Ian Clark’s hat-trick helped UWE Hartpury win their fifth BUCS Championship after a pulsating 28-24 victory over Leeds Metropolitan University at Twickenham.
Clark gave Hartpury the perfect start when he scorched over on the left after only 66 seconds following a turnover on the Leeds Met 22, with Gareth Thompson slotting the conversion.
Leeds Met came straight back and piled on the pressure, forcing Hartpury to concede multiple penalties.
The Yorkshiremen’s persistence eventually told and former Hartpury student Alex Clarke darted over around the fringes of ruck for their first try. Will Cargill’s subsequent extras restored parity.
Clarke swiftly turned from hero to zero when he was yellow-carded for killing the ball.
Leeds Met put in an admirable defensive shift while down to 14 men, but Hartpury made them pay with Clarke poised to return to the field.
It came in bizarre circumstances as Thompson’s miscued crossfield kick bounced kindly for winger Seb Rodwell, who barged over after a juggle with the ball.
Thompson slotted a penalty with the break approaching to move Hartpury eight points in front at the turnaround.
Leeds Met struck early in the second period, however, as number eight Jarrad Williams peeled off a driving maul five minutes into half to dive over for a seven-pointer with Cargill’s conversion.
Thompson’s second penalty granted Hartpury some breathing space again, but they were soon reduced to 14 men themselves as Craig Jackson infringed under pressure.
Cargill stroked over the three points on offer, but it was Hartpury who grabbed the crucial next try.
There seemed to be little danger as Hartpury attacked on the Leeds Met 22, but a chasm of space suddenly opened up in midfield and Clark ghosted through untouched.
Thompson’s missed conversion kept Leeds Met within a score and they began to exert enormous pressure on their opponents.
They thought they had finally breached the stubborn Hartpury defensive wall when Cargill crossed on the left, but referee Richard Kelly called the ball held-up after a fantastic last-ditch tackle from Alex Woodburn.
Hartpury powered through the resultant scrum to clear their lines, and Clark appeared to have made the result safe as he latched on to a kick-through to complete his treble with six minutes remaining.
Leeds Met were still not finished and some patient phase play released winger Dan Leake for a try, which Cargill converted expertly from the touchline to ensure a grandstand finish.
Hartpury still had to repel yet more intense Leeds attacking from the restart, but they held on to seal a memorable win and regain the trophy they last lifted in 2012.
Hartpury would like to thank Leeds Met for an excellent match.
The big games keep on rolling and Hartpury College RFC have a huge match against closest title challengers Canterbury tomorrow, which will go a long way towards deciding who will be promoted from National Division Two South. KO is at 3pm and any support will be greatly appreciated.
The U18s will also be travelling to London next Wednesday for the AASE League Final against Prince Henry’s Grammar School, looking to win their fifth straight title. KO TBC.
Final score: Leeds Metropolitan University 24-28 UWE Hartpury
Tries: Clark (3), Rodwell
Penalties: Thompson (2)
Jaike Carter; Seb Rodwell, Craig Jackson, George Boulton, Ian Clark; Gareth Thompson, Ben Vellacott; Des Merrey, Nathan Taylor (c), Jimmy Litchfield; Tom MacDonald, Rik Cottrell; Tom Ailes, Alex Woodburn, Andy Chesters. Reps: Callum O’Connell, Alec Clarey, Ross Tunbridge, Mitch Spencer, Harry Cochrane, Mark Harrison