Heavy hits, hard tackles and a whole load of history made – MMU 10-5 UoM

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By Harry Spindler

The Varsity between Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Manchester (UoM) has never been short of tension and controversy and Friday evenings Rugby match between the two was not short of such. Last year’s Varsity game between the two football teams had to be called off due to pitch invasions and fighting among the supporters, luckily no such aggression was shown between the two sides.

The atmosphere in the ground was loud and boisterous as both sets of fans kept the rivalry alive with plenty of jeers, cheers and a couple of comedic chants throughout the 80 minutes. The event was split between the Women’s match at 5:30pm prior to the Men’s game at 7:45pm

My coach arrived just in time to catch the start the of the Women’s game and from the here it was bad news. The MMU Women’s team appeared to be unorganised and structured too narrowly to match the powerful runs that the UoM team was sending out of the wings. Unfortunately, there was not much promise to speak about during the game, even though the Women’s side did manage to score two tries, one unconverted in the first and then a converted one in the second, was the only positives to mention in the game.

The MMU side was constantly under pressure from a far superior team on the day and with the way the team was set up, it appeared a tactical mismatch in comparison with their opponents. UoM were quite comfortable to play the wide attack when they had the ball and spread the MMU team wide where they were quite clearly not adept to that style of rugby. On the rare occasion that the narrow structure worked for MMU, they scored from it. However, it just wasn’t to be as UoM managed to put a total of 72 points past our girls. Clearly disappointed by the result, but gracious in defeat, the team  applauded their opponents exuberant performance.

With the previous result, you would probably have every right to believe that the excitement from the MMU support would have died down into a sense of reservations. You would be wrong. As the teams entered onto the pitch both sets of fans released cheers and applause, the team sheets being read out to the stands as screams followed every player’s name as if they were International legends. The game started on a fairly well note as MMU pushed forwarded on multiple occasions and kept UoM under pressure, similar to what we had seen in the previous game, except the other way round. The pressure was rewarded shortly after the kickoff and within 10 minutes MMU had scored a try. Multiple rucks within the opposition 22 showed the strength of the Met players as they pushed the Uni of players back eventually getting the break towards the left wing and touching down at an angle. Cheers erupted around the Met supporters and even after the following conversion narrowly missed, the singing still erupted as the fans urged on their representatives on the pitch to push on. Those songs may have been slightly premature as UoM hit back instantly. A fantastic restart from the UoM kicker created a vast increase in pressure for the Metropolitan boys before they could even think about pushing forward again. As they always say, you’re most vulnerable after scoring, and that came into fruition as UoM struck to score a try. A poor foul within our 22 led to a scrum which was dominated by the UoM players and as soon as the ball was recycled from the scrum, it was dished out to the right wing and placed down to equal the game. The kick was to follow in a similar position to where our own kick was placed, and in a similar fashion, was also left unconverted. The rest of the first half was stuck towards the midfield as both sides enter into a game of Heavy hits and hard tumbles.

As the first half ended 5-5, both sets of fans jeered each other as tensions rose. MMU had clearly felt comfortable in the first half and had most of the ball in their hands, however, possession meant very little against an opponent whose first team is based two leagues above their own. It was clear that the coaching team didn’t want the boys to feel complacent, all it would take for MMU to concede was a lapse in concentration. The second half began merely how the first had ended, with constant MMU possession and they were being held back by strong UoM tackles. Unmovable objects vs unstoppable forces. Within 10 minutes of the second half, MMU had a chance of going ahead. A penalty was given after UoM were punished for having hands in the ruck. Placed well within reason of converting, the MMU kicker stepped up and skimmed the outside of the right post, close again as UoM were playing with fire throughout the second half. While there were many positives from the MMU side, it was could be said that the line was far top conservative for a game which was truly dominated by their possession.

Once more the possession was well rewarded, however as MMU managed to break through the UoM line and a burst of power and speed led to what would be the deciding try, it was clear that it was coming and to some extent it could have been more after the UoM side were struck with a yellow card with 15 minutes of the game left. 2 disallowed tries for MMU during the 10 where our opponents were down to 14 truly consigned UOM to defeat. A potential comeback after UoM was back to full strength was shut down by a valiant and organised MMU defence. The whistle went as UoM were beginning to lose their edge and a 17-year wait for a win over the University of Manchester had now ended.

A well-deserved pitch invasion, celebrations and commiserations followed around the AJ Bell. As celebrations began, morale was high for the potential of the Varsity next year with all the investment and success our current 1st team has received, and attentions turned now towards the regular season and then just on the horizon. The War of the Roses. MMU vs Leeds Beckett at the end of this academic year.

Harry Spindler is currently studying History and International Politics and has aspirations to be a journalist. He is a huge fan of football, rugby, ice hockey and basketball and is a keen supporter of the left wing. You can find more of his work online at &

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