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Garforth  24 pts – OLD OTLIENSIANS 17 pts

Garforth (273) 
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In the away match against Garforth in February ‘Ensians fielded a weakened team and suffered a heavy defeat. Hoping for a better result on a fine sunny afternoon, things started to go wrong when four selected players were unavailable at the last minute and there was a re-shuffle as kick-off approached. Garforth made all the running in the first ten minutes with constant recycling of the ball through their lively forwards before the hosts began to put moves together through half backs Mark Coultas and Dominic Oddy. On 13 minutes centre John Ratahi beat his man and set off down the middle and his offload saw the ball go through three pairs of hands before prop Ben Newall gleefully dived over half way out, the failed conversion giving the home side a 5 – 0 lead.

With both sides moving the ball wide at every opportunity there was strong running from centres Ratahi and Lee O’Donnell with good support from wingers Richard Goakes and Liam Copping. Garforth were generally defending well, but a breakaway down the right by Coultas was carried on by flanker Collum Hanogue and then lock Sam Gray sold a superb dummy to leave himself a clear run in from 30 yards. The conversion by Coultas narrowly missed, but the home side was 10 – 0 up after 25 minutes.

Two minutes before half time ‘Ensians were again pressing on the Garforth line, but a spilled ball along their back line allowed the opposition centre to hack the ball upfield, gather and then race for the line. Winger Goakes showed his pace and managed to overhaul him ten yards out, but with the home defence disorganised, Garforth were able to control a series of rucks which eventually sent their winger over near the posts making the half time score 10 – 7 to ‘Ensians.

The second half started well for the hosts with slick passing along the backline giving space to replacement centre Will Foster to cut through half way out and his conversion lifted the home side’s lead to 17 – 7 on 44 minutes. Play continued to be lively and open for the next 20 minutes and both sides had half chances. In the set pieces, the home front row of Ross Myers, Richard Paley and Ben Newall commanded their own ball and Sam Gray produced quality ball from the lineout, but the lively Garforth back row made life difficult for half backs Coultas and Oddy. Ten yards out from the home line, fast hands from the visitors produced space out wide and their centre cut through for a converted try, reducing the home side’s lead to 17 – 14 on 65 minutes.

Five minutes later, ’Ensians infringed and the reliable Garforth kicker levelled the scores at 17 – 17 on 70 minutes. This spurred on the visitors, but the ‘Ensians pack took control and worked the ball upfield to the Garforth line. For several minutes they battered the visitors’ line with No. 8 Arbuckle and flanker Gumbs being pulled down inches short. Both sides were wilting under the heat, but the visitors could scent victory and valiantly withstood repeated attacks at close quarters.

Eventually the ball was knocked forward and Garforth recovered the situation with a long kick downfield. Fullback Kristian Keinhorst relieved the pressure with a kick into the opposition half where their speedy full back set off on a weaving run, bypassing several half-hearted tackles to score a fine individual try under the posts. The conversion left the stunned hosts trailing by 24 – 17 on 76 minutes. Experienced hooker Andy Rocket replaced Hugh Gumbs in the pack and the home side tried hard to create chances in the last few minutes, but weary legs and determined tackling gave Garforth a well-earned victory.

Despite the disruption of last-minute changes, ‘Ensians had the wherewithal to win this game against a team propping up the league, but, overall, Garforth lasted the pace better, wanted victory more and took advantage of some indifferent home tackling at crucial moments.