College Rugby: Downing’s Winning Run Comes To An End
Downing’s 600 day winning streak is brought to an end by fortunate Selwyn-Peterhouse.
Downing College Rugby Club visited Selwyn-Peterhouse’s Barton Road pitches on Tuesday afternoon for an eagerly anticipated match between the two remaining unbeaten teams in Division 1.
The stage was set for an enjoyable match and the opening exchanges didn’t disappoint. Despite attacking into a strong wind, Downing spent the first ten minutes putting early pressure on the Selwyn back line, winning them a penalty which they successfully kicked.
This didn’t deter the SPRUFC forwards as the maroon and gold pack were looking strong, asserting themselves on Downing with a number of powerful scrums. Downing managed to break the line on a couple of occasions but some crucial tackles, particularly from Selwyn skipper Louis Reynolds, prevented any significant advances. Despite Selwyn’s dominance in the forwards, the class of the Downing backs showed itself with Captain Thompson crashing over under the posts from a well worked move which was swiftly converted.
When the referee brought the half to a close it was Downing who went into half-time in better spirits with a 10-3 lead and the knowledge that they would have the wind at their backs for the remaining 40 minutes.
After the change of ends, Selwyn-Peterhouse looked invigorated and enjoyed long periods of possession deep in the Downing half.. Countless phases were played out beyond Downing’s 5-metre line as Selwyn’s back row patiently made several attempts for a score. This proved a good test for the Maroon and Gold forwards who had not previously faced such stubborn defence during their Division 3 years.
Ignoring the cries of “ship it wide” from their injured full-back on the touchline, the pack persisted and were eventually rewarded with an attacking scrum after Downing held the ball up over the line. Selwyn drove Downing back convincingly in the scrum before Downing conceded a penalty try under the posts but kicker Winfield was thwarted by a fast Downing charge down leaving the score at 10-8.
The disappointment at failing to take the lead was increased further as Downing swiftly scored a penalty at the other end, taking them five points clear. With less than ten minutes to play, Downing were favourites to close out the game and inflict a first defeat on the spirited Selwyn-Peterhouse squad.
Ollie Coombe-Tennant galvanised Selwyn-House spirit however as he galloped down the field to leap like a salmon and cling on to Winfield’s restart. The desire shown from the Selwyn fresher to keep possession acted as a catalyst to reignite SPRUFC’s charge towards the Downing try line. Similar scenes to earlier in the half then ensued as Selwyn looked to bash a hole through the Magentas’ defence with the significant weigh of skipper Reynolds ultimately proving too much for them to handle. Winfield stepped up again from the same position where he had previously been denied to slot Selwyn-Peterhouse into a two point lead, bringing the scores to 15-13.
At this point SPRUFC had a few minutes remaining to keep possession but a combination of wind and inexperience resulted in a nerve-shredding ending. Selwyn 10 Joe Yarwood looked to clear his lines with a kick that was blown back towards the Selwyn 22-metre line, causing most of Selwyn’s players to find themselves offside, resulting in a Downing penalty in a good position on the 22. Downing’s kicker had been looking confident, but this time hooked the ball slightly left of the uprights, allowing the Selwyn players and fans to breathe again.
The referee indicated the next play would be the last, prompting Reynolds to take a quick 22 drop-out to himself to maintain possession. This experience was followed by inexperience as a fellow Selwyn forward threw the ball into touch when a simple kick would have brought the game to a close. Downing were disappointed to be subsequently turned over after their free-kick, but they needn’t have worried, as the ball was unbelievably again thrown into touch, presenting Downing with a match-deciding penalty attempt.
The kick was identical to the previous, missing and giving a final score of 15-13, sparking relieved celebrations from a Selwyn-Peterhouse team which is continuing to overturn tradition. Downing’s incredible 600 day winning streak came to an end but they, like SPRUFC, will remain focused on the league title this year – the eventual victor is still far from decided.