8th April 2007, 17:10
2007 Student European Cup Report
THE Student Rugby League Universities European Nations Cup
THE Student Rugby League Universities European Nations Cup was successfully concluded at the Halton Stadium, when England lifted the Rugby League European Federation Nations Cup beatng Russia 28-22'.
The week-long tournament had been a tough affair for all teams and players involved.
No team gave an inch in any of the tightly fought competitive fixtures, while the crowds lapped up the thrills and spills of some skilful and fast-flowing rugby league.
Opening the tournament was Ireland against Scotland.
Originally scheduled for playing at The Parklands Club, this was switched to Wilmere Lane Playing Fields in an effort to ensure the second fixture would take place at The Parklands Club later in the day.
So, off to Wilmere Lane Playing Fields went the two teams for the 2.25pm kick off.
Even with the switch of venue, a reasonable crowed had gathered to watch the opening game.
They were not let down as the Irish and Scots battled it out with Ireland coming out winners with a scoreline of 22-12.
At 5.45pm, the second game of the day was played, as scheduled, at The Parklands Club.
With more people available after finishing work, the crowd turn out was significantly larger, and the contents of the game didn't let them down.
This was a rough and tumble affair with no quarter given.
In the end, England gained tha upper arm and run out winners with a final scoreline of 30-12.
The only sour note was the serious injury sustained by one of the Wales players.
Fortunately the expertise of the British Red Cross was positioned on the sidelines and they professionally dealt with the situation.
Time was taken to assess the player's injuries, take the appropriate action (oxygen, neck collar/brace and spine board, etc), before lifting to the changing rooms for further assessments and monitoring.
The emergency services were called and the player was taken to Whiston Hospital with a suspected fracture of the spine.
Later that evening, and after several CT scans and examinations, the player was diagnosed as having received severe whiplash injuries and was discharged that evening/early hours of Tuesday.
For the middle of the week, fixtures were played at the Widnes RUFC ground.
Encountering a larger than normal playing field, first up were England against Russia, for the 2.15pm kick off.
What a game that turned out to be with the rough, tough Russians really putting the English lads to the test.
The crowd experienced some determined and skilful running by the Russians but in the end the English know-how prevailed and England won with a scoreline of 28-22.
Having won their two opening matches, this meant the English team was now in the finals.
Next to appear were the Irish and the French for the 5.45pm kick off, and if spectators thought the previous England and Russia game was exciting, this one had them gasping!
The flare of the French was to be expected and this shone through but the dogged determination of the Irish was stronger.
It was a cracking game of rugby league with both sides giving their all.
With a score line of 14-14 and only precious minutes to go, the Irish hurled a drop kick high over the cross bar to pinch the lead.
With even less time remaining, the French pressed into and gained territorial advantage in the Irish quarter of the field.
With the referee ready to lift his whistle to his mouth, the French had the last kick of the match.
Taking aim, the French player targeted the Irish sticks with a drop kick attempt.
The ball left his foot and waggled' towards the goal sticks as it began to rise slowly from zero altitude.
For the Irish players and spectators, the world almost stopped as the rugby ball made its way, painfully slowly, towards the Irish cross bar.
When the ball rattled the underside of the cross bar, the Irish snapped out of their dream to collect and make safe the rugby ball for Irish possession and the sounding of the final whistle.
The final score was 15-14 to Ireland.
The luck of the Irish certainly shone through and their second victory meant they would meet England in the final on Sunday.
The venue for the last weekday fixtures was The Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club.
For the 2.15pm kick off, the Russians played the Welsh and they came head to head in a closely fought contest.
In the end, the Russian strength told and they ran out winners with a scoreline of 40-20.
Both sides gave a good account of themselves but for Russia, this was their first win, while for Wales they remained two games played and no win.
At 5.45pm Scotland and France took to the playing field, with both sides looking for their first win of the competition.
With France unluckily losing to the Irish on Wednesday, they looked the more determined to dig out a positive result from this game.
In the end, the French produced some exciting and flowing rugby to end up worthy winners with a score line of 22-06.
The first game of the day was scheduled for a 10.30am kick off at Leigh Recreational Ground, and was to be contested between Scotland and Wales.
With both sides without a win, this was the battle for fifth and sixth (wooden spoon) positions.
In yet another closely-contested game, both sides produced some lovely rugby in front of a surprisingly partisan crowd.
On the sounding of the final whistle, Scotland were celebrating not finishing bottom of the six tournament teams, by producing a score line of 44-20.
At noon the Russians and French marched on to the Halton Stadium turf to do battle for third and fourth places.
With the crowd starting to gather for the later finals game, the cries and yells of the Russian and French players could be heard echoing around the ground.
The spectators were entertained to a tremendous game of rugby with both sides determined to win.
It was end-to-end stuff and the calibre of rugby skills was shown in almost every move either side made.
With a half time score line of 16-16, it was all to play for in the second half.
As expected, the second half was as intense as the first, with neither side willing to give any advantage to the opposition.
The clock ticked down towards the final whistle and everybody was expecting 10 minutes either way of extra time with the golden point' rule coming into play.
The French had other ideas!
Pressing hard into the Russian half, the forwards formed the base for the inevitable drop kick attempt, which sailed between the posts to put the French ahead by one point.
The Russians didn't give up and on regaining possession of the ball; they made their way to the half way line.
With the French conceding a free kick to the Russians, the language barriers began to show as the Russian coach proceeded to enter the field of play to talk to the referee and his players.
With the French complaining of the pitch breaching, the referee trying to beckon the Russian coach off the field and the crowd wondering what was happening, all was resolved with a few gestures of the arms.
The Russian coach wanted to know how much time was remaining and then told the team captain to take the long 50 metre penalty attempt.
On line but short of the target, the final whistle was sounded and the French celebrated.
The Russians were beaten into third place but they shouldn't be disappointed with the contribution they made towards the tournament competition.
As the clock rolled towards the 2pm slot, the English and Irish teams paraded on to the Halton turf and lined up for the national anthems.
A slight misfortune in the playing of both anthems didn't distract from the quality and standard of skills shown in the game.
Ireland, who started out the tournament as under dogs to finish in sixth place, matched England in the early stages.
As time went on, the English team began to dominate affairs and sweep ahead with a victory score line of 36-4.
The Ireland team had played their part and reaching the final was their pinnacle.
They had picked up two wins along the way but in the end the English team proved to strong and skilful.
The Halton Stadium crowd of 564 applauded a tremendous game of rugby, not just for the final and the eventual winners but also for the whole of the week's entertainment and to all teams involved.
The hosting of the SRL Universities European Nations Cup in Halton is a real boost to the borough.
Thanks to Halton Borough Council (HBC) and Halton Farnworth Hornets ARLFC (HFH), the partnership' working has once again delivered a successful and highly rated Student Rugby League (SRL) event in the borough.
In the case of this tournament, it has included a new organisation to the road show in the form of the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF).
This broadens the horizons as far as Halton is concerned, for it demonstrates that the borough's links with the local sporting community (HFH) can and do work, to put Halton on the European map.
Next up is the SRL Regional' Games in 2008. Let's hope there's more than that to come!