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Match Report: Hartpury University 34 – 22 Loughborough University

Loughborough University went agonisingly close to a first BUCS National Championship title since 2005 but were just edged out by the reigning champions.

Hartpury showed their big-match pedigree in the first half with Amy Dale landing a brace, and Clara Grizzle-Johnson, Daisy Aspinall and Olivia Constable also crossing the line. Loughborough stayed in the fight through fine tries from Sally Williams and Kendall Waudby to trail by 15 at the break.

That shrunk further in the second period as Isla Curphey and Freya Greensmith got over the line but the final killer blow eluded them, as Anouk Veerkamp's stoppage-time try denied Loughborough double delight at the StoneX Stadium following the men’s triumph earlier in the day.

FIRST HALF

Loughborough spent the majority of the opening ten minutes coping with a strong wind and a barrage of attacks coming their way.

Georgina Tasker did brilliantly to repel Grizzle-Johnson in the right corner but moments later the game’s first try arrived as Hartpury hooker Dale finished off a rolling maul that crabbed slowly but surely to the line. Charlie Manns converted to open a seven-point lead.

Hartpury seemed destined to double their lead when Evie Roach carried hard towards the post where she was expertly stripped by Waudby.

However, the second try did arrive approaching the midway point of the first half when another powerful maul was completed by Constable’s grounding.

It was the turn of the backs to strike next as Pip Hendy and Lucia Scott both offloaded out of tackles for winger Aspinall to cross by the left corner flag.

Loughborough needed a moment of inspiration and it came from their captain Ellen Scantlebury who broke brilliantly from inside her own half before feeding Williams with plenty to do, but the number eight raced away and under the posts making Alex Baker’s conversion a simpler task.

There was time for three more tries before the break as Grizzle-Johnson and Dale improved Hartpury’s scoreline either side of a brilliant individual effort from Loughborough hooker Waudby, who used ferocious strength and an eye for the line to break and score.

SECOND HALF

The second half was all Loughborough but they lacked the clinical edge Hartpury had showed in the first period, with only prop Curphey’s powerful close-range finish to show for their efforts in the third quarter – that ended with Veerkamp being yellow carded.

With ten minutes left to play, Loughborough struck through a brilliant Greensmith try who used sensational speed to burn away from the defence and cross – setting up a grandstand finish.

That so nearly swung the African Violets’ way when Williams pinned her ears back to race towards the line, where she was met by a sensational try-saving tackle.

Hartpury had a late penalty to open an eight-point gap that remarkably saw Manns strike both posts and the ball stay in play, but they held their nerve and ultimately sealed the deal through Veerkamp’s converted try to successfully defend their BUCS National Championship title.

LINE UPS

Loughborough: 15 Georgina Tasker, 14 Ellen Scantlebury ©, 13 Becca Lawn, 12 Molly Anderson-Thomas, 11 Bo Westcombe-Evans, 10 Alex Baker, 9 Lucy Weaver; 1 Katherine Baverstock, 2 Kendall Waudby, 3 Isla Curphey, 4 Keevy Fitzpatrick, 5 Issy Winter, 6 Maisie Johns, 7 Lucy Finch, 8 Sally Williams

Replacements: 16 Cerys Shrewsbury, 17 Erin Proctor, 18 Steph Atkinson, 19 Emily Peters, 20 Poppy Phillips, 21 Amelie Anstead, 22 Freya Greensmith, 23 Freya MacColl

Hartpury: 15 Lucia Scott, 14 Clara-Johnson, 13 Pip Hendy, 12 Abileigh Priestnall (cc), 11 Daisy Aspinall, 10 Charlie Manns, 9 Jess Kershaw; 1 Anouk Veerkamp, 2 Amy Dale, 3 Evie Roach (cc), 4 Sophie Davies, 5 Gaby Skov, 6 Robyn Davies, 7 Gemma Bell, 8 Alaw Pyrs.

Replacements: 16 Olivia Constable, 17 Alisha Smith, 18 Evie Addy, 19 Agatha Joao, 20 Freya McGinlay, 21 Katie Harrison, 22 Tilly Ryall, 23 Kelsie Webster.

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