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University of Surrey Touch Rugby Club produced an excellent performance to storm to victory in the first National round of the University Touch Championships (UTC) in Nottingham earlier this month.

Here’s a full recount of the day from the Touch Rugby Club…

“Surrey Touch Rugby ventured up to Nottingham for the first national round of the university touch championships (UTC) on Saturday 11th of February. Surrey brought two teams to the largest single day touch tournament hosted by England Touch; the Stags (1s) and the Bucks (2s). The Stags were drafted into a tough pool for the national competitions after finishing second overall after the 2 Southern competitions: facing off against the undefeated Loughborough 1s, last year’s overall winners Bath and a strong Cambridge side. Likewise, the Bucks were up against tough competition in Oxford, Durham 2s and Edinburgh 2s.

“The Stags took on Cambridge in game 1, and confidence was high going into this game as they were the lowest seeded team in our pool and so a good chance to get into our stride. This confidence translated into performance on the pitch as the Stags got off to a dominant start with a 6-1 victory. Bucks tapped off in the same time slot against Durham 2s, but unfortunately some early injuries left them with only 7 players. They showed massive determination and strength to play on through this, but despite their best efforts they fell 5-0.

“The Stags second game of the day was against the reigning 2021-22 National Champions Bath Hawk 1s. This was to be the first true test for us on the day. After an intense back and forth game the Stags triumphed 5-4. Despite the close scoreline the Stags took massive confidence from this win. Bucks once again tapped off with 7 players, this time against Oxford 1s. The bucks played admirably scoring their first try of the tournament courtesy of Emma Barrow. The final result was 8-1 to Oxford.

“The Stags final group stage game was against the undefeated Loughborough 1s, a massive test against an unfamiliar opponent. From the first tap off the stags were outclassed in an incredibly difficult game that ended in a 10-3 Loughborough victory. A total whitewash. The Bucks faced similar difficulty against Edinburgh 2s losing 6-0. This would unfortunately prove to be their last game of the day as another injury led to them being unable to field a full team. Despite having to forfeit their final games the Bucks performed marvellously throughout the day as they struggled through an injury crisis.

“The Stags made it into the cup quarters finishing second in their pool. This game would be against Exeter 2s, a strong side. This would prove to be our toughest game of the day as neither side could stop scoring. The score at full time whistle was 5-5 so we headed to a drop off. Stags struck first to make it 6-5, Exeter immediately answered back levelling it at 6-6. With 30 seconds left the Stags got the ball back in attack. With the last play of the game Vince Parker fired a beautiful pass to the wing, which Victoria Barrow finished excellently to win us the game.

“After escaping from our quarter final by the skin of our teeth we faced Nottingham Trent in the semi-finals. The runners up of both Northern rounds, they were a strong side led by an England men’s open player. Our confidence was shaken after our defeat from Loughborough and our close call with Exeter 2s, a team we expected to beat comfortably. However, as soon as we got onto the pitch this was all washed away. We started the game incredibly positively keeping their star players locked up in defence and scoring an early diving try down the other end by Joe Brewer. Our own England men’s open player, Vince Parker tore through them and we ended the game winning 5-3.  Our confidence was now sky high again and we were through to the final. But who would we be facing up against? Loughborough.

“The team that handed us our worse loss of the season so far would be our opponents in the finals. The nerves were building and as last game of the day everyone would be watching. Despite this the Stags camp remained cool, we were the underdogs, we had nothing to lose. We walked onto the pitch as if we were about to play touch in the park not as if we were playing in the grand final of one of the biggest touch tournaments in England. The ball was tapped off and the game was started by Loughborough.

“Loughborough came at us as they did last time, however we were prepared after a defensive lesson from our coach Dom Tripp. We repelled them time after time and struck them back down the other end shortly going up 2-0 and the confidence flooded into our veins. The support from our fallen Bucks spurred on our every move. Loughborough hit back, but we knew they wouldn’t go down easily. Late into the second half Billy Togher scored for us to make it 4-3, cheers erupted through the air, but Loughborough had the ball back and time to attack. This was their last chance to draw the game and force a drop off. They came at us relentlessly, however their momentum was stopped thanks to a strong defensive touch from Marcus Arman and we held them out! We had the ball again and 15 seconds to go on the clock. We clung onto it for dear life and when the siren blared out, we were UTC Round 1 National Champions.

“We all erupted into cheers and tears and embraced as one big family. We all had worked so hard for this and we had reached the summit. After finishing overall 11th last year, to winning a tournament this year was almost unfeasible. Thank you to our two coaches Dom Tripp and Doug Maltby, without you we would never have reached these heights. Thank you to Emma Oliver and Vince parker, you are the two pillars of our team and hold us all together. Thank you to Charlie steed who is part of our alumni and keeps pushing us to do better, without you our club that has brought us so much joy would not exist.

“An incredible day, the highlight of many of our touch careers so far, but we aren’t done yet. The work starts now to retain our title in 3 weeks time.”

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