A strong cross-field wind greatly affected the pattern of play and a final score in favour of the home side, with 4 tries to 3, probably reflected Northallerton better adapting to the conditions, particularly in the second half. Even so, the result could have gone either way and the visitors were disappointed not to hold on to a 17 to 15 lead for the last 6 minutes of play. All credit to Northallerton for their spirit & determination in coming back strongly to snatch the game right at the death.
The home side knocked on at the kick-off and from the resulting scrum a great run by Luke Cowdell (at full back this week) led to an early try by winger Declan Jackson for the ‘Ensians. Kicking exchanges tended to give possession away by both sides, the wind was proving troublesome and Northallerton’s line- out was already functioning. However, the visitors were rucking well and looked good with ball in hand. Another brilliant break by Cowdell led to hooker Jim Dyson steaming in under the posts at great pace. Declan drop-kicked the conversion and 12 nil to the visitors boded well, but the hosts began to exert themselves and after sustained pressure simply had to come away with some points; this they did with a well-taken try. 12-5 with ½ an hour gone and the majority of play taking place on the far side of the field due to the wind direction.
Kicks into the breeze held up, kicks with it sailed direct into touch. End-to-end play was interspersed with penalties, which when well struck gained good territory. ‘Ensians lost Toby Barltrop from the second row with a blood injury and he was replaced by Connor Paley. Strong running just before half-time saw the visitors on their opponents’ line, but no further score came and the interval checked in at 12-5 to ‘Ensians.
Old Otliensians restarted in attacking mode, but Northallerton immediately used the wind to drive them back for a 22 drop-out. ‘Ensians pressed again with Jackson & Rob Lofthouse prominent. Northallerton were showing their strength with driving mauls and clearly their pack was beginning to take charge. A penalty to the home side after a drive had been illegally halted led to real pressure in front of the posts and a pushover try came after ten minutes.
The restart was blown back and failed to make the distance, thus giving Northallerton the advantage with their scrum half making ground with a good break from the scrum. ‘Ensians won a turnover and found touch, but immediately gave away two penalties for coming in from the side and for wheeling the scrum. Again, intense pressure from the hosts was too much for the visitors to withstand and a try put the former in front by 15-12. Another “short” kick-off gave Northallerton chance to pin their opponents back with long kicks and ‘Ensians at one point were running the ball from behind their line in an effort to make some territory. Ground was made and Northallerton incurred two penalties. However, they won a turnover and a long kick saw ‘Ensians defending again.
Continuing to look very threatening with ball in hand, a superb break by Ollie Eaves led to his inside pass to Jackson being taken at speed. Declan danced round several defenders to score what to visiting supporters looked like a “winner”. 17-15 with 6 minutes to go! There was a brilliant relieving ‘Ensian kick, good off-loading by the home team, a penalty to the visitors, pressure and possession to ‘Ensians, in amongst which they lost Jack Smith with an injury. A home kick directly into touch gave the visitors breathing space, but Northallerton regained the ball and attacked very strongly to go over far out for a 20-17 advantage; a good conversion after an afternoon of unsuccessful attempts put the final tally at 22-17 to the hosts. Northallerton were jubilant; Old Otliensians somewhat less so. A fair game in all respects, perhaps a shame there had to be a loser?