Varsity Victory for Salford Uni RL
With warmer days and longer nights the professional Rugby League season begins to enter full stride. While the professional game heats up, it is the pinnacle of the North West school season that played out at the Salford City Stadium on Monday 29th April.
A crowd of almost 1,000 witnessed the academic pride of Manchester pitting themselves against their contemporaries from Salford, with Salford City Reds Foundation celebrating the 5th Annual ‘2 Cities Challenge’ Varsity match, sponsored by Johnsons Motors of Irlam.
The evening began with the curtain raising match between Salford City College and The Blue Coat School of Oldham, before progressing to the main event. Early attendees of the night were treated to a cracker of a game, with Salford City College shading the contest 18-16, as the boys of The Blue Coat School pushed Salford City College hard all the way.
As members of the crowd cheering for the Salford sides celebrated the success in the opening fixture, it was hoped that the main event would be equally competitive and entertaining for a lively and youthful crowd.
Considered one of the biggest student academic sports events in the North West, the “Two Cities Challenge” Varsity match staged between the Universities of Salford and Manchester is in its 5th year, going from strength to strength following its move to the Salford City Stadium in 2012.
Ahead of the match, Salford were winning the series 3-1 and looking to extend this lead. However, given the form of the Manchester University team this year, the Manchester team were confident of a victory heading into the event. With organisers, participants and supporters alike eagerly awaiting a renewal of rivalries and relished a match that lives long in the memory.
As the teams took to the field the crowd found its voice, with both teams eager to ensure bragging rights over the opposing team in the post match hospitality suite, to be further enjoyed throughout the year until the next meeting.
With scores to be settled and Manchester fighting to close the score total gap, the early exchanges were tight and competitive. However, as the match wore on, Salford took a hold of the game with a succession of tries, and tempers flared on both sides. With both teams ending the game a man down, Salford stormed to a commanding 36-6 victory, reflective of their superior execution in key areas perhaps more strongly than the overall balance of play.
With the final whistle, the Salford sections of the stands celebrated, mirroring the weary and fatigued players on the pitch, rejuvenated by victory. Following warm and sincere exchanges between the opposing players and coaches, the trophy was presented to the match winning captain, and both sets of players saluted their supporters.
Following presenting of the Man of the Match award to Richard Joy of Salford, event sponsor Shirley Bradshaw of Johnsons Motors Irlam said, “It's always fantastic to put something back into community sport and when this opportunity came up to support the local rugby scene we were more than happy to get involved and it’s been a great evening of sport.”
Coach of the Manchester team and SCRF Education Officer Neil Blackburn said, “Obviously we’re disappointed to loose, particularly by a score line that doesn’t really reflect the competitiveness of the match, however it’s been a good season and an enjoyable night despite the result, and we’ll be back next season.”
Captain of the victorious Salford University team concluded the evening, accepting the match trophy on behalf of the team and said, “I think we played very well this evening, great as individuals but especially as a team unit. We’d spent months on our game plan, which really came together, and left Manchester with no answer. It’s great to win Varsity a third time in a row as it really is the main event we build up to all season. Thanks for everyone who make it such a great event and all the team hope the event continues for many more seasons to come”
As the supporters left the stadium and the Salford team into the night to continue their celebrations, it certainly was one to live long in the memory, of those with Salford allegiances in any case.
For further information on events and activities held by Salford City Reds Foundation please follow on Twitter @SCRFoundation