Rugby: SEH v Keble

EYEWITNESS: Phil Satterthwaite gives a first-hand account of the final

 

After two tough leagues, we knew that we had to step up in Cuppers and earn the reputation that previous Hall sides had built up. The team was finally beginning to gel, building in confidence with each game. As I had said in the Cup Final programme, beating Univ under the floodlights of Iffley Road was a real turning point. However, as much as the win installed a new sense of belief within the Hall side, there was always a danger that we could lose focus after a game worthy of being a final in itself. In a rematch against a very strong Keble side, anything less than the albeit clichéd ‘game of our lives’ would have resulted in yet another Cuppers upset for us.

 

In similar fashion to the 2007 final, we ran out on to the pitch as underdogs. Even with both sides suffering injuries to key players, there still seemed to be the feeling around the University that Keble were going to win. I will never forget looking around the changing room that evening, and seeing twenty-one other guys who begged to differ.

 The start we’d envisaged didn’t materialise, and we let Keble score the first points of the match. On a plus note, it was apparent from the start that Keble were going to play their usual pattern of rugby – relying on their tight pack of forwards to try and dominate the Hall eight, whilst scoring push-over tries.

Matters up front didn’t improve when our no. 8 Chris Davies had to leave the field after taking a big hit from a Keble flanker. Nevertheless, we managed to retain our composure throughout the first half, going into the tunnel marginally ahead at half time.
The second half began very much like the first, with Keble scoring the first points. From then on, the match became even more open, as both teams alternately troubled the scoreboard for the remaining 40 minutes.

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Thanks to the handling and power of our backline, we managed to retain a lead amongst all the tries and penalties being converted. Credit must also be given to our pack, which under some relentless pressure early on, managed to provide quick ball for our backs. By now we had stamped our authority over the flow of play, and if we had proceeded to lose the game, we would have had to live with the knowledge we’d let the game slip away from our grasp.

 The sound of the final whistle was immediately drowned out by our cries of victory and relief. Within minutes I had a bottle of champagne in one hand, and a can of Blackthorn cider in the other. Looking back, we all had one of those moments where what we achieved hadn’t quite sunk in yet. After some time however, as the Hall supporters invaded the pitch, we started to realise that we had once more reached the peak of college rugby. Lifting the trophy was the proudest moment of my rugby life so far. I can speak on behalf of the team when I say that winning Cuppers meant everything to us.

 We were proud to see a number of Aularians in the stands, and we thank them, along with all those who sent us good luck messages. In my time at Teddy Hall, there has always been an underlying rivalry between Keble and ourselves. At the same time, I doubt there are two college teams who have greater mutual respect, and a lot of credit must be given to Keble for an epic cup final.

Lastly, can I say thank you to each player involved in Teddy Hall rugby. You have all contributed to the big ‘30’ in terms of all-time Cuppers victories. Here’s to number thirty-one next season…