It seemed as though the winter was well behind us as the sun shone down on Elm Tree Farm, home of league leaders Old Grovians, who if they could secure a bonus point win would secure promotion to Yorkshire 2 with four league games remaining. It was up to visitors Old Otliensians to try and delay the celebrations. The last time the two sides met, Grovians came away with a narrow victory and the visitors were keen to repay the favour. This was not going to be an easy task with Grovians in great form and late dropouts through illness to the Ensian squad.
Ensians kicked off, playing into the sun and breeze. A brilliant kick chase put the home defence under some real pressure, the ball was scrappy and Grovians rushed a clearance kick giving Ensians some good field position. Prop Gregg Jones who was in at Hooker due to illness threw the ball to lock Ali Campbell at the tail, Scrum Half Rob Lofthouse got the backline moving, the ball was shipped wide and Winger Declan Jackson rounded his opposite number to score out wide, giving the visitors a 0-5 lead after just two minutes. The conversion unfortunately failed.
Grovians came back at the home side with some fierce defence of their own. Good forward drives from Props Louis Hooper and Jones and Lock Jack Smith with great support from flankers Sam Featherstone and Oli Cooper meant the home side were able to clear their lines with a great kick from full back Zak Stead. The Home side were attacking hard using their big forwards to create quick ball for their dangerous back line. The visitors infringed and Grovians kicked for the corner. They took the lineout setting up a maul, the visitors backs defended well but a great run off the Grovians powerful Open Side saw him run in to the right of the sticks. The conversion was successful giving the home side a 7-5 lead on 9 minutes.
Grovians were pushing the visitors hard, number 8 Rob Arbuckle, Featherstone, Campbell and Prop Josh Dyson were putting in some great tackles on the sizeable Grovians forwards and Centres, Dom Oddy and Luke Cowdell were doing well to contain the dangerous home backs. With the ball in hand the visitors were struggling to make it over the gain line in the forwards. Stand off, Oli Eaves was doing his best to get the backline moving but some great defence from Grovians meant the visitors were being shut down. Full back Stead and Wingers Will Prest and Jackson were kept on their toes from some good tactical kicking from the Grovians Stand Off. On 20 minutes, Stead was put under pressure from a great kick chase and the home side were awarded a penalty opting to kick for goal and extending their lead to 10-5.
After the restart possession kept changing hands with both defences working hard to prevent either side making any headway. 25 minutes in, after a good carry, Lock Smith had to leave the field for a knee injury, to be replaced by Matt Taylor. Ensians were making some good turnovers through Featherstone and Jones but some good defensive pressure from the home side, lead to poor handling, handing the ball back to Grovians. A missed tackle in the centres let the home side get in behind. Despite some good covering tackles by Stead and Jackson the home side crossed the line again on 27 minutes. The conversion was missed but the lead was extended to 15-5.
On the half hour mark, Centre Oddy had to leave the field due to a recurring hamstring injury, Stead moved in to 12 and Kris Keinhorst came on at Full Back. The visitors gave away a couple of penalties for being offside at the breakdown handing Grovians field position, again they put Ensians defence under pressure and another missed tackle allowed them to score again on 32 minutes. The conversion was on target giving the home side a 22-5 lead.
For the rest of the half Ensians were on the attack putting the home side under some good pressure, they were infringing giving Ensians a platform to attack, unfortunately the ball was not looked after and Grovians were able to clear their lines. The visitors then having to work down field again, Arbuckle and Taylor were carrying well but again the ball was turned over and again Grovians cleared. The Half ended with Grovians in a commanding position.
At the restart the home side came out of the blocks hard immediately putting the visitors under pressure, again the visitors were defending hard but Grovians were getting in behind them through some great interplay and offloading with some powerful forward drives. Keinhorst, Stead, Cooper and Featherstone made some great covering tackles but the speed of ball coming from the ruck was giving Grovians a great platform. On 43 minutes they crossed the line again to secure the four try bonus point and promotion and along with a successful conversion extended their lead to 29-5.
Again Grovians came hard at the visitors, working their way down field through their powerful 7 and 8. Ensians were tackling hard keeping the home side out of their 22. This time the composed Grovians Stand Off opted to drop a goal to increase their lead to 32-5 on the 45 minute mark.
Despite having a mountain to climb the visitors were not giving up, giving their all in defence, and putting Grovians under pressure knocking them back behind the gain line. Grovians tried to send the ball wide getting isolated. A good turnover and a quick break by Scrum Half Lofthouse put Cooper into space, he opened up his legs running the ball in from the 10 meter line to score out wide. The conversion was missed, bringing the score to 32-10 on 47 minutes.
This boosted the home side and again they came out all guns blazing putting Ensians under pressure. A good turnover caught the visitors unawares and Grovians speedy winger went round the outside to score out wide. Again the conversion was good giving the home side 39-10 lead on 50 minutes.
For the rest of the half, the game being beyond them, the visitors gave it their all to try and reduce the deficit. Oli Eaves left the field, Kris Keinhorst moved to Stand Off and Connor Bateman came on at Full Back. Arbuckle, Jones and Taylor were carrying hard and making good inroads into the home defence. Lofthouse and Keinhorst were moving the ball well. Jackson and Prest were looking dangerous but didn’t have the space needed to make inroads.
Ensians were working well up field managing to get over the gain line and get in behind the Grovians defence. A well worked move was finished off by prop Louis Hooper, a great conversion by Keinhorst brought the score to 39-17 on 78 minutes.
In the last 2 minutes, Ensians were in the ascendancy working hard to try and score a fourth try to get a bonus point of their own, however the Grovians defence was strong and an Ensians attack was tackled into touch to end the game at 39-17.
All credit to Grovians who showed why they are league leaders with some great handling in the back line along with a solid forward performance. The Ensians lads showed great commitment never giving up and making the home side work really hard for every point especially the lads who stepped in at the last minute to cover the drop outs and Gregg Jones who played really well at Hooker despite not doing it for a long while. Good luck to Grovians for next year and I’m sure they will do well in Yorkshire 2.
With it being a home game & good dry weather, with more people wanting to play, Otley ended up with 27 players, While Aire captain, tony exley had to do the Guiseley / Yeadon pub sweep on Friday night to press gang people to get his team to 15. [ an old trick where you get players to swear their allegiance while intoxicated ]. With certain players not knowing what ‘ team’ means, tempo & Jamie knew they would be in for a long afternoon. With 20 of the squad being forwards by trade, not even Sir Stephen Hawking could make the maths work, so those of a less rotund body shape were moved into the back-line so everybody could get on the field at some stage, with an offer of any players to Aire if they needed them to make for a good game of rugby. Big eddy offered his services to the no 8 position, but unfortunately was turned down, with older ladies pin up & trumpet tickler Dan Ridgeway & all round gentleman Jamie chapel fighting for it.
The game started with Aire kicking off, & line-out specialist Brett t fumbling the ball as it went between his legs & into touch, as his hands apparently turned into cows tits when lowered below the waist. From the Aire line-out though he made amends by stealing the ball & the Otley back-line showed glimpses of what was to come as alex longstaff had a good run down the wing. With pop-star Jonny Rah getting his backs going, new centre, handsome Sam did a bit of a shimy & shake to hold the Aire defence before putting young Joe Tindall through a gap & send Will Cooper in on 5 minutes to make it 5 – 0. With the forwards winning good ball, with Duncan Settrington turning Aire over time & again, Otley had Aire under pressure, & when they tried to kick themselves out of trouble, will cooper ran it back at them from fullback to put conner [Dominic] Paley on a mazy run to score & make it 10 – 0 on 11 minutes.
From the kick off, there was some more fumbling & bumbling, with Aire using the opportunity to attack, but they dropped the ball a metre out, with Brett using his new found kicking skills to get Otley out of trouble. With the front row of Pete Bonner, Wheelybin & prop with feelings – Boothy putting pressure on in the scrum, the backs were getting a good supply of ball for handsome sam to cause problems & put his centre partner young joe in space. When the ball was spun back across the back line, conner [Dominic] Paley went in again to make it 15 – 0.
With that, some wholesale changes were made to get the subs on in forwards & backs, with new centre Alister Fothergill bursting through & scoring with his first touch to make it 22 – 0, with the conversion on 31 minutes. Aire never gave up & when Otley found themselves on their line, with big eddy & ben Newall catching flies, Aire kicked the ball out of the ruck & touched down to make it 22 – 5 at half time.
The second half started with Aire using the wind to pin Otley back, & after another break by Aire, they unfortunately dropped the ball a couple of metres out. With the new back row of Dan Ridgeway, Chris howells & ben working hard to secure ball, will cooper now at stand-off, held the ball just long enough before popping Alister Fothergill through the gap, & he showed a clean pair of heels to run half the length of the field & score to make it 27 – 5.
Airebrough weren’t for giving up & came straight back, & after a quick tap penalty they scored. 5 minutes later they were over again to make it 27 – 19, as they were putting some good rugby together & sensing a victory.
With Alex Burnet coming off injured after a cracking game , Jonny Rah came back on at scrum half, with the other scrum half Alex Longstaff off injured. young matt came back on in the back row after playing in the centres earlier, with Duncan & Dan Ridgeway. Sam grey came back on in the centres, with Alister Fothergill now moving into the forwards with Jimmy & Jock. Matty Tenniswood came on at fullback, & Ben Smith moved to wing with young Max as it was all change again !
Ben Smith was causing Aire problems with his own brand of rugby [ if only he would pass ] & will cooper put in a great little grubber kick for ben to dribble over the line, only for will to touch down & convert to make it 34 – 19. Aire came back & when Jock tried a pick & go, he went back quicker than Madonna at the Brit Awards, but with will cooper finding space as Aires defence fragulated, the back-line put one more backs move together for conner paley to score in the corner to get his hat-trick & finish the game at 39 – 19.
This was an open game played in good spirit, with Aire never giving up & Wheelybin & nibs playing for Aireborough later on to help them out. Having so many players is a better problem to have than not enough, with changes making it hard to get a rhythm going sometimes, as you want to get everybody on who brought their boots, but most of the time on Saturday it somehow worked.