Two tries by Man of the Match James Sharples at a buzzing Old Deer Park Stadium on Wednesday night saw that the Imperial Medicals retained the JPR Williams Cup for the eighth consecutive year.

College had the upper hand going into the game, having beaten and drawn against the Medicals earlier in the season, something that definitely added hope to the College supporters that packed the stands of the London Welsh Stadium. However, Varsity seems to be one of those games where previous performance counts for nothing on the night.

The first half was, by all accounts, College’s half, playing some sublime rugby and constantly threatening the Medicals try line. In a stark contrast to previous years, it was the College forwards that were dominating the scrums, with some excellent work by O’Rourke as well as Louwagie and Coggrave on their Varsity debut. The sustained pressure from the College forwards saw them ebb ever nearer to the Medicals try line, eventually earning a penalty in a kickable position, however, kicker J. Newton was unable to convert leaving the score 0-0.

This sustained pressure carried on for the rest of the half, yet College never seemed able break the game line and put the Medicals on the back foot. Despite this pressure, the Medicals were the first to score after a fortunate bounce saw scrum half Manyard unleash Sharples on the wing who comfortably ran in the try to give the Medicals a 5-0. Fly-Half Neville was unable to score the conversion.

After the restart, the College side were determined to get some points on the board with the forwards increasing the pressure on the Medicals, eventually earning another penalty in front of the posts on the 22m line. An out of form Newton managed to strike the upright with the kick, but was able to recover the ball, giving the possession back to College. After a few more phases, College managed to set up a rolling maul in the Medicals 22, which they managed to push over the line giving a well earned try to the College forwards. Newton converted the kick to give College a 7-5 lead. A penalty a piece, before the end of the half saw the score-line at 10-8 to College, who were definitely looking the most threatening.

The second half saw a renewed and regenerated Medicals side take it to the College backs. Despite the best efforts of scrum half Freddie Chalke, who JPR Williams gave a noteworthy mention after the game, the College backs never seemed able to threaten the Medicals, something which they would regret later in the game.

Poor kicking and decision making by the College backs eventually led to the Medicals first try of the second half, with Neville again unleashing Sharples on the wing after College’s fullback, Joachim, was turned over in his 22. A successful conversion by Neville gave the Medicals a 15-10 lead early in the second half. The Medical backs were attacking the line with such a high intensity that it was only a matter of time before they would break the line again, and it was the Medicals centre who all but put the game to rest after he crossed the line to give them a 22-10 lead.

Despite the upper hand that the Medicals had, the College side were determined to get another try and had an extensive period of pressure in the Medicals half, which saw penalty after penalty being given against the Medicals. With 10 minutes to go, controversy struck after two Medical players were sin-binned, one for repeatedly killing the ball and the second for a dangerous tackle on the College centre Joe Brown. With the Medicals down to 13 players for the remainder of the game, it seemed like the opportune moment for College to get some points on the board, starting with the penalty in front of the posts.

With two men extra on the pitch, it was expected that College would take advantage by running at the undermanned back line of the Medicals, however, some superb defending by Sharples stopped one such attack. Poor decision-making crept in again, with College deciding to kick the ball time and time again to the deadly Medicals fullback Nzekwue, who simply glided through the ragged defence. To add insult to injury, it was the Medicals who managed to score in the corner that effectively finished the game at 29-13 to the Medicals.

Poor decision-making was the downfall of the College side, which JPR Williams attributed to their age and relative inexperience compared to the Medicals. Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly entertaining match, with JPR Williams commenting that it had more “flair and excitement than some of the Six Nation games this year”. Make sure you’re here next year!