Holders Hartpury suffered an agonising exit from the BUCS Championship as Leeds Beckett Carnegie University took their revenge for last year’s Twickenham final defeat.
Hartpury went down 28-17 in the semi-final, with Leeds being roared to victory by a home crowd and a dominant set piece, grinding out their victory in very wet conditions.
Trailing 18-3 at half time, Hartpury did pull the score back to 21-17 with 15 minutes to go, only for Beckett’s superiority in the set piece to deny Hartpury a chance to capitalise on threatening field position in the latter stages.
Moments before kick-off came a heavy downpour of rain that stayed overhead for long periods - the polar opposite to the conditions when the teams last met on the hallow turf of Twickenham, where running rugby was the order of the day.
Both teams showed their commitment from the outset, bringing a physical edge to the game. Beckett’s fly-half, Will Cargill, opened the scoring with a penalty earned at the scrum after an earlier Gareth Thompson miss, before Thompson replied with a penalty from 40 metre, also after a scrum infringement.
With the wind in their faces, Hartpury got caught up in a kicking battle for field position, giving Beckett a scrum on the Hartpury 22m. And the scrum showed early signs of creaking, bringing a penalty to make the score 6-3 to the home side.
On the 20-minute mark, Beckett worked Alex Ricci into space deep into Hartpury territory and the winger’s grubber kick ahead was fumbled by the Hartpury cover, gifting Ricci a chance to dot down, which he duly accepted. The conversion was missed.
Despite a mis-firing lineout and scrum, Hartpury began to hit back, twice getting close to the Beckett line thanks to powerful Sebastian Negri’s line-breaks, only for handling errors to halt momentum.
But then came a blow as Negri was shown a yellow card and the resulting penalty brought Beckett within five metres of the Hartpury line. While Hartpury held out for a time, their depleted scrum was eventually pushed back and Beckett were awarded a penalty try. That was not the worst of it though as Hartpury received another sinbinning to prop Alec Clarey. With the conversion good, Beckett took an 18-3 lead into half-time.
Despite being down to 13 men, Hartpury started the second half the brighter team. With the wind at their backs, they looked to play the game in the right areas of the pitch. They were rewarded for their efforts when number eight Will Safe burrowed over from close range after multiple phases. Thompson added the extras.
Beckett hit back with a Cargill penalty before Hartpury unleashed another assault on the Beckett line. Restored to 15 men and with Thompson kicking well for field position, penalties started to mount against the opposition. Beckett received a yellow card when second row Jack Ramshaw was pinged for collapsing a maul.
Now with the momentum, Hartpury seized their opportunity. Claiming a line-out, they manufactured a powerful driving maul and replacement prop Alfie Barron applied the finishing touches. Thompson again provided the tricky extras to bring the score to 21-17 with 15 minutes remaining.
Having time on their side, Hartpury worked their way on several occasions deep into Beckett territory, but it was not to be as Hartpury conceded turnovers at both the line-out and scrum, which allowed Beckett to clear their lines.
Finishing the game camped on the Hartpury line, Beckett stamped their scrum dominance, claiming another penalty try with the last play of the game to progress into the March 27th final with a 28-17 victory.