The Birmingham Varsity remains the biggest event in the University of Birmingham sporting calendar as crowds of a few thousand head down to the Bournbrook to watch the Medics 1st XV take-on the University of Birmingham 1st XV. With both teams celebrating equal success in the picture there is all to play for.
The Brum Varsity came about during the 2012-2013 season after the 1st XV continued to dispatch University teams (40-0 vs. 2nd XV and 68-5 vs. the Uni Freshers), the at the time 1st XV coach agreed a Friday nights lights game could be played as the Birmingham sham University Rugby varsity under lights at the end of the autumn term.
The 2012-13 Varsity (Varsity I)
MEDICS WIN Medics 1st XV: 15 UoB 1st XV: 11
After a term of building and building Game day finally came round and the medics found themselves running out onto the Bournbrook. The crowds turned out in full force, and the tweed army were leading the way in vocal support with Cuddles entertaining the masses on the speaker phone.
The match kicked off and as expected the Uni flew out the blocks with their big runners making some headway into the medics half. After about 5 minutes the Medics found themselves defending within their own twenty two. A missed penalty from the Uni left them leaving the Medics' twenty two without any points. From this point momentum shifted towards the Medics, the team seemed to switch on and find a bit of self-belief. Mini and Trys were being nuisances all over the pitch, steeling balls left, right and centre. After another 10 minutes without any points on the board you could see the first signs of doubt creeping over the faces on the University 1st XV bench.
With the medics forwards stepping up a gear, they started securing clean ball allowing them to unleash the backs who it soon became clear had the edge on the university backline. After continual pressure in the university twenty two the medics finally came away with a penalty which Lloyd slotted over coolly. The rest of the first half continued to be a closely fought affair and ended medics 3-0 up.
The second half started more in the Medics favour. A wide backs move was called off a lineout on the halfway and line and as Smallsy raced across the pitch and dummy switched with Daddy, a perfect gap opened up for Disco to come crashing through on. After breaking the line Disco had the full back and the covering winger to beat, a nice ball to Scouse on a supporting run inside put the winger out of the question and a final two on one with Scouse and Mr Wrigglesworth who somehow appeared from nowhere, saw the “Capitan” running in directly under the posts. The score was converted by Spunkbubble and the Medics found themselves 10-0 up. The Uni responded by upping their physicality in the forwards and unfortunately leading to the Medics giving away two penalties in kickable position leaving the score 10-6 with 20 minutes to go.
However, the Medics' forwards had something left in the tank and with the “Maverick” clearing the lines the Medics with a lineout on the university try line. Their lineout had been superb all game and this one was no exception, perfectly delivered by Mcgooch and taken by Steevo, the Medics forwards managed set up a rolling mall and managed to outmuscle a pack twice the size of them with Jake the Snake crossing over in the corner.
The Medics's Chairman Lloyd couldn’t quite manage the conversion so with 17 minutes to go the Medics were sitting on a 15-6 lead. At this point the intensity of the match was telling and the Medics team rang in the changes, Daddy came off for Fleecey, Scouse came off for Disco, and Mr Toad came on for Ginger Kev who left the field to a vocal rendition of, “ Ginger Kev, Ginger Kev, Ginger Ginger Kev”, his little Scouser face never looked so happy!
After another period of attack bye the Medics in the University 1st XV's half, which was unlucky to end pointless thanks to some good lines by Fleecey, the Uni started to up the pressure on the Medics in the final 10. The amount of heart that was on show in that last defence was obvious to everyone on the side line and in the crowd, and showed exactly what the club means to every Medic who’s a part of it. The amount of tries held up on the line was approaching double figures and it was only with 1 minute to go the University managed to squeeze over right in the corner. After missing the conversion the score was 15-11 with the final minute still to play. Fortunately the University 1st XV kicked the ball back after the restart so it was in medic possession to run down the clock and the chairman had the honours of kicking the ball out for the final whistle! Match over 15-11! Winners of the inaugural Brum Varsity!
The 2013-14 Brum Varsity (Varsity II)
MEDICS WIN (by default- University 1st XV forfeit)
After an emphatic and surprise victory by the Medics the following year the University 1stXV forfeit from the 2013-14 Brum Varsity at the last minute leaving the crown to the Medics and giving them a 2-0 all-time record in the Brum Varsity.
The 2014-15 Brum Varsity (Varsity III)
UNI WIN Medics 1st XV 0 Uni 1st XV 33
After a season plagued by injury the Medics found themselves facing a University 1st XV reaping the rewards of additional funding from the UBSport and thriving under the presence of new coach Tom Drewett. After a tightly contested first half, dominance by the University's scrum found them 12-0 up at half time. This dominance continued in the second half as the University made the better use of their bench whereas the Medics' lack of options due to injury began to show. The final score of 33-0 reflected a dominant and powerful performance by the Uni but represented a brave performance by the Medics, never afraid to take on the Uni as underdogs. All time varsity standings Medics 2 Uni 1.
The 2015-16 Brum Varsity (Varsity IV)
MEDICS WIN Medics 1st XV 17 Uni 1st XV 15
Losing Fly Half 'Squirrel' to a concussion in the last match before the 2015-16 threw a spanner in the Medic's team and meant that the backs had to be re-jigged. An emergency meeting was held to spread the backline out even more thinly with flanker Fenton sent out to the wing, Lance Corporal Bjork filling in at fly half and Wool Dave returning from injury to step in at 12.
Captain Kev did his best to keep things calm at the captain's run through the night before the big game.
Just as Usain Bolt had spent the day sleeping and eating chicken nuggets before winning 100m gold in Beijing, 2014 chairmen 'Scouse' spent the day eating jaffa cakes and on the toilet watching our Varsity victory from 2012. The Medics arrived at the Bournbrook in time for the Varsity undercard, the Uni 2s Vs Mech Eng, where a sizable crowd had already amassed. The event organisers had stepped things up this year with the Red Bull Car booming out the tunes and a pitch-side bar and burger joint keeping the crowd happy.
After the pre match performance by the UoB Cheerleaders Sgt. Bjork kicked off for the medics and an aerial challenge from Westy’s mate allowed the Medics to claim the University's ball off the kickoff. Westy’s mate was keen to impress (his mate) Westy who had made the trip over from Newport and was stood proudly on the sideline. The Medics then proceeded to crashed the middle with the Shankelino Service leading the charge before their 13 got taken out off the ball and the ref signalled for a penalty.
A cagey start by the Uni was saved by Bjorks narrowly missing off the tee, 0-0 ten minutes played.
A swirling up and under was chased down furiously by The Greyhound™ who, in true greyhound style, tongue out, neck protruding forwards and ears pinned back, ran past the ball! The Uni had Girvan Dempsey’s partially sighted brother at fullback and he fumbled it for the Greyhound to gather. However, a turnover by the Uni led to them countering with their powerful winger on the outside, bouncing the first tackler and seemingly clean through for the opening try. Groans from the medic crowd turned to cheers as Gentle Ben raced back to make a glorious cover tackle into touch.
Stabilo was making a nuisance of himelf at the line-out and snatched the ball from the Uni for Bjork to clear lines. Unfortunately Bjork’s right foot was like a 50 pence piece and he delivered a series of spoinked clearance kicks allowing the Uni to build the pressure and edge closer to our try line. After some solid defence, including a held up try, the Medics managed to clear, albeit only 5 metres downfield!
Both teams traded blows, fizzing the ball left to right and seemed to be cancelling each other out in the backs. Bjork grew into the game and put in a faultless defensive effort and looked dangerous on the break.
It was at this point that the University prop, started to smash it up and help them built some momentum. The Medics got off lightly thanks to a penalty for holding on after some textbook rucking by none other than the Grey Snake.
Gentle Ben got the crowd going once more, getting the better of his winger with an easy tackle into touch. The Medics looked comfortable with holding onto the ball going forward and the pressure told with us gaining a kickable penalty, just out range for T-Bag’s wedge.
20minutes into the first half, the medic crowd roared as a rolling maul set us up nicely for a move in the backs and Gentle Ben raced through in the centres. TJ dummied at the next ruck and broke away to run in the first try of the match. Bourkey slotted the extras though, 7-0!
In the preceding ten minutes the two teams shared possession with the Medics looking more dangerous and getting the ball out with some slick moves in the backs.
By this point the University began to make good use of their back pod at the line-out and their backs began to look more threatening. The Medics' defensive line was up quickly, forcing a looping miss pass to go to ground but the loose ball was gathered by their winger who cut back in and powered over from close range. Conversion missed, 7-5.
The Medics hit back just before half-time winning the ball on their scrum and getting the ball out to FENTON on the outside. A few phases of sustained pressure told and the University gave away a penalty. The trademark quick tap and go by The Medics' Chairman put Bjork in range (a la Matt Dawson 2003) and he slotted the penalty to send us into the break, 10-5 up!
Halftime was a bit of a blur and I unfortunately missed the Birmingham Pussy Cats featuring a questionable dance off between the two mascots.
The second half kicked off and again Sgt Bourke pinning the uni back in their own half. Young Adrian Chiles was on for Foetus and set to work, flying up venomously and being a genuine threat every time he got the ball.
The Medics' forwards were playing well with Captain Kev leading the charge, devastating with every carry. Fenton made a quality steal on the left wing and WD40 stripped the ball from an unsuspecting Sami Hypia over on the right.
Some slick hands sent the Uni No.8 crashing through the midfield, eventually brought down by the Greyhound who was having a stormer at the back. The Uni were on the charge though and they bundled over from a catch a drive to level the scores. Congo Natty blared from the red bull car and my mind wandered for a second as I am imagined Yangers desperately climbing up into the roof of the car to plug in his USB. Once again their 10 missed the kick. 10-10.
Fenton dislocated his elbow and went off. An incredible performance by the flanker playing opposite a Scotland under 20s winger and holding his own. WD Blevins clearly meant business as he removed his scrum hat and lashed it to the side, his eyes seemed narrow than ever. The Uni attacked well down the near side and exploited the overlap to send their centre over in the corner. 10-15.
Following a series of substitutions by the medics, a nice chip by Spork set us up with possession and then earned them a penalty that they kicked to the corner. Eamon hits his man but the ball is spilled! Fortunately for the Medics it was gathered and they set up the drive. Some tenacious carrying from the forwards got them going forward, and the majority medics crowd urged them on, closer to the line. The try was inevitable and came through club stalwart Shanksy. Chaos erupted as the whole team ran over to celebrate. Bourke stepped up and slotted the kick despite the best efforts of the uni to charge him down. 17-15 top the Medics with 15 minutes to go!
The Medics' defence would not budge and they forced the errors to win the ball back. Five minutes from time, the Uni had the ball once more and nearly scored but for some last ditch defending by WD40 and TJ to hold up the try. It was tense, the Medics were minutes away from winning if only they could see out the final scrum. Penalty! The Uni No.8 crossed with their scrum half and it was left to Bjorkey to clear the Medics' lines with a punt to touch.
The Uni attack came once again and they put a few phases together, making decent ground and asking questions of the Medics defence one last time. Every last ounce of strength was mustered as the Medics' defence held firm. TJ came away with the ball after a glorious tackle and steal by the PE teacher but the ref signals scrum down, Uni ball. Last play of the game. They hook it back and drive on. The tension mounts as the scrum half picks it up to pass it ou…TJ NAILS HIM!!!! The ball goes loose and Chilesy dives on it!!
TJ passes back to Bourkey and he clears to touch… The ref toys with us but eventually blows up. FULL TIME and another victory for the Medics. The touchline erupts and a full-scale pitch invasion follows!!! Everyone ecstatic! Receedo Steve wipes tears from his eyes and says something unintelligible in a strong black country accent. 17-15 Medics. All time record 3-1 Medics.
The 2016-17 Brum Varsity (Varsity V)
UNI WIN Medics 1st XV 7 Uni 1st XV 26
After getting off to an excellent start to the 2016/2017 season by going 7 from 7 with a healthy 377 points difference, the first few weeks of 2017 were set to host the biggest game of the season – the annual showdown with the University 1st XV. The normal pre-christmas match had been delayed due to Brum Ski and the UBRFC had been very vocal in their intent to regain some of their little remaining pride after last year’s epic performance. With two weeks of holiday as preparation, in which the likes of McCavity and Bjourke would consume a normal human’s annual supply of calories, we hit the ground running with a few brutal fitness sessions to kick start the Uni build-up. With the usual increase in numbers of social members at training sessions around big games, the ante started to build and by the captain’s run-through on the Thursday night the squad was raring to go. Squirrel found himself having to make an unpleasant decision on who was to make the cut into the 23-man team and Bellringer, Sauron and Jamie Lannister were relegated to lead the band of alcoholics on the touchline. As the UBSport attempt to raise the profile of the varsity game to match that of ExplosLion or other showdowns, a couple of secret reporters rocked up to take some photos of training and interview our players (all four top-class interviews are available on the club twitter account for your entertainment). Westy immediately identified the possible sabotage and refused to make lineout calls for the rest of the session in case they were Uni spys. Despite the majority thinking of it as a good session, I’m sure you’ll all be surprised that Bourke was disappointed with the back’s ability to maintain adequate depth and shouted at the forwards for dropping some A-Balls. Kick-off returns worked fairly well despite still continuing to use that god-awful move and spirits were high as Steffan and Aidan brought us in for some final words of wisdom.
The pre-match build up is still a bit of a blur – a two-minute silence was held in honour of the North Mids RFU President and our own Andy Shanks, who had both sadly passed away over the Christmas period. Our supporters made their presence known and with that, kick off was upon us.
Determined to make a good early impression, the first 5 minutes was played out well and we soaked up all of the Universities attempts to bully us up front with the usual suspects of Horrid, Chaz and NewStu making some big impacts early on. Somehow Horrid, desperate to quell the advances of Cuddles later at fines/fab, managed to break his nose within the first couple of plays but with several seasons of rugby to catch up on decided to continue to on regardless. It soon became apparent that the normal trolls that inhabit the University pack had graduated from or failed their landscape management courses and that our pack were managing to stop all advances from their forwards. Unfortunately for us, the University had relegated the 10 from last year to full-back and had recruited someone who could catch, pass and kick to play instead. Within a few tentative phases, he had worked out that we had a full-back and scrum-half at 12 and 13 respectively and threaded a ball out to the traitor Judas who put the pedal down and worked his way outside TJ to put their 15 in in the corner. Extras were added by the new and improved fly-half and the Uni went 7-0 up after only 10 minutes.
The rest of the first half went in much the same manner as the first 10 minutes, with long stretches of solid defensive effort being let down by sloppy communication or well worked rugby from the University back 3. After repelling a constant storm of forward phases, one of their tight 5 managed to slip through the stand-in forwards defending at 12 and 13 and fell across the line for their second try. The panic set in and some frantic phases later, just outside the 22m, Squizz found himself with a little too much space and no-one outside him and attempted a drop-goal. It lacked both line and distance and provided the UBRFC crowd with something to shout about. With the first 20 minutes out of the way and our shock of playing under floods on the Bournbrook dispelled, our attacking platform began to build and the structured drills began to pay off with a multitude of penalties at the breakdown allowing Squirrel to put the University under some pressure at the lineout. As solid as ever, Westy and his mates started to drive maul after maul off the back of the lineout and pushed nicely into the University’s 22. After a series of maul penalties, our pack saw themselves rumbling towards the line but were thwarted by some excellent cheating by one of their second rows. Somehow the prevention of a scoring opportunity by collapsing the maul didn’t earn us a penalty try but a yellow card was given. With 10 minutes to make the most of our one-man advantage, Squirrel set about to pin them into their 22 and let the forwards continue their good work towards that elusive first try. Despite many extremely close attempts, somehow the university managed to keep us out and even broke away to score a third try by beating our backs out wide to take the first half 21-0.
With the usual from the Birmingham Pussy Cats at half-time, in which their coach was very much impressed with Frozone’s attempts to join in, Steff led the unchanged team back out to try and regain some of that deficit. Gentle Ben lived up to his name and having ruffled his hair in a tackle, claimed to be mortally wounded and had to take a knee. His obvious replacement at 14 was a second row and so Victor came on and surprised most of the onlookers by playing particularly well, beginning to make inroads up the right wing. Inspired by this remarkable difference and the normal University scrum dominance, Squirrel gave the nod to the forwards on the bench and a mass change came in the next 5 minutes with Elton, Cube and yours truly getting the opportunity to represent the Griffin (note the correct spelling of Griffin, unlike the pre-match obscenity ‘Gryphon’). Obviously in reality we made very little difference and the scrum kept going backwards, requiring the club Virgin to dig the ball from the depths of a rapidly retreating scrum on multiple occasions. As fresh legs started to make a difference, our phase play began to come together and yet again we began to work our way up the pitch. A few broken tackles later saw Chazzy juggling the ball a few metres out and managed to just hold on and tumble over the line for our first points. Bourke had cramped up a few phases before and hobbled off to be nursed by Swain (who was kindly putting our injuries back together for the day) and so it fell to Squirrel to add the extras to take us 21-7 – was this the start of a late comeback with 10 minutes to go?
No. A few short phases later (the details have been erased by the post-match fines) the Uni found themselves putting the ball down across our line for their fourth try of the game to kill off all chances of a close end to the match. However, their 10 missed the conversion leaving us the winners of the second half (any small victory is worth mentioning) but effectively ruined 10+ final years hopes of another victory against the Uni scum. With a score-line very unreflective of the match, the University were able to claim back the Gallowglass shield with a 26-7 victory to take the overall series tally to 3-2. Our supporters were easily the loudest and whilst disappointed to not get another chance for a pitch invasion.