The game, and Shield, was in the bag.
A storming run by Max Stechman gave Sidney a consolation try in the dying minutes of the game, but it was not enough.
The final whistle was blown, and Magdalene had comfortably won 36-13.
This success in Cuppers caps an impressive season for Magdalene who gained promotion to the top tier of college rugby by finishing runners up to Queens’ in Division 2.
Magdalene try-scorer, Jon Romer-Lee, said after the game: “It’s been the best rugby we’ve played all season, and probably in my four years at the college.
We really expected it to be a lot tougher today, but our forwards completely dominated Sidney, which opened up all the room for the backs”.
Sidney played with an inspirational amount of passion and enthusiasm, but were simply not big enough to cause an upset over Magdalene.
Or maybe their dancing squirrel simply offered greater support than Sidney’s master did. It’s a difficult one to call.