EUWRFC 1s have been forced to face up to the prospect of being denied what would have been an historic win over table toppers Gloucestershire late on Friday night, as an error when submitting the result to the BUCS website rendered the result void.
Having won the fixture 20-10 on Wednesday afternoon, the ladies were relishing the prospect of a two-week break before the knockout stages, having secured a second place finish in the BUCS Premier South Division. However, euphoria was soon replaced by anger and confusion on Friday, as it emerged that the Athletic Union had failed to submit the result before the 12pm deadline on Thursday.
Consequently, EUWRFC have dropped to third in the division, and will now face Birmingham this coming Wednesday in the last 16 of the cup, rather than going straight into the quarter finals, as would have been the case had they finished second in the league.
Exeposé Sport were informed by President Andy Higham that ‘the fixture in question did not appear on the score submission page on the BUCS website.’ Higham admitted that the fixture ‘should have been chased up’ but argued that the mistake was down to ‘a clerical error’ rather than incompetence on the part of the AU. He also confirmed that the AU had subsequently tried to submit the result, but were informed by BUCS that the deadline had passed, and that the result was therefore void.
Members of EUWRFC took to twitter on Friday to express their frustration at the situation. One member tweeted, ‘it’s actually insulting how an error like it was even made’ whilst another appear to blame BUCS for the error, tweeting ‘So @BUCSsport penalize EUWRFC for an admin deadline missed.’ The official EUWRFC twitter account added, ‘As horrible as this news is, we’ll carry on working hard regardless.’ Exeposé Sport contacted EUWRFC for comment but they had not responded at the time of going to print.
The match itself was an exciting and tense affair, with EUWRFC 1s controlling proceedings to come out 20-10 victors against the league leaders.
A penalty try and close range scores from hooker Clara Nielson and scrum half Kate Wilderspin secured the game, although the supreme Exeter pack, including Sarah Lambson, Kirsty Wilson and Izzy Moore, shone at the set piece to ultimately win the game for the home side.
From the outset of the first half, Exeter had complete command of the break down and setpiece. Wilson and Lambson set the tone for the scrums early on as the Gloucestershire front row had no answers for their resilience. A penalty try was awarded for their superiority, as Cleall converted to give the hosts an early 7-0 lead.
The Green Army continued to control the half, looking by far the more intelligent rugby outfit. Their discipline in the breakdown allowed Rebecca de Flippo to dictate the pace of the match at fly-half, enabling centre Kate Alder to exploit spaces out wide and Charlotte Lord to run rings around the opposing winger. Moore consistently rose highest in the line out, creating the perfect rugby dynamic for the home side.
However Gloucestershire were prepared to soak up pressure and pounce, which is exactly what occurred during their first attack, crossing the try-line and pinning the hosts back to a two point deficit.
This provoked a response from the home contingent, as another exceptional line out saw Nielson join the unstoppable green maul to touch down for Exeter’s second try of the afternoon and a 12-5 lead at half time.
The trend of the first half continued into the second, with Exeter dominating. However their failure to be clinical was punished as the visitors ran in their second try to create a tense finale for the girls in green.
Nonetheless Exeter refused to panic, remaining patient until the perfect moment appeared to swoop in and score. Unsurprisingly this came in the form of a scrum, where Wilderspin dived on a loose ball to reap the benefits of the all conquering Exeter pack before her.
With the score at 17-10, many of the supporters in attendance expected an onslaught from the unbeaten Gloucestershire. However this failed to arise, as strong defending from Alder and lock Kirsty Lowe especially quashed any serious threat from the away side. Cleall also impressed at inside centre, never taking a step back in attack and proving a menace when putting boot to ball all afternoon. It was her penalty at the dying stages of the second half, which brought about the inevitable, holding her nerve to sweetly strike her side to a ten point victory.
A confident and calm performance from EUWRFC will give them confidence going into the knockout stages. They will, however, undoubtedly be disappointed that all their hard work in this fixture was for nothing. Having finished third in the division, they will need to show similar resilience and determination to overcome Birmingham this Wednesday and progress to the quarter final stage of the cup.
James Beeson, Sport Editor & Tommy John, Sports Team