Superb Skolars see off the All Golds
Match report by James Gray.
Photographs by Lewis Mitchell and Amy Jones
The London Skolars produced one of their performances of the season to comfortably beat the University of Gloucestershire All Golds 12-36.
There were a number of changes to the All Golds squad from the one that took on South Wales Scorpions last Saturday. It was great to see two University hopefuls re-enter the mix, as Jamie Crowther and Ash Haynes both came straight into Steve McCormack’s squad. Chris Vitalini also made the quick transition from South Wales to start at prop, with Mark Barlow now fully prepared to make his return starting from the bench.
But these arrivals were much needed, with Ben White being called back to Leeds Rhinos and Matthew Bradley ineligible to play against his old side, leaving a noticeable hole in the All Golds half-back division, on top of a growing injury list. Recent weeks had been a tale of woe on the injury front for the All Golds and when Brendan Smith had to leave the field after just three minutes, it was again a case of rubbing salt into the wounds.
The home side managed to mount a lot of pressure early on but couldn’t convert chances into points, leaving the door wide open for the Skolars. The away side took full advantage of three consecutive sets, once the All Golds had conceded needless penalties, and Mufaro Mvududu scored in the corner to put the Londoners into a surprising lead.
It was clear that the game was lacking intensity, as both sides showed signs of some lethargic tackling. But finally after nearly 30 minutes of decent pressure the All Golds would get over the line to score, as Casey Canterbury ran through from Steve Parry’s smart offload. Phil Cowburn added the extras, after replacing the ineligible Bradley’s kicking duties.
You now felt with a try behind them that the play-off challengers would go on to confirm their superiority on the fixture. But it was just the opposite as the away side again on the counter spotted huge gaps in the All Gold defence and exploited them. Will Lovell ran through before slotting in Danny Yates to give Skolars a half time lead.
It needed to be a much improved All Golds side that turned up in the second half, but their chances of victory were dealt a huge hammer blow early in the second period. The visitors came out firing scoring two quick tries and taking their advantage to 14 points. First Mvududu scored in the corner after some quick passing down the left wing and then once Mike Bishay’s kick went over Jarrod Ward’s head, it was left for Ilies Macani to score the Skolars second try of the half.
It was a disaster start for McCormack’s men, still in their hunt of play-off rugby. Thankfully for the home supporters Phil Cowburn would give them hope of a revival, as the full back showed great hands to latch onto the grubber kick and bring the All Golds back within touching distance.
The entire fixture had been one of much frustration for the home side as they had the vast majority of possession, but with clear absentees in the half-back positions they struggled to convert their chances. The match however still remained in the balance with the Skolars only eight points ahead, as both teams knew the significance of the next try. However, in what was such a crucial period the travellers couldn’t have been more emphatic.
Craig Cook’s kick landed kindly for Bishay who could run clear of the chasing defence and assure a well-earned three points for the Skolars. But they weren’t done there as Joe Mbu’s men would score a further two tries in the final ten minutes, with Macani deservedly claiming the match highlight. Olly Purslow scored just before the winger raced clear from the restart showing lightning pace to beat everyone including the referee who seemed to clearly block Cowburn from making the tackle.
It was a great try and overall a fantastic day for the away side, as the visitors celebrated taking all three points back to the capital with what in the end was a decisive 12-36 victory. As for the All Golds, it’s another setback and makes their clash with Hemel in a fortnight’s time even more critical – with the winner almost assuring a play-off spot.
It’s been a hard result to take for University of Gloucestershire All Golds Head Coach, Steve McCormack: “We never like to beat, and the amount of points we conceded was disappointing. But you’ve got to give credit to London, I thought they were excellent with some brilliant individuals that have done this to a lot of teams this year. They played really well and obviously were really disappointed.
“There were probably ten players unavailable today, so you ten players away from any side and they’re going to struggle. Craig Cook put his hand up to play half-back and I thought he was excellent; obviously also you’ve got Casey Canterbury, Steve Parry and Mark Barlow but we looked disjointed with the ball, yet it was the amount of points we conceded that was really disappointing.”
Man of the Match: Mufaro Mvududu
|University of Gloucestershire All Golds||London Skolars|
|1. Phil Cowburn2. Jarrod Ward
3. Jamie Crowther
17. Sam Te’o
5. Scott Claridge
13. Brendan Smith
7. Casey Canterbury
10. Izaak Duffy
19. Craig Cook
18. Chris Vitalini
11. Dan Spencer-Tonks
12. Connor Nolan
15. Miles Fairbank
9. Steve Parry
6. Mark Barlow
16. Joe McLean
4. Ash Haynes
|1. John Paxton2. Ilies Macani
11. Anthony Cox
4. Mufaro Mvududu
5. Dennis Tuffour
7. Danny Yates
6. Mike Bishay
20. Tely Pelo
9. Martyn Smith
8. Michael Sykes
10. Lamont Bryan
12. Will Lovell
21. Olly Purslow
16. Sam Druce
17. Kazeem Fatouri-Edwards
22. Sam Wellings
13. Louis Robinson
Referee: S. Ansell
Touch Judges: R. Dolan & D. Butler
Match Commissioner: T. Brown