OLD OTLIENSIANS 17 – HARROGATE PYTHONS 25
With some regulars missing and a crop of
young newcomers, ‘Ensians opened their League campaign with a mixed
afternoon. They climbed back from a 20 – 7 deficit at half time to get
within three points of Pythons with 9 minutes to go, but careless mistakes
and wrong options allowed the visitors to score a crucial try on 75
minutes which put victory out of reach.
Starting against a strong wind, the hosts settled well, but despite the
efforts of the front row of Tom Twist, Rob Lyon and Ross Myers, the scrums
were untidy and the heavier Harrogate pack took several scrums against the
head. A penalty put the visitors on the scoreboard, but the home side got
into their stride with some enterprising rugby from centres Nathan Rogers,
Johnny Ratahi and winger Luke Cowdell. Good support play and timely
offloading put flanker Dale Kennedy through for a fine try under the posts
which fly half Kristian Keinhorst converted to give ‘Ensians a
well-deserved 7 – 3 lead on 10 minutes.
Using the wind, Harrogate booted play into the home 22 where their
powerful pack put together some strong drives to score an unconverted try
to take the lead at 8 – 7 on 15 minutes. The home side were still
competing well, but a serious shortage of clean possession made life
difficult for half backs Ieuan Cranswick and Kristian Keinhorst. In the
lineouts newcomer locks Alex Armitage and Ali Campbell just about managed
to command their own ball against much bigger opposition.
A badly directed 22 drop-out put Pythons on the attack again, resulting in
a try on 22 minutes and a good back move from the visitors stretched their
lead to 20 – 7 at the interval.
With the wind in their favour, ‘Ensians used the boots of Kristian
Keinhorst and full back brother Nick to push play deep into Harrogate
territory. Moving into the centre, Cowdell made some powerful runs and on
52 minutes, he put replacement winger Declan Jackson away on a forty-yard
dash in which he outpaced and eluded three defenders for an excellent try
in the corner. A superb conversion from Kristian Keinhorst narrowed
Harrogate’s lead to 20 – 14.
The visitors’ pack was still a handful and they made good ground against
the wind with the limited supply of ball reducing the attacking
opportunities for the hosts. However, good foraging from ‘Ensians back row
of Sam Featherstone, Rob Arbuckle and Dale Kennedy provided enough
possession to keep play in the Harrogate half and Kristian Keinhorst
landed a penalty to move the score to 20 – 17 to Pythons on 71 minutes.
The hosts had had a forward yellow-carded so the task of the home pack was
made more difficult and the Harrogate forwards helped to set up a try in
the corner stretching their lead to 25 – 17 with five minutes to go.
‘Ensians managed to work play downfield, but controlled handling and
support play seemed to desert them and they made a mess of at least three
scoring opportunities in the final minutes, handing a 25 – 17 victory to
This was a match where ‘Ensians could have pipped Pythons in the final
quarter, but jittery handling and a lack of cohesion let them down.
However, a plus side was the fact that, with a much-changed side, the
hosts competed well for long periods against a team who were promotion
contenders for much of last season.