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In taking to the field for this semi-final of the Aire/Wharfe Cup, ‘Ensians knew that they had a serious challenge ahead facing a side unbeaten in the League this season. The visitors started confidently with half backs Sam Clewes and in-form John Ratahi taking play into the home territory with centres Will Foster and Lee O’Donnell making some progress in mid-field.

For their part, the hosts showed why they top the League by putting together some robust forward play and unleashing their speedy backs at every opportunity. Play was largely confined to midfield when ‘Ensians conceded a penalty and the home side took a 3 – 0 lead on 15 minutes.

In the lineout lock Sam Gray and No.8 Andy Bower were obtaining quality ball and the ‘Ensians backs continued to make inroads into the Roundhegians’ half with winger Andy Hayward testing the defence on two occasions. During a spell of open play in the visitors’ half, the ball bounced back awkwardly from a ruck and the Hegians winger pounced on it and outpaced the cover to score near the corner. The conversion failed lifting the score to 8 – 0 to the home side.

Both sides continued to play enterprising rugby, but, although ‘Ensians could find no way through the home defence, they pushed the opposition back into their own 22 on several occasions creating one or two chances. Prop Ross Myers had to come off with a leg injury and Rob Arbuckle came on to allow Collum Hanogue to fill the front row berth. The Roundhegians backs put several promising moves together, but the visitors’ defence, with flanker James Holland to the fore, was up to the task. Any kicks through were competently fielded by full back Kristian Keinhorst who gave a fine display with his kicking out of hand.

After the break, Alan Harker came on for Andy Bower and James Duggan, making his first appearance for two months following a hand injury, replacing lock Chris Howells. These fresh legs gave the ‘Ensians forward play added impetus and there were some good drives with Arbuckle, Lyon and Duggan to the fore. Territorially, the hosts just about had the edge and when the visitors infringed, the homeside converted a penalty to take the score to 11 – 0 on 65 minutes.

At this stage, the referee resorted to yellow cards for both sides for what sometimes seemed innocuous technical offences and play became somewhat scrappy. Roundhegians took advantage of superior numbers in the pack to force a series of scrums and rucks near the visitors’ line, but strong tackling by Holland, Harker and Duggan kept them at bay. ‘Ensians started putting some promising back moves together with Ratahi, Foster and O’Donnell making good ground. As the ball was moved out to the wing, a crunching tackle created a loose ball which was snapped up by the home backs who took advantage of disorganised cover to score near the posts on 76 minutes. The conversion extended the lead to 18 – 0 to the hosts.

With plenty of enthusiasm still remaining, ‘Ensians went back into the attack and forced the home side to concede a penalty 30 yards out. The ball was slipped to lively flanker James Holland who beat three defenders to go over half way out for a well-deserved try, Foster adding the conversion, taking the final score to 18 – 7.

This was a tight encounter with both sides having a limited number of chances and the competent Roundhegians side managing to capitalise on errors and infringements. For their part, ‘Ensians produced an all-round spirited performance against a side who gave very little away.