If you’ve every wondered what rugby league players get upto in their off season, well they play more rugby of course! Some go back to local rugby union clubs, like Frome for Matt Warnock, but those currently at University they have the chance to represent their area of the country.
This gives the most talented players another chance to impress the professional clubs before the start of a new season. Adam Hughes, Further & Higher Education Manager, Rugby Football League, said “it is a great opportunity for students in the region to showcase their talent on a wider stage and progress through the performance pathway”.
Chris Chatten, Team Manager, South West Universities Rugby League Squad, said “the squad are looking forward to the fixture and we are looking forward to seeing them progress through the pathway, but also offer them other opportunities to participate in the greatest game not only in the university environment but also in the community game and for some with professional clubs.”
In the end the South West secured an easy win over the South East 52 – 16, including no less than 14 players from the University of Gloucestershire after a comfortable half-time lead 30 – 6. The South West didn’t have it all their own way after Craig Winfield went over for a try early on, converted by Joe Glover by the South East. It was a tight opening quarter but second row Connor Jones managed to find a gap out wide, converted by half back Ben Stead. Connor Jones almost got a second try after a good break by loose forward Danny Fallon but was taken out with a last ditch tackle a few metres from the line.
Then the South West upped the tempo with two quick fire Kislingbury tries, Kislingbury almost added a third before half time but was disallowed for a forward pass. Soon after fleet footed Tom Slater from University of Exeter went in for a try out wide, before Callum Bradbury went over from close range just before the half-time hooter, 30-6. Ben Stead converting all tries.
After the break the points kept coming from the South West, Kislingbury went over for his hat trick try, then Tom Slater added his second try which was a carbon copy of his first half effort. Frankie Foster try in the last quarter brought the score to 48-6, with Stead kicking every conversion upto this point. The South East restored some pride with centre Callum Pettigrove going over for an unconverted try to bring the score to 48-10, then wing Simon Hirbek went over for the South East final try of the game and Joe Glover adding an impressive touchline conversion. Frankie Foster finished the scoring off with a try which Ben Stead failed to convert to maintain his 100% record, but kicked an impressive 8 from 9. Man of the match for the South West Captain Danny Fallon didn’t get on the score sheet but created many attacking opportunities for teammates.
The South West team was picked from:
Joe Rider, Lewis McKissick, Brad Kislingbury, Frankie Foster, Errol Carter, Ben Stead, Archie Gibbs, James Mason, Connor Jones, Danny Fallon, Callum Bradbury, Luke Stephens, Malikhi Lloyd-Jones, Harry Kidd (all University of Gloucestershire)
Dan Taylor, Jason Akwenuke, Tom Slater (all University of Exeter)
Rex Boultor, Sam Bragoli Jones (all University of Bath)
Jack Gregory (Cardiff Met)
A number of the players selected from University of Gloucestershire have signed professional terms with the All Golds. Ben Stead (half-back) played at Hemel Stags last season along with Malikhi Lloyd-Jones (Prop) have both signed for the All Gold’s for 2017. Wing Errol Carter was at Oxford last season and before that came through the London Broncos system, Jack Gregory from Cardiff Met was also in the London Broncos system and played in the London Origin series in 2012. Rex Boulter (Hooker) from University of Bath has a playing background in Rugby Union was Vice-Captain of Sevenoaks School team before gaining honours with West Kent regional squad and Sam Bragoli-Jones (Prop/Second-Row) also from University of Bath is another Rugby Union convert having played for Bury St. Edmunds in National leagues, and Eastern Counties under 21s. A number of the squad have already experienced playing for England Universities.
Photographs courtesy of Lewis Mitchell