Ex­eter re­main un­beaten but Northum­bria run them close

The Rugby Paper - - National League 3 Feature - ■ By JOE BYRNES

THE points came thick and fast as the sec­ond round of matches opened with a thriller at Top­sham on Wed­nes­day.

Ex­eter pipped Northum­bria in an ex­tra­or­di­nary match that ended 53-50 – a game that will give de­fence coaches sleep­less nights across the land. Northum­bria look like a team re­born this sea­son scor­ing 107 points in two games, while ta­ble top­pers Ex­eter re­main un­beaten.

Ex­eter lead through­out but Northum­bria were al­ways in touch. M’boge, Kelly and Lin­sell trys con­trib­uted to a 25-19 lead at the break with plenty to fol­low in the sec­ond half. Northum­bria scored eight trys in to­tal and at one stage trailed 4645 but fur­ther scores from Kelly, Lin­sell and Thorne mar­ried with some im­pec­ca­ble Lan­dray kick­ing squeaked it for the Devo­ni­ans.

Northum­bria look like a team re­born this sea­son scor­ing 107 points in two games, while ta­ble top­pers Ex­eter re­main un­beaten.

Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity hosted their an­nual Big Game with 3,000 in at­ten­dance to wel­come reign­ing cham­pi­ons Hart­pury to cam­pus, and their men in pur­ple did not dis­ap­point.

Hart­pury started brightly with a penalty but they soon found them­selves pinned back in their own half. Debu­tant Tom Ffitch missed a shot at goal but Lough­bor­ough main­tained pres­sure with high tempo and dom­i­nant set piece. The men from Glouces­ter valiantly de­fended their line but when they in­fringed at scrum time, the ref­eree de­ci­sively awarded a penalty try.

Hart­pury soon had a chance to nar­row the deficit from the tee but in­stead opted for the cor­ner. Er­rant han­dling thwarted their as­sault and Lough­bor­ough ex­ited ef­fi­ciently.

The hu­man jug­ger­naut Richie Lewis bat­tered the red de­fence re­lent­lessly and Lough­bor­ough soon used this front foot mo­men­tum to skit­tle Ol­lie Adams over with the as­sis­tance of crowd favourite Musa ‘Big Muse’ Yusuff.

Ben Fry saw yel­low for the visi­tors end the half and Ffitch com­pounded the home side’s su­pe­ri­or­ity with a penalty to end the half 17-3 up.

The first score of the last 40 would be cru­cial. Again Hart­pury de­clined kick­able points and again they left the red zone empty handed. An­other pow­er­ful scrum al­lowed sparky Jack Moates to wrig­gle over.

Hart­pury try as they may couldn’t get their hands on the ball to build phases. Man of the match Theo Vukasi­novic’s tele­scopic arms snaf­fled any­thing in his ra­dius and was dy­namic through­out. Quick ball and crisp hands saw Moates in for the 4th with sub­sti­tute HirskyjDou­glas soon fol­low­ing suit. Hart­pury could be ag­grieved at some shrewd block­ing but they wouldn’t ar­gue the re­sult.

With both benches emp­tied and 20 min­utes re­main­ing Hart­pury began to show a glimpse of their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Joe Mullis was im­pres­sive dis­play­ing the speed, vi­sion and hunger his peers had been lack­ing. He scored one and cre­ated Daniel Open­shaw’s try to leave the score 36-15.

Lough­bor­ough have cer­tainly laid down a marker for the sea­son ahead.

Else­where Cardiff Met reg­is­tered their first vic­tory over­com­ing Not­ting­ham Trent 30-15 while Durham started their cam­paign by in­flict­ing a sec­ond de­feat on Bath 31-0.

In a land­mark move Durham play their next game ‘at home’ against Ex­eter at Ross­lyn Park.

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