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Penalty drama seals Cup win for Vanbrugh

Vanbrugh were crowned College Cup champions after they prevailed over Halifax in a dramatic penalty shootout

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College Cup Final

Images: Philippa Grafton and Agatha Torrance

Vanbrugh were crowned College Cup champions after they prevailed over Halifax in a dramatic penalty shootout.

Kieran O'Dwyer scored the winning spot kick, with Ash Daly's late equaliser to cancel out Phil Taylor's opener meaning the 60 minutes ended at 1-1.

The match was always going to be a tense and tight affair, but Halifax were dealt a blow before kickoff with Matt Mawdesley unavailable, leaving skipper Jack Beadle to take his place in the centre of midfield. Both teams made just one change to their semi-final lineups, Dan Jones coming in for the Fax, while Ben Stanier was back in the Vanbrugh side.

The opening stages were cagey, both sides unwilling to over-commit on the attack. Long throws and free kicks were proving to be the best outlet, as Jon Gill and Hamish Denham both caused problems with their delivery.

Denham had the first shot on target, but it was comfortable for James Wilson, and the quality of shooting on display from both sides was summed up by Taylor's wayward free kick.

Vanbrugh were arguably the better team, but there was little rhythm to the game with the likes of Gill, Taylor and Beadle frequently outnumbered in midfield. 0-0 was the score at the break, and the match had been somewhat of an anti-climax.

That all changed straight after the restart, though, as Taylor gave Vanbrugh the lead. Played through delicately, the midfielder timed his run to perfection and kept his nerve to slide a shot beyond Jonny Sim and spark jubilant celebrations from the watching Vanbrugh contingent.

Halifax were quickly on the attack, though, seeking an equaliser. Daly curled a free kick narrowly over the bar, before Beadle sent a dipping half-volley just wide of the post.

They continued to pile on the pressure, but Vanbrugh looked just as likely to score on the counter attack. Ben Stanier lifted a shot well over the bar, but his pace was causing Halifax all sorts of problems.

Vanbrugh defended heroically, putting their bodies on the line to block shot after shot, but with five minutes to go their resistance was broken. Denham's long throw fell to the feet of Ash Daly, who controlled it instantly and hammered a volley into the roof of the net.

With neither side able to force a winner after 60 minutes, the game went to penalties - a cruel way to separate two sides who had been so equally matched.

Of the 10 spot kicks taken, only one was missed. The unlucky man was Tom Day, who stepped up first only to see his well-struck effort palmed back out by Wilson.

What followed was a succession of perfect penalties. Gill, Daly, Rory Sharkey and Denham all scored, before Wilson stepped up and just put his kick into the corner, though his opposite number Sim came very close to saving it.

Gio Pilides, Taylor and Jonny Williamson were all immaculate with their penalties, leaving O'Dwyer to take the decisive kick. Like the eight before him, it was unstoppable and gave Vanbrugh a 5-4 win on penalties to take the Cup.

Vanbrugh captain Wilson, who helped his side to a second consecutive win on penalties, said afterwards, "It was a crazy game once again. No one deserves to lose on penalties, especially Halifax - they've been quality. I'm so glad to have won the Cup, no one tipped us at the start of the tournament."

His man of the match Taylor, playing his last game for Vanbrugh, added, "It's taken us three years to finally win the College Cup. In the past two years we've suffered in the semi finals, but it makes it all worth it for this."

A saddened Jack Beadle told Nouse, "We are obviously disappointed, especially to lose on penalties, I am very proud of all the boys, I couldn't have asked for any more from them."

Vanbrugh: Wilson (C), Wignall, Graham, Heath, O'Dwyer, Stanier, Grout (Shepherd), Gill, Taylor, Sharkey, Rous-Ross (Parish)

Man of the match: Phil Taylor

Halifax: Sim, Daly, Darling, Patrickson, Turley, Jones, Reid (Williamson), Pilides, Beadle (C), Day, Denham

Man of the match: Tom Day

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