Having just scraped through by one point in the away fixture against Corinthians last September, 'Ensians knew they had plenty on their plate against a side who had beaten the team lying second in the League the previous week. Although the hosts trailed by one point at the break, they produced a strong performance in the second half to score three fine tries and come out with a well-earned victory to move them eleven points clear at the top of their League.
Play was fairly even for the first ten minutes with the hosts trying to get their lively back line moving and the visitors using the prodigious boot of their fly half to gain territory. On 13 minutes a long-range penalty attempt by Corinthians fell short, but two minutes later the home side worked play into the opposition half, where full back Ben Hatton kicked a penalty to give his team a 3 - 0 on 15 minutes. Unfortunately from the re-start, the home side were penalised for "crossing" and the visitors levelled the scores with a penalty to make it 3 - 3.
In the scrums the home front row of Tony Myers, Jim Dyson and Greg Jones did well against a heavier pack with No.8 Lee O'Donnell making good ground when he chose to pick up and go. Half backs Rob Lofthouse and Kristian Keinhorst got their backs moving at every opportunity, testing the Corinthians' defence out wide. Home winger Josh Howarth fielded a long kick in his own half and then proceeded to beat two defenders before exchanging passes with full back Hatton to take play right up the line. The home side continued to move the ball about and good inter-passing down the right put winger Declan Jackson away for an excellent try out wide. The conversion failed but the hosts now had an 8 - 3 lead on 21 minutes.
Corinthians then demonstrated their improved form by defending solidly for the next fifteen minutes as 'Ensians mounted attacks through centres Nathan Rogers and Luke Cowdell. In the lineouts locks Jack Smith and Steve Wade along with flanker Sam Featherstone controlled their own ball and nicked the occasional one from the opposition to provide a good attacking platform for their back division. Despite being under pressure, it was the visitors who scored next with a long-range penalty by their fly half who followed this up two minutes later with a neat drop-goal to give his side a one-point lead at 9 - 8 at the break.
For the second half, replacements Rob Arbuckle, Ross Myers and Luke Freer came on at No.8, hooker and fly half respectively. Being behind by one point stirred the home side into action and they produced a series of flowing back moves which allowed winger Jackson to outpace the cover and go over in the corner for his second try. From the re-start the home side drove up the left flank with slick inter-passing between forwards and backs. Centres Cowdell and Rogers made good ground before moving the ball inside to winger Howarth who went in near the posts for a superb try. The conversion by Hatton stretched the home side's lead to 20 - 7 on 46 minutes as Corinthians' heads began to droop.
To their credit the visitors' pack responded with some positive driving play and their fly half was always on hand to gain ground with his long kicks. Both sides then began getting on the wrong side of the referee who handed out two yellow cards to each team during the remainder of the half. The lighter home pack took on their opponents with some strong drives through locks Smith and Wade with good support from Arbuckle and O'Donnell. Through hard graft, 'Ensians managed to work their way up to the visitors' line where scrum half Rob Lofthouse spotted an opportunity and nipped round a ruck to score near the posts and secure the bonus point. Ben Hatton's conversion increased the lead to 27 - 9 on 65 minutes.
Far from thinking all was over, Corinthians set about the hosts with renewed vigour and drove into the 22 where they proceeded to bombard the line through both forwards and backs. Although the home side produced its trademark solid defence, play became scrappy and disjointed as the referee awarded a succession of penalties against 'Ensians. Eventually the pressure paid off and the visitors scored a consolation try in the corner. The conversion failed leaving the final score at 27 - 14.
For most of the game, the home side kept their heads and played quality rugby against a side which has improved steadily over the season. Next week 'Ensians are aiming to continue their unbeaten run on a trip to Sheffield Oaks.
'Ensians 2nd XV lost 23 - 13 away at Huddersfield YMCA 3rds in a Merit League match. Scorers were: tries - Ross Nichols and Joe Hatton with a penalty from Matt Tenniswood.