The sunny afternoon and dry pitch were well-suited to the visitors’ style of open play, but the match ended up being very much a “stop-start” affair. This was mainly due to the referee who was on an exchange from Staffordshire and who felt it necessary to have regular discussions with both captains, front rows and groups of players generally, some of which seemed to last two or three minutes. This made for a very disjointed game with the lead changing hands several times and ‘Ensians only managing to assert themselves in the last ten minutes.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks and for the first fifteen minutes they controlled play through their heavy pack and speedy backs whilst producing a quality of rugby far out of keeping with their lowly position in the League. The visitors defended non-stop, bringing down heavy forwards with low tackles, but on 15 minutes they conceded a penalty to give the home side a 3 – 0 lead. Hemsworth continued to batter the line and on 20 minutes one of their big forwards drove over which with the conversion gave the home side a 10 – 0 advantage.
After this shaky start the visitors began to settle and work their way into the opposition half through good forward drives from locks Lee O’Donnell and Ali Campbell and No. 8 Rob Arbuckle. Half backs Rob Lofthouse and Ollie Eaves attempted to spread the ball wide, but laboured passing gave the home defence time to snuff out moves. Despite the size of the home pack, in the scrums the visiting forwards had a slight nudge on their opponents through the front row of Peter Bonner, Jim Dyson and Ross Nichols. Also the ‘Ensians lineout settled with quality ball from flanker Sam Featherstone and lock Ali Campbell.
With a better supply of ball, the visitors’ backs began to find their rhythm and winger Declan Jackson joined the line at pace to cut through and score half way out. The conversion failed leaving the score to 10 – 5 on 20 minutes. ‘Ensians forwards were now driving and offloading well with Nichols, Dyson, Campbell and flankers Featherstone and Nathan Rogers to the fore. On half way the ball was moved out to centre Will Prest on the left who beat his opposite number and then showed real pace to weave round several would-be tacklers to score an excellent solo try in the right corner. A fine conversion by Jackson put the visitors into a 12 – 10 lead on 31 minutes.
This spurred on the South Yorkshire side who could scent victory and they stepped up the pressure down the slope through some good back play and rumbling forward drives. After a try-saving tackle from full back Zak Stead, their efforts paid off with a try under the posts which gave them a 17 – 12 advantage on 38 minutes. The response from ‘Ensians was immediate as they controlled the ball from the re-start and worked it upfield. When Rob Lofthouse got the backs moving again Jackson joined the line, but this time he put in an inch-perfect chip to the corner which opposite winger Will Howarth skilfully snapped up to dive over. This put the scores on a level footing at 17- 17 at half time.
With the slope in their favour, the visitors gained ground through kicks from replacement fly half Luke Freer and when the hosts infringed Jackson kicked the penalty for a 20 – 17 lead on 42 minutes. Once more Hemsworth responded with some good interplay between forwards and backs to put pressure on the visitors who conceded a penalty to make the scores level at 20 – 20 on 46 minutes. Play then became scrappy as both sides struggled to gain ascendancy with the referee stopping play for periodic chats with the captains and the front rows. On 55 minutes, after a discussion with the ‘Ensians skipper Nathan Rogers, the referee decided that the scrums were unsafe as the veteran ‘Ensians’ prop Peter Bonner was much taller than his opposite number despite this situation having existed without major problems throughout the earlier part of match. The offer of a replacement prop found no favour with the referee with the result that he decided that scrums should be uncontested.
Both sides were unhappy about this, but ‘Ensians were particularly disappointed as they had been enjoying a slight edge in the set scrums. Play continued with both sides having chances, but on 72 minutes Jackson struck a long-range penalty to give the visitors a narrow 23 - 20 lead. In the closing minutes the visitors began to dominate and a penalty kick to the corner set up a lineout and driving maul. With several backs joining in, the maul trundled over, but the try was disallowed. From a subsequent ‘Ensians’ back move Jackson kicked ahead with Luke Freer following up to dive on the ball only for the try again to be disallowed.
The visitors pressed up to the final whistle to come away with a narrow victory, but credit must go to Hemsworth who certainly raised their game. The frequent stoppages did not help either side, but ‘Ensians started slowly and only managed to show anything like their true form for brief periods. This win moves ‘Ensians up to 5th place in the League at the expense of Northallerton who they play at home next week.
With Huddersfield 3rds dropping out on Friday morning things looked bleak, but john churchman put his Sherlock Holmes cap on & on hearing that Baildon had also cancelled against Yarnbury 3rds, he did the necessary to solve the case, “The game is afoot”.
Yarnbury had gone unbeaten for 19 games, soon to be 20 while Ensians / Viscounts have had a mixed bag, usually depending on what team they could muster. With usually reliable prop boothy going off on a luvy duvy weekend [ even props have feelings these days ], pete bonner doing his bit for the first team, tony twist doing his fatherly duties, it meant that for once Otley could not field a front row & scrums were uncontested which has being one of their strong points over the season. With Otley Saracens taking matty tenniswood & wanting a backrow player, it was decided that the most experienced would be jock, but Saracens refused & said they would play one down if need be, so luckily for the Ensians / Viscounts,jock could take his place in the backrow for them !
The starting line up was backrow ben at prop with jack graham at hooker,[playing his first game for a long time after knee problems ] with wheely at prop. The 2nd rows were line out specialist & fisherman brett with eating specialist big eddy. The backrow was angry Scotsman jock at 6, with marine boy matt taylor at 8 & sam featherstones biggest threat kieron walker at 7. Young will cooper was at standoff with luke cowdell making his first appearance after a knee inury. Prop Paddy was at outside centre for the last time as he turns 18 on Monday. Mothercare bouncer conner paley was on one wing with young max – playing his first senior game on the other wing. Jolly hockey sticks Jamie chapel was at fullback. On the bench was winger luke ash, no8 & salvation armys older ladies pin up - dan ridgeway with big mesher & allround small but solid lump what is paul tosney. With x Harrogate first team centre steve riley captaining the Yarnbury 3rd team, they had a mix of young lads with experienced players
Otley soon found out why Yarnbury had gone 19 games unbeaten, while running up some cricket scores. The game started at a good pace with Otley taking the game to their hosts, but found a solid, aggressive Yarnbury defence who were in no mood to make it easy. When Yarnbury got the ball, they pinged it across their backline for their dangerous wingers to cause problems all day, with conner paley ,luke cowdell & jack graham putting in some great covering tackles to keep them at bay. Young max, who was playing his first senior game, was playing on the wing, but he usually plays at hooker so he had his hands full playing against their most dangerous back, but with paddy & luke helping, they managed to keep him quiet until on 20 minutes when after going one way, the Yarnbury backs came back accross for the opposite winger to score & with no conversion it was 5 – 0. Otley came back with matt taylor working hard, driving forward. Big eddy hoofed & poofed but could not blow the house down as his trade mark runs came to a stand still by textbook tackling from the Yarnbury forwards. Young will cooper was trying to get his backs going with luke cowdell being well marshalled by the wily steve riley & paddy getting hit hard, just as he got his hands on the ball by the quick Yarnbury backs who gave him no space. Veteran Jamie chapel was working overtime at full back as the young Yarnbury stand off was kicking into space for his wingers to chase to keep the pressure on.
Otley brought on big mesh & cornet player, dan ridgeway to add some fresh legs, but Yarnbury found some space to score again on 30 minutes & make it 12 – 0. Otley came back with luke & paddy boshing it up & matt taylor, wheely, mesh,dan, eddy & brett doing the hard yards with kieron, jock & jack graham in support, but the Yarnbury forwards were a handful too & after some forward drives their no8 went over, only to drop the ball. Unfortunately, after telling the ref what hed done, the ref said he had already awarded the try so it stood which caused luke cowdells dummy to fall into the mud & he nearly got a yellow card for explaining the rules to the ref, but at half time it was 17 – 0. If Otley thought that Yarnbury would ease off in the 2nd half , they were mistaken & just 2 minutes in, after a good backs move & offload, they were over, but with their stand off luckily wearing pit boots the conversion was missed to make it 22 – 0.
10 minutes later they were over again to make it 29 -0, after a turn over. With a shuffle round in the backs with luke going to full back & marine boy matt going into the centres, it seemed to lift the team with steve riley struggling to cope with matts moari side steps & big mesh & jack graham taking the direct route, & after some good drives, mesh went over for a deserved score to make it 29 – 5. Yarnbury came back, with their backs running some great lines to get over the gain line, but with the solid, fearless lump what is paul tosney standing his ground, the Yarnbury centre came to an abrupt stop, even if paul was in the old ball when he stood up !
Yarnbury ran in one more score to make it 34 – 5 to finish the game. With the Ensians / Viscounts team changing most weeks, it is hard to get the consistency the Yarnbury team had, with players playing out of position most weeks, but what they lack in consistency they make up for in spirit with matt taylor the pick of the bunch, & jack graham having a great first game back after a long lay off.