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On a day when few games were played locally due to frost, grounds man Roger Whitworth’s well-grassed pitch provided a sound playing surface for a very entertaining afternoon. With Aireborough fielding Indonesian international fly half, Kirk Arundale, recently arrived from Ilkley, the visiting backs attacked at tremendous pace from the off. The home defence was struggling and panicky and on 5 minutes, the Aireborough backs broke through to score wide out.

Sloppy passing by ‘Ensians in mid-field saw loose ball moved swiftly by the visiting backs to set up the second try near the posts and the conversion put the hosts 12 – 0 after 10 minutes. ‘Ensians were having problems coping with the pace of the game and their scrum was having hard time against the heavier visiting pack. With a stream of quality possession coming their way, the Aireborough half backs were bossing the game and on 15 minutes a well-worked try under the posts took the score to 19 – 0 to the visitors’ advantage.

‘Ensians were gradually settling down and they were able to move play downfield through good drives from props Chris Myers and son Ross. From a ruck in the Aireborough half, home centre Andy Hayward cut through in style to go over near the posts. The conversion by fly half Matt Tenniswood moved the score to a more respectable 19 – 7 to the visitors on 20 minutes.

‘Ensians were coming more into the game through good lineout work from No. 8 Alan Garnett and lock Ben Smith, but every time Aireborough gained possession through indifferent kicks or spilled ball, the visiting half backs were off like a flash with Arundale showing his wide range of skills. On 27 minutes, good interplay by the visiting forwards and backs produced a try under the posts to lift the score to 26 – 7 in their favour.

Territorially things were improving for the hosts and lock Ben Smith made a good fifty-yard break only to be hauled down three yards from the line. Centre Steve Grundy also had a mazy run down the middle before the cover caught him. ‘Ensians kept up the pressure through good foraging by the back row of Richard Crossley, Alan Garnett and Dale Kennedy and when a penalty was awarded against the visitors, scrum half Brett Tenniswood tapped and darted over before the opposition had realised what was happening.

As half time approached, the score was now 26 – 12 in Aireborough’s favour, but again indifferent tackling let them in for another try in the corner to take the score to 31 – 12 at the break.

For the second period ‘Ensians introduced more timber into the second row in the form of Matt Taylor and Andy Bower. Rob Lyon joined the front row. Lock Sam Gray and Peter Gillson deputised in the centre and at scrum half respectively for the injured Hayward and Brett Tenniswood. Aireborough dominated the first fifteen minutes of the half, but stalwart defence by centres Gray and Grundy snuffed out several threatening moves. The back three of Nick Keinhorst, Sean Flesher and Dan Ball pulled off several crucial tackles and did well when tidying up kicks through.

The added weight and power of Taylor and Bower began to tell in the forwards and they were at the forefront of several strong drives. With a steadier scrum, Gillson and Matt Tenniswood managed to get their backs moving, but in-your-face defence by the visitors made progress difficult and counter-attacks with Arundale at the helm, always looked dangerous.

With the home pack now exerting more pressure, the supply of clean quality ball for the visitors reduced and the hosts were able to camp in the Aireborough 22 for long spells. The defence held out until 72 minutes when quick ball from a ruck put fly half Matt Tenniswood over wide out. He converted his own try to make the score 31 – 19 to Aireborough and with seven minutes to go, there was just an outside chance the tables might by turned.

Aireborough had different ideas and once again the sharpness of the visiting half backs ensured that loose ball was tidied up and cleared and play remained evenly balanced up to the final whistle.

This was a fast and entertaining game played in an excellent spirit. Aireborough came out on top through their robust pack and their lively backs, with Arundale directing operations. For their part, ‘Ensians had difficulty coping with the speed of the game in the first period and their progress was hampered by far too many handling mistakes. Things picked up for the home side in the second half, but the sound Aireborough defence managed to cope.