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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 chances overall.

Morley 3rd XV 17 v Old Otliensians 2nd XV 25 pts

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 major asset.


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 Morley side.