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On a wet grey evening, ‘Ensians came very close to upsetting the form book in this semi-final of the Yorkshire Silver Trophy. After dominating the game in terms of possession and territory, they failed to capitalise on opportunities and at the end, they were left reflecting on what might have been.

In wet conditions the hosts started briskly with half backs Sam Clewes and Will Foster setting their backs moving at every opportunity. Centres Lee O’Donnell and Dominic Oddy made good ground and the back row of Collum Hanogue, Andy Bower and Dale Kennedy were always there in support. The Rishworthian defence held out for 11 minutes before slick passing gave Foster an opportunity to slice through half way out. His conversion attempt failed, but the home side had their tails up and went straight back into the attack.

In the scrums the front row of Tony Myers, Rob Lyon and Ben Newall had the edge on their opponents and quality lineout ball was being provided by locks Sam Gray and James Duggan. As the home side launched another attack, Foster’s kick was charged down and the Rishworthian centre hacked the ball downfield before skilfully gathering to dive over near the posts. The conversion gave the visitors and 7 – 5 lead on 15 minutes.

For the remainder of the half both sides handled remarkably well in the wet conditions and the ‘Ensians pack put together a fine mixture of mauls and pick-and-drives to keep the opposition pinned in their own half. The home backs worked a good move which sent centre Oddy away on a thirty yard run, but the support was slow in reacting. For their part, the Halifax side showed with their solid defence and enterprising handling why they are promotion candidates for next season.

Leading up to the break hooker Rob Lyon suffered a bang to his face and was replaced by Chris Howells, allowing flanker Hanogue to take over the No.2 berth. For the second half,
Rob Arbuckle replaced Andy Bower at No.8. and the pack set about their opposite numbers in robust fashion. Foster created space and wingers Richard Goakes and Andy Hayward had chances, but were pulled down short.

Under pressure, the visitors transgressed and Foster pushed his side into the lead with a penalty at 8 – 7 on 47 minutes. For the next twenty minutes, ‘Ensians continued to play some enterprising rugby with locks Gray and Howells and No.8 Arbuckle making inroads into the visitors’ territory. At this stage when a further home side score looked likely, three penalties were conceded in a period of six minutes which moved play upfield and allowed Rishworthians to mount a series of attacks.

Hayward then suffered a leg injury and was replaced by Kristian Keinhorst who moved to full back, allowing the reliable Mark Coultas to take over on the wing. With play in midfield, the visitors started banging up speculative kicks in the hope that the steady downpour would produce mistakes. The home defence initially dealt with these situations, but a longer kick caught the defence in disarray, the ball bobbled and a scrambled attempt to drop on the ball misfired. The ball was hacked towards the line and the Rishworth centre dived over on 70 minutes. The referee hesitated amid cries for a knock-on, but the try was awarded and the conversion gave the visitors a 14 – 8 lead.

Skipper Duggan rallied his troops and for the next ten minutes ‘Ensians battered the Rishworthian line. Foster, O’Donnell and Arbuckle came close and when the ball went wide, Coultas was pulled down short. Duggan made a promising angled run and props Tony Myers and Ben Newall were held near the line. There were appeals for a penalty try when a defender slapped the ball down when a try appeared to be on, but the defence held and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief as the final whistle went.

Considering the dreadful conditions this was a very entertaining match with both sides playing some excellent rugby. In a key contest such as this against strong opposition, ‘Ensians again performed well, but they will be shaking their heads at their failure to translate territory and possession into points.

Old Rishworthian go on to face Leeds Corinthians in the Silver Trophy final scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 12th May at a venue still to be decided.