SHEFFIELD OAKS 1st XV 3pts vs OLD OTLIENSIANS 1st XV 6pts
As could be guessed from the score there was
little Festive cheer on view at the South Yorkshire Police grounds on
Saturday, as Ensians gathered a further two hard earned league points to
finish 2006 at the head of Yorkshire Division 4 with a healthy 20 points,
and their destiny firmly within their own hands going in to 2007.
But, whichever way you look at this game the column inches are proving
difficult to fill, because all the inventive play on both sides was stifled
by the very narrow confines of the pitch, so the majority of the game was a
war of attrition in the clawing mud, where the young Ensians pack, Brett
Tenniswood and Peter Bonner included, acquitted themselves admirably against
a large and committed Oaks eight.
The game began well for the Ensians who rapidly made ground with a series of
dynamic drives, Bonner and Hanogue to the fore, with some powerful running
from Ratahi and Foster, and crunching defence from Philpott Oaks were on the
back foot. However, Ensians were pinned back with the tactical kicking of
Aston the former Sheffield Eagle, and the game became a midfield battle,
punctuated firstly by an excellently struck penalty by Foster which hit the
post, and in the 34th minute a penalty by Aston to give the Oaks a 3 - 0
half time lead.
As the second half began the choruses of Ding Dong Merrily on High were now
reverberating around the nearby Hillsborough Stadium, and as the Police
helicopter circled the rugby pitch, Oaks were momentarily distracted for the
best move of the game to unfold for the Ensians, with Tom O'Donnell making
the final break releasing Bonner to triumphantly cross the line, only for
the referee to call him back for a forward pass. 10 minutes in to the half a
similar fate for the Ensians, another tight decision of a forward pass, but
the reward came for Foster with a penalty converted in the 13th minute.
The Ensians were now playing some good rugby, and this was countered by the
strong running Oaks centre, who proved a handful all afternoon, and with the
game been played in midfield it seemed that the points might be shared.
However, the Ensians had other thoughts and mounted a serious challenge for
the last 10 minutes, forcing Oaks mistakes and pressuring the line, where
the ball was killed in front of the posts, 20 metres out, for Foster to
cooly convert the winning penalty with 5 minutes to go.
The Ensians players worked tirelessly all afternoon, as did their opponents,
and in the end deserved their victory, if only because they did create more
Morley 3rd XV 17 v Old Otliensians 2nd XV 25
Playing into the wind and up hill on a very
heavy and muddy field Otliensians were 14 - 0 pts down in the first 10
minutes as they found difficulty coping with the driving Morley forward
play. They then lost the promising No. 8 Andy Allman with a recurrence of an
old shoulder injury which will put him on the sidelines until at least the
end of the season.
Team Manger Peter Tempest came on to fill the gap shuffling the side so that
he took on the centre berth with Joe Robinson moving into the back row. The
visitors then began to defend well and Robinson and Ben Smith won line out
ball enabling some attacking options. A penalty goal from Ben Newall reduced
the arrears to 14 - 3 pts at the break.
With the advantage of the wind and slope stand off Phil Purnell kicked well
for position. From one kick downfield centre Andy Hayward caught a Morley
player in possession who spilled the ball and wing Richard Cuff picked up
and scored. Continuing on the attack Newall converted a penalty to bring the
score to 14 - 11 pts. Morley were producing some good forward drives but the
Ensians looked the fitter side and were looking to run turnover ball.
>From their own 22, Darren Cooley at fullback produced an evasive run to
outpace the defence and score near the posts for Newall to convert and give
Ensians the lead. Cuff and Steve Lofthouse were exerting pressure on the
home sides attacks and Lofthouse was rewarded with a try after a sharp pass
from Hayward, again converted by Newall. Morley hit back with a drop goal
from one of their centres and the game ebbed and flowed as Ensians sought to
secure their lead and Morley to reduce the deficit. The game ended with
Morley on the Ensians line but unable to pierce the defence.
John Broadbent had a promising debuting the back row for the 2nd XV after
some good displays with the 3rd XV and Dan Ridgeway's experience was again a
OLD OTLIENSIANS B 15 pts MORLEY B 22
Roger in action
Find more photos of the game here.
With last minute calls from the 2nd
XV,’Ensians and unavailability, ‘Ensians were lucky to have the services of
veteran hooker Roger Whitworth to make up the full fifteen. Morley arrived a
man short, but it was obvious from the start that they had some very
experienced old heads in their side.
Early strong running by Morley took play into the home twenty-two and
‘Ensians conceded a penalty to give Morley the lead. However the home pack
took gradually took control in the scrums through the front row of Dave
Beardsley, Roger Whitworth and Scott Child. Seventeen-year-old John Offer
playing at scrum half for the first time settled in well to his new role and
linked well -with fly half Will Haines to get the home backs moving.
After twenty minutes good backing up saw Number 8 Alan Garnett go over after
strong runs by Darryl Hamilton and Tony Collins in the centre. The
conversion failed, but now ‘Ensians were dominating play in the scrums and
good drives by locks Andy Wood and Mark Copping and prop Dave Beardsley
nearly produced further scores.
The turning point in the game came when the referee concluded that the
Morley front row were having problems binding correctly. Sensibly, for
safety reasons, he decided on non-contested scrums which affected the part
of the game where the home side had been well on top.
Clean quick balls from the scrums gave the powerful visiting backs many more
opportunities and only last-ditch tackles by full back Sean Flesher and good
covering by wingers Dan Garnett and Paul Tosney prevented further scores.
‘Ensians were competing well, but five minutes before the break, the
powerful Morley centre went over to give them the lead. The home side
responded at once with some good work by the back row of Richard Wardak,
Alan Garnett and Ray Drake. The forwards drove over and Wardak was there to
touch down and put ‘Ensians in front again 10 – 8 at the interval.
After the break, some long searching kicks from fly half Haines put the
visitors on the defensive and a good rolling maul crossed the line for Roger
Whitworth to emerge smiling from the bottom of a pile of bodies. Although
the conversion failed, ‘Ensians were now leading by 15 points to 8 and
strong tackles by flankers Drake and Wardak and centres Hamilton and Collins
were keeping the dangerous Morley backs at bay.
With fifteen minutes remaining, ‘Ensians centre Tony Collins had to leave
the field through injury and lock Andy Wood deputised well in the unfamiliar
role. However, the changes unsettled the home side and Morley began to make
inroads into home side territory with ‘Ensians conceding several turnover
balls. Morley drew level after some good back play and just when a draw
seemed the likely outcome, the Morley centre scrambled over for a
last-minute try to give them victory by 22 points to 15.
The game was played in a good spirit and ‘Ensians, playing with their usual
enthusiasm, were not quite strong enough to cope with the very experienced