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 YORK RI 29 – OLD OTLIENSIANS 20

With three regular first-teamers missing through injury and unavailability, ‘Ensians knew they would have to pull out all the stops against a side eager to climb up the League table. Things got off to a good start when the visiting pack pressured the hosts in their 22. Quick ball from a ruck allowed half backs Tim Rushfirth and John Ratahi to send centre Carlos Hassan away on a curving run where he dummied his way past three defenders to score wide out on 4 minutes. The conversion attempt failed.

This early setback spurred on York who used their tricky scrum half and robust pack to take play into the visitors’ 22. The back row of Sam Gray, Rob Arbuckle and Sam Featherstone worked hard in defence, but the home scrum half sneaked over to level the scores at 5 – 5 on 12 minutes. Both sides then continued to play expansive rugby and ‘Ensians wingers Michael Philpott and Anthony Ball both had promising runs.

In the scrums, the visiting front row of Ross Myers, James Kear and Ben Newall held their own against heavier opposition, but the ball that Rushfirth had to deal with was sometimes untidy. A series of penalties allowed York RI to push play into the opposition 22 and, after a number of close calls, their centre went over from broken play to score a converted try, taking their lead to 12 – 5 on 26 minutes.

‘Ensians continued to mount attacks down the slope with flanker Sam Gray obtaining quality ball from the lineout, but strong defence kept them at bay. However, problems arose at the breakdown where the home back row managed to turn over ball on several occasions, bringing promising attacks to a halt. Just on half time, York infringed in their 22 and full back Kristian Keinhorst converted a penalty to make the score 12 – 8 to the home side leaving ‘Ensians very much in the game.

At the break Collum Hanogue replaced hooker James Kear. Using their fly half’s hefty boot, the hosts took play into the ‘Ensians half and pressure produced a penalty to extend their lead to 15 – 8 on 45 minutes. Full back Keinhorst went off with a groin injury, Ratahi moved to full back, Hassan to fly half and flanker Gray filled the centre berth and Rob Grey came into the back row.

Before the visitors had time to settle, RI turned over ball in midfield and put together some good back play to score half way out, the conversion extending their lead to 22 – 8 on 48 minutes. Both sides continued with open play and centres Gray and Dominic Oddy managed to put winger Ball away to score a well-taken try in the corner to move the score to 22 – 13 to the hosts on 62 minutes. Ball suffered a leg injury in the process and was replaced by flanker Featherstone with Alan Garnett coming on in the back row.

‘Ensians were now beginning to have an edge with locks James Findlay, Alan Harker and No.8 Rob Arbuckle making good ground. Unfortunately, a misdirected pass found its way into York hands, the ball was re-cycled and their speedy centre found a gap to race forty yards to score under the posts. The conversion extended their lead to 29 – 13 on 64 minutes.

Undaunted by this setback, ‘Ensians put together some of their best attacking moves with fly half Hassan skilfully switching play from one side to the other. Full back Ratahi was on hand to jink his way through to score near the posts and Hassan’s conversion moved the score to a more promising 29 – 20 on 75 minutes. The last period was all ‘Ensians pressure with York conceding a plethora of penalties as they defended their line. Arbuckle and Featherstone came close, but the hosts cleared and the final whistle brought them relief.

After a promising start, ‘Ensians allowed this game slip away from them. A gutsy performance from the York pack enabled them to regularly disrupt attacks and ball retention tended to be a problem area for the visitors. Several changes due to injury during the game did not help ‘Ensians’ cause, but, despite this, in the last quarter they made a spirited come-back to show what they were capable of.

The 2nd team home game was cancelled when York RI were unable to raise a side to travel.


 

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