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John Ratahi to jinks his way through to register an important score on 49 minutes
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Starting with the advantage of a stiff breeze, ‘Ensians went into attack from the off and half backs Mark Coultas and Matt Tenniswood launched a series of moves that tested the visitors’ defence wide out. With flanker James Holland providing the link, the ball was skilfully re-cycled and young winger Liam Copping went in at the corner on 4 minutes. Although the conversion failed, the hosts’ confidence was boosted and centres John Ratahi and Will Foster made ground with strong runs with full back Kristian Keinhorst providing support.

In the scrums, the home front row of Peter Bonner, Rob Lyon and Ben Newall had a slight nudge on their opposite numbers in the early stages, but lineout ball was often messy. ‘Ensians were now opening out play at every opportunity and on 15 minutes winger Rob Lockrie received the ball 10 yards out and cut through three defenders to score an excellent try. This was followed by more enterprising back play involving Foster, Ratahi and Lochrie, the latter offloading inside to full back Keinhorst who stepped his opposite number to score wide out on 18 minutes. Both conversion failed, but the 15 – 0 lead provided a good foundation for further enterprising play.

With the Northallerton pack now beginning to assert itself through some strong driving mauls, the home forwards had to dig in and Bonner and locks Mark Copping and Chris Howells worked hard to stem the flow. Whenever the visitors came round the sides, flankers Dale Kennedy and James Holland were there to stifle the move. From a prolonged maul in midfield, a visiting flanker somehow broke away and caught the defence napping to gallop in under the posts. The conversion reduced the home side’s lead to 15 – 7 on 22 minutes.

This spurred on the visitors and they launched their backs on numerous occasions only to run into stiff defence from Ratahi, Foster and the ever-present Holland. Still struggling to get good lineout ball, the hosts had to work hard through drives from Newall, Bower and Lyon to take play back into the visitors half. Both sides had chances, but as the half-time whistle went, ‘Ensians had maintained their 15 – 7 lead, the main question being, would this be enough against an ever-strengthening wind.

In the second period, Northallerton used long kicks and the elements to take play deep into home territory and for five minutes they tested the ‘Ensians’ defence. The back row of Holland, Kennedy and No.8 Andy Bower battled tirelessly to stifle moves. The pressure was relieved when Coultas, Tenniswood, Lyon and Mark Copping made good ground upfield. Infringements by the panicky defence produced penalties which took play into the visitors’ 22. A quick tap penalty fifteen yards out saw quick ball moved across through Coultas, Tenniswood and Foster for John Ratahi to jink his way through to register and important score on 49 minutes. The conversion failed, but the score at 20 – 7 gave the hosts a more comfortable margin.

Winger Richard Goakes came on to replace Liam Copping and he was immediately called on to defend as Northallerton continued to pin ‘Ensians down in their own half. Resolute defence by the home back division ably supported by Holland, Kennedy and Bower managed to keep the line clear for lengthy periods, but on 62 minutes, the pressure told and the visitors went in near the posts. The conversion took the score to 20 – 14 to the home side.

On 67 minutes replacement Hugh Gumbs moved to inside centre and John Ratahi replaced Matt Tenniswood at fly half. The home pack started taking on the lively Northallerton eight and, with James Holland now producing some clean lineout ball, good progress was made up the middle with the whole pack working well together. When the ball was moved out, inside centre Gumbs smashed back into the fray to set up further drives and test the defence. The visitors, scenting a last minute victory, worked frantically to create a score, but the ‘Ensians’ resolute defensive effort coped admirably and the final whistle went to give the hosts a welcome victory.

After a bleak few weeks, this was a well-deserved result for ‘Ensians in a lively encounter where their generally sound defence, solid forward effort and some enterprising back play proved too much for a competent Northallerton side.


This Merit Table encounter started with uncontested scrums due to a shortage of front row players and to some extent this played into the hands of the visitors who had a very young fast set of backs. Play was fairly even in the early stages with both sides endeavouring the spread the ball wide. Home half backs Sam Castledine and Dominic Oddy worked well to get their backs moving and there were strong runs from experienced centre Graham Bentley and winger Steve Lofthouse.

The stalemate was broken on 20 minutes when the Skipton backs put together a good move and their centre went in half way out for a converted try. ‘Ensians continued to attack using good lineout ball from Alan Garnett, but their defence found the pace of the opposition backs difficult to cope with. Pulling off a last-ditch tackle, full back Sean Flesher had to leave the field with a cut to his head. Good work by both forwards and backs sent Skipton in for their second try on 30 minutes taking the score to 12 – 0 to the visitors at half time.

After the break speedy work saw Skipton go in for another try to lift their lead to 17 – 0 on 44 minutes. The hosts then stepped up their effort and a strong run by centre Bentley and forward pressure from flanker Crossley and prop Dave Beardsley took play over the Skipton line but they were unable to ground the ball. Not to be outdone, they switched play to the opposite side of the field when lock Andy Wood forced his way over for the home side’s first score.

Skipton then responded by taking play up to the home 22 where they took advantage of a mix-up with the home lineout which presented them with a gift try on 63 minutes to make the score 22 – 5 to the visitors. The lead was further increased when an overlap saw their winger cross for a converted try increasing the lead to 29 – 5 on 69 minutes.

Undaunted by these setbacks, the hosts continued to attack through forwards and backs and flanker Toby Baltrop was up in support to drive over on 73 minutes. The conversion by Sam Castledine made the final score 29 – 12 to the visitors. This was a very fast and entertaining game in which, with uncontested scrums, the all round pace of the young Skipton side proved too much for the hosts.

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