South West showdown for Semi final place
The South West’s two leading Student Rugby League sides have been drawn together in the Quarter Finals of the BUCS National Championship.
Exeter University will host the University of Gloucestershire All Golds at their Duckes Meadow ground on February 29.
The two teams have not met in the BUCS competition before. Gloucester, 2009 Divisional Champions in the Wales and West Division, were elevated above Exeter into the national Super 8 Division, on account of their stadium facilities and administrative, off-field infrastructure.
UG have enjoyed their best season in the top flight to date, finishing third over all, and running both Loughborough and Leeds Met very close during the regular season.
Exeter, meanwhile, will be chasing their third semi final in four years, having secured the Premier South title with a 100 per cent record for the second consecutive season.
Exeter have home advantage, and did take the honours when the teams met in a pre-season nines event in Bristol, but that will count for little with a semi final place at stake against either Liverpool or, more likely, the competition winners for the last eight seasons, Leeds Met.
Although the teams go into the game with few on-field points of comparison, the universities know each other very well.
All-Golds Director of Rugby Ken Stone, and Exeter Head Coach Matt Cuss, are colleagues in the RFL South West Development team. Five players from each university attended a two week training camp with the Leeds Rhinos Academy staff last summer, while players from both clubs form the core of the South West Students squad, currently training together for the Regional competition in March.
The contest is certain to be hard-fought, with both teams feeling they are genuine title contenders. It’s too close to call, but the south west is guaranteed to have one club in the last four, and whichever side emerges triumphant will carry a great deal of confidence into the remainder of the campaign.