With scrum half Rob Lofthouse back from holiday, his speedy service meant that ‘Ensians backs were back to their lively best despite the visitors putting in a solid performance with the wind at their backs in the first half. At half time the scores were level at three tries apiece, but after the break Hemsworth had no answer to the pace of the home side with forwards and backs linking well to run in seven more tries.
The match started well for the hosts when full-back Connor Bateman took the ball from the kick-off and scythed his way through a bewildered defence to set up a try for winger Declan Jackson in the corner for a 5 – 0 lead on 2 minutes. Hemsworth came straight back and used the wind to push play into the home 22 where their big forwards battered away at the home line to go over wide out and level the scores at 5 – 5 on 6 minutes. Despite being out-weighed, the home front row of Greg Jones, Rob Lyon and Josh Dyson commanded the ball in the scrums to allow half backs Lofthouse and Ollie Eaves to get their back line moving.
The home pack was playing its part through some powerful drives with flanker Lee O’Donnell and No.8 Rob Arbuckle in the thick of it. Arbuckle made a good break to take play up to the visitors’ line and ever-present prop Greg Jones was on hand to take the pass and dive over in the corner. The failed conversion left the score at 10 – 5 on 24 minutes. There was an immediate response from the visitors who played some good rugby with backs and forwards linking well to push play into the home 22 again. ‘Ensians defended well initially against the big visiting pack with flanker Ollie Cooper and locks Ali Campbell and Toby Barltrop making the tackles count. Good support and offloading put Hemsworth in for their second try to level the scores at 10 – 10 on 30 minutes.
The visitors now had their tails up and used the wind to camp in the opposition half with good interplay between forwards and backs setting up another try to give them a 15 – 10 lead on 38 minutes. The hosts suddenly woke up and the home pack set up drive after drive to take them over the gain line where once more powerful prop Greg Jones was on hand to blast over for his second, levelling the score at 15 – 15 at the break.
With the wind at their backs the home side wasted no time in spinning the ball wide through centres Luke Freer and Dom Oddy to allow winger Declan Jackson to scorch down the wing and dive over in the corner, A good conversion from replacement winger Sean Leddy moved the score to 22 – 15 on 42 minutes. It was now all ‘Ensians and slick offloading between backs and forwards saw lock Ali Campbell in the right place to go over under the posts. Leddy’s conversion stretched the lead to 29 – 15 on 44 minutes.
With Campbell and flanker Ollie Cooper producing quality ball from the lineouts and the front row taking balls against the head, the home backs were constantly creating opportunities. Winger Declan Jackson outpaced the defence twice on 47 and 50 minutes to take his tally to four with a conversion by Leddy lifting the score to 41 – 15 on 50 minutes. As Hemsworth tired the hosts were now in full control with No.8 Rob Arbuckle and flanker Lee O’Donnell breaking off the back of scrums time and time again to put their backs away.
Lock Jack Smith made a welcome return off the bench after a long injury, making his presence felt in the lineout and the loose. Prop Ross Nichols also added power from the bench. Newcomer Alex Burnett ably deputised at scrum half to allow Rob Lofthouse to cover the centre berth after an injury to Oddy. Pace and quick hands saw Lofthouse backing up to cross on 53 minutes and then Jackson went over for his well-deserved fifth. One conversion by Leddy increased the lead to 53 – 15 on 65 minutes. There was just time for hooker Rob Lyon to chase a kick through and dive on the ball for the tenth try to make the final score 58 – 15.
The quick service of scrum half Rob Lofthouse meant that ‘Ensians backs had more space and opportunities to show their skills and the home pack produced an impressive all-round display against much bigger opposition in both the tight and the loose. This victory moves ‘Ensians up to fifth in their League, but a much stiffer test awaits at Northallerton next week.