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With the 1st XV match postponed due to the weather and the 2nd team cancelled because West Park were unable to raise a 2nd XV, the 3rd XV was the only ‘Ensian side to play. On reaching York, the visitors were greeted with a hint of sunshine and a pitch in surprisingly good condition.

From past experience, Rowntrees are renowned for their huge pack and again, they did not disappoint. ‘Ensians were fortunate to have the experienced O’Donnell brothers available to strengthen the side, with Tom at flanker and Lee in the centre. In the absence of a regular fly half, full back Annan Desai volunteered to take on this unfamiliar role.

Rowntrees chose to play with the wind and from the kick off, their big pack took control and a series of pick-and-drives saw them score half way out after 5 minutes, the conversion giving them a 7 point lead. From the re-start, ‘Ensians responded immediately with the back row of Tom O’Donnell, Alan Garnett and Sam Tetley backing up well to take play into the York 22. Quick ball from scrum half Peter Gilson saw Lee O’Donnell set off on a mazy run to produce a fine try which went unconverted.

Play was evenly matched for the next 10 minutes, but, unusually, the visitors were having big problems against their heavier opponents in the scrums. Untidy ball put pressure on half backs Gilson and Desai and full back Sean Flesher did well to retrieve several difficult situations. ‘Ensians conceded a penalty10 yards from their line and Rowntrees big forwards put together a series of drives to score half way out. The conversion left the visitors trailing 12 – 5 after 15 minutes and this lead was increased by a penalty 3 minutes later.

‘Ensians were coming more into the game with Alan Garnett and Sam Tetley producing good lineout ball and when the ball was moved out, the pace of centres Richard Freeman and Lee O’Donnell posed big problems for the home side. A long kick by Rowntrees took play up to the visitors’ line, ‘Ensians were deemed to have handled on the floor and the quick tap saw the York flanker force his way over. The failed conversion left ‘Ensians trailing 22 – 5 at halftime.

After the break and with the wind in their favour, the visitors soon took play into the home 22 helped by rampaging runs from locks Andy Wood and Mark Copping. On 45 minutes, strong pressure on the Rowntrees’ line saw scavenging flanker Sam Tetley dive over the line onto a loose ball to score the second try. The conversion failed, taking the score to 22 – 10. The home side responded at once through their powerful pack and for 5 minutes, the ‘Ensians line was under siege. They dug deep and finally, replacement prop Steve Robinson turned over the ball to allow Gilson to produce a long and welcome clearance kick.

The visitors were once more on the attack and Gilson was tackled a yard short after one of his customary dummying breaks. After good interplay by forwards and backs,
centre Richard Freeman cut through to score near the posts and Andy Wood converted to lift the score to 22 – 17 after 60 minutes. With the referee failing to stop Rowntrees infringing round the rucks and mauls, play became scrappy and ‘Ensians found it difficult to develop attacking moves. Richard Freeman and winger Steve Lofthouse came close, but penalties were conceded through over-enthusiasm.

The elusive fourth try looked on when Gilson flicked a loose ball to flanker Tom O’Donnell to set him off on a 40 yard run, brushing off three would-be tacklers. Two yards from the line, he was tackled round the neck, but, instead of awarding the obvious penalty try, the referee gave a penalty. A forceful query about this decision by ‘Ensians saw the penalty reversed and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.

The visitors continued to bombard the Rowntrees’ line for the last five minutes, but the decisive score never came. ‘Ensians can take satisfaction from a good, determined team performance against big and often niggly opposition.

Report supplied by the coach, John Harrison.