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HALIFAX VANDALS 39 – OLD OTLIENSIANS 19

On one of the rare occasions when the sun shone on Warley, ‘Ensians faced a stiff breeze and the slope in the first half. Keen to avenge two home defeats by the visitors earlier in the season, Vandals attacked from the off using the boot to obtain good field position. On 5 minutes they gathered a lineout ball and drove over for an unconverted try.

‘Ensians tried to move the ball upfield through half backs Sam Clewes and John Ratahi and, although centres Dominic Oddy and Lee O’Donnell made good progress, a turnover produced quick ball for the hosts who set their backs in motion with the visitors’ defence in disarray. Quick hands saw their full back cut through to score near the posts on 11 minutes. The conversion and a penalty five minutes later took the score to 15 – 0.

‘Ensians responded with more enterprising back play and Ratahi sent winger Toby Gillatt away towards the corner. After rounding one defender and stepping another, he was pulled down three yards short and then had to leave the field with a hamstring injury with Hugh Gumbs filling the wing berth.

Using the boot, Vandals took play back into the visitors’ 22 where another penalty followed. Two further well-worked tries on 29 and 32 minutes stretched the home side’s lead to a substantial 32 – 0. This stirred ‘Ensians into action and they began putting some good phases of play together using clean lineout ball from Alan Harker and Andy Bower. The home defence began to panic conceding several penalties and slick passing put No.8 Rob Arbuckle into space where he smashed over with two defenders hanging on him. Prop Ben Newall added the extras to make the score 32 – 7 at the break.

From the re-start fly half Ratahi used the elements to push play downfield. ‘Ensians’ scrum gained more composure and front row Ben Newall, James Kear and Rob Lyon were able to supply good ball to their backs. John Ratahi jinked past several defenders to be pulled down inches short and when the ball was spun to the right, winger Gumbs went over in the corner on 48 minutes. The conversion failed, but the score was now a more respectable 32 – 12 to the hosts.

‘Ensians continued with enterprising play through forwards and backs and a quick reverse flick by Ratahi sent hooker Kear on a 20 yard run. From a series of rucks, winger Rob Lochrie came into the line and cut through half way out for a fine try. The conversion by Newall lifted the score to 32 – 19 to Vandals on 60 minutes.

The home side could see the game slipping away from them and they stepped up their efforts through the boot of their bulky fly half. ‘Ensians created space and opportunities and flankers Michael Philpott and Andy Hayward foraged well to keep the supply of ball coming. Centre O’Donnell and winger Gumbs came close, but the home defence held.

From a good field position in the Vandals’ 22, the visitors became frustrated and started to concede needless penalties which took play into their own 22. They held off several attacks by the hosts, but eventually the winger went over wide out on 75 minutes and the conversion was now a formidable 39 – 19 with only a few minutes remaining.

The visitors tore into the home side from the re-start and although they created opportunities in the final few minutes, the home defence held firm for a 39 – 19 victory. Against the elements in the first half, the lack of positive first-up tackling allowed Vandals to run in too many points. Although ‘Ensians showed what they were capable of with some enterprising play in the second period, they could not sustain the momentum and a spate of penalties with 15 minutes remaining dashed their chances of sneaking a win.

 

OLD OTLIENSIANS A 35 – HARROGATE PIRATES 7

 Harrogate Pirates 005a
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A shortage of front row players on both sides meant scrums were uncontested from the start and Harrogate’s experienced pack and half backs gained a territorial advantage in the early stages. The home defence held out and when half backs Peter Gillson and Matt Tenniswood managed to spin the ball wide, young winger Anthony Ball showed his scorching pace by rounding the cover and scoring under the posts on 12 minutes, with Tenniswood converting.

Pirates continued to dominate territory and it was rare for ‘Ensians to get into the opposition half. With Alan Garnett and Brett Tenniswood dominating the lineouts centres Dave Smith and Steve Grundy started troubling the Harrogate defence with some strong runs. Again the ball was whipped out to winger Anthony Ball who’s pace left defenders clutching at air for another fine try near the posts. Matt Tenniswood’s conversion lifted the score to 14 – 0 to the hosts as half time approached with Harrogate left wondering how they could be behind when they had had such a territorial advantage.

In the second half Sam Castledine replaced Gillson at scrumhalf and the home pack began to put together some strong drives through prop Andy Wood, hooker Rob Grey and No.8 Alan Garnett. A good break by Smith took play into the visitors’ 22 and, after some good backing up, Grey was on hand to finish off with a try half way out. Matt Tenniswood’s conversion moving the score to 21 – 0 to the home side on 50 minutes.

Harrogate responded strongly and at last gained some reward for their territorial advantage with a well-worked converted try on 55 minutes. However, the home backs were now in full flow and centres Grundy and Smith were creating space and opportunities with Grundy producing one of his pacy, elusive runs to go over near the posts on 60 minutes. Five minutes later, Anthony Ball rounded off a fine display with his hat trick try on 65 minutes after good handling by flankers Toby Baltrop and Dominic Birkin. Conversions by Tenniswood took the score to 35 – 7 to the hosts.

Pirates continued to press through their big pack and home full back Sean Flesher coped well with last-ditch tackles and sound clearances to keep them at bay. Although the visitors came close on occasions, the home defence was solid with the final score remaining at 35 – 7.

This was a lively entertaining performance by ‘Ensians where, despite spending much of the game in their own half, they took their chances and produced some excellent tries to come up with a convincing victory.


 

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