The University of Bath men’s 1st XV were cheered on by another big crowd at The Rec but it was rivals Loughborough University who left with the spoils after an entertaining BUCS Super Rugby Anniversary Game, sponsored by Iesis Group.
Jack Davies scored the first and last tries of an absorbing first half, either side of touchdowns from Musa Yusuff and Jack Moates, but two penalties and two conversions from the impressive Owen Waters gave Loughborough a 20-12 advantage at the break.
There was little to choose between the teams in the second period but, despite the encouragement of a crowd of nearly 4,000, Bath couldn’t quite find a way through and a try and conversion by Waters put the game out of reach.
Aaron James, Director of Rugby at the University of Bath, said: “We’re obviously disappointed not to win for such a big crowd. It was a great occasion but it’s frustrating as there were moments where we thought we were in control that we didn’t get right and that cost us.
“When it was 20-12 we got close to their line but spilt the ball, then they went down the other end and scored which was a momentum changer. Saying that, we are getting better and will keep looking at the things we can control.”
Captain Will Britton added: “We finished the first half strongly and thought the game was in our grasp but sadly we just couldn’t convert our opportunities. We need to be a bit more adaptive in future – if plan A isn’t working, what can we do for plan B – but we are getting there.”
Iestyn Lewis, CEO of match sponsors Iesis Group and a former University of Bath sporting scholar and Head of Rugby, was among a number of special guests in the big crowd.
They saw visitors Loughborough make a confident start to the match, with scrum-half Waters slotting over two close-range penalties inside the opening eight minutes.
Bath, roared on the vocal crowd, turned to their trademark lineout drive for a route back into the game. Loughborough knew what was coming but had no answer as Davies crashed over the line before roaring with delight. Will Flinn dragged the conversion attempt wide.
Loughborough gave Bath a taste of their own medicine moments later as they drove over to notch their first try of the evening through Yusuff, Waters again successful with his kick.
The visitors struck again in the 24th minute as, from a scrum midway into the Bath half, number eight Charlie Kingham showed good hands to draw the tackle before offloading for Moates to race over. Waters’ superb touchline conversion extended Loughborough’s lead to 20-5.
Bath thought they had cut the deficit when, from another 5m lineout catch and drive, Craig Duncan picked up and dived over. However, the celebrations were cut short when the video referee spotted a knock-on in the lineout.
The hosts were not to be denied, though, and an intense period of pressure ended with Davies driving over for his second try of the game. Flinn this time added the extras to cut the half-time deficit to 20-12.
Bath defended stoutly as Loughborough made a strong start to the second half, then the hosts enjoyed their own period of dominance that came to an end with a knock-on inside the visitors’ 22.
That allowed Loughborough to get back on the front foot and, when a penalty was kicked into the corner and the ball was spread across the pitch from the subsequent lineout, the excellent Waters was on hand to shimmy through a gap in the Bath defence to touch down. He then added the extras to put the visitors 27-12 up with an hour on the clock.
Bath rang the changes, with hooker Tom Doughty – making his first appearance of the season after injury – among the replacements introduced as the hosts sought a way back into the game.
They forced a series of scrums inside the Loughborough 22 but the visitors stood firm and eventually forced Bath into conceding a penalty.
There was a lengthy delay in the closing stages as Bath replacement Finn Murphy suffered a knee injury and was carried off the pitch to warm applause from the home fans.
Tonight’s match was preceded by a minute’s applause in memory of George Stephenson, a former University of Bath student, player and rugby club chairman who sadly lost his battle against cancer aged 24 last month. Donations were collected at the game for cancer research.
BUCS Super Rugby action returns to the University of Bath next Wednesday (October 25) when the men’s 1st XV entertain Northumbria University on the Sports Training Village infield. Kick-off is 6.30pm and entry, as for all home games, is free.
University of Bath: 15 Will Partington, 14 Harry Close, 13 Craig Duncan, 12 Charlie Dunbar, 11 Jack London, 10 Will Flinn, 9 Luca Petrozzi; 1 Austin Hay, 2 Beck Cutting, 3 David da Costa, 4 Will Britton (c), 5 Scott Russell, 6 Michael Snook, 7 Chris Barry, 8 Jack Davies. Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Arthur Cordwell, 18 Bradley Packham, 19 Derryn Jones, 20 Josh Lilly, 21 Louis Mulholland, 22 Finn Murphy.
Tries: Davies 2.
Loughborough University: 15 Tom Ffitch, 14 Will Kaye, 13 Alex Glashan, 12 Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas, 11 Jack Antoniou, 10 Owen Waters, 9 Jack Moates; 1 Sam Grahamslaw, 2 Ollie Adams (c), 3 George Davis, 4 Theo Vukasinovic, 5 Luke Frost, 6 Musa Yusuff, 7 Sam Hudson, 8 Charlie Kingham. Replacements: 16 Harrison King, 17 Jarod Leat, 18 Seb Brownhill, 19 Max Hill, 20 Cam Dobinson, 21 Richard Lewis, 22 Tim Bitirim.
Tries: Yusuff, Moates, Waters.
Conversions: Waters 3.
Penalties: Waters 2.
Referee: Matt Turvey.
Assistant referees: Andy Wigley, Mark Doran.