Old Otliensians made the short trip up the road to local rivals Old Modernians for their final league game of the season, with little to play for but pride, with both teams secure in their league positions in 5th and 4th respectively.
The first half kicked off with Ensians playing down the slope. The visitors made a bright start with a powerful carry from centre Luke Cowdell. Stand Off Luke Freer playing at Scrum Half for the day put a clever chip over which the Mods Full Back knocked on.
The Ensians engine room, front row of Louis Hooper, James Dyson and Josh Dyson and second rows Ali Campbell and Ben Smith a shoved the home side backwards and we're awarded a penalty. They opted to Scrum again and again shoved the home side back but some stout Mods defence kept the visitors out.
Ensians were pushing the home side hard but we're unable to find a way through the defence. A loose pass was knocked on, on half way, from the resulting scrum Mods made a good break up field and too many missed tackles lead to the home side to scoring outwide on against the run of play. The conversion was missed giving the home side a 5-0 lead on 8 minutes.
From the restart Ensians were keen to put the home side under pressure. Big tackles from Back Rows, Nathan Rogers and Sam Featherstone and Centres, Will Prest and Luke Cowdell kept the Mods pinned back.
The visitors line out was working well, Campbell and Featherstone securing good ball. The Ensians driving maul put the Mods defence under pressure. Pressing hard the visitors spilt the ball. Mods were quick to pounce and again some uncharictaristic sloppy defence meant they scored again on 19 minutes. This time the conversion was successful and the home side lead was increased to 12-0.
This gave the home side a boost after soaking up a lot of pressure. They were keeping possession well using their big forward runners. Some good defence in the forwards from Smith, Campbell and number 8 Rob Arbuckle and aggressive tacking in the backs from Stand Off Oli Eaves and Full Back Zak Stead kept them playing in their own half.
A good turnover from Prop Greg Jones on to replace Louis Hooper gave Ensians possession back but they could not hold on to it for long with some loose handling. However a dominant scrum performance and a competitive line out was making Mods possession scrappy.
On 32 minutes Ensians had a scrum on the Mods 22. A big shove already had the Mods defence moving backwards. Some good interplay between Freer and Eaves created space for Prest to make a half break, he got the ball away to Cowdell who used his pace and power to bulldoze over outwide. The conversion was missed bringing the score to 12-5.
The visitors didn't start the second half a well as the first and Mods used the slope well to keep Ensians pinned in their own half. A clever kick over the top and a good chase put the visitors defence under pressure, rather than dabbing down for a 22 drop out of the ball was kicked dead giving Mods the put in on a 5 meter scrum. Despite a good shove from the Ensians pack the ball was sent wide quickly and they scored in the opposite corner from the scrum. The conversion was missed extending the lead to 17-5 on 50 minutes.
Mods were using the slope well with clever kicking from their stand off. Ensians were unable to make much headway into the home half. Good breaks from speadsters Declan Jackson and Connor Bateman on the wings could not be finished off and Mods lead stayed unchanged.
On 60 minutes the visitors were down to 14 men with a yellow card for a high tackle which lead to a period of pressure from Mods. Again some great defence from Lee O'Donnell on for Rogers in the back row, Featherstone and Campbell kept the home side out. Ensians did well to survive the sin bin period without conceding.
Once back up to a full compliment the visitors put some good play together and put Mods under some pressure. Good carries from O'Donnell, Eaves, Cowdell and Fothergill on for Smith at lock, with Keinhorst on at Full Back joining the line well, meant that the visitors got in behind the home defence. A synical killing of the ball 5 meters out lead to the Mods back row player being yellow carded on 74 minutes.
A quick tap penalty from Arbuckle nearly crossed over. A series of pick and drives with good support from both Dysons and Fothergill was finished off by Featherstone and the score was brought to 17-10. The conversion was missed and the visitors only had 5 minutes to try level the scores.
Unfortunately it was not to be. Mods kept the visitors pinned back in their own half and were pushing hard for a score of their own. An infringement from Ensians at the breakdown saw them again down to 14 but again a good defensive performance kept the score at 17-10 at full time.
For the last game of the season & a BBQ promised at the finish, numbers were good with 23 turning up. With old Rishworthians wanting to stick to the rules, that you are allowed 20, it meant 3 players had to stand down even though it would seem that they played more themselves due to injuries. Boothy, Jamie & last man in the team Jack lester stepped forward, showing that there is no I in team. Big Eddy wasn’t available as he was doing a charity run from his house to Otley's best kebab, but said he could make the BBQ. With Ross Nicols sulking because he wasn’t starting, jimmy stepped aside to give him his place, even though it meant Otley would start with no recognised jumper, & with two sulkers in the second row. [ it seems there is an I in team ].
With Rishworthians being top of the league, this was always going to be a tough game, but with the team picked to start, tempo & Jamie were positive an upset could be on the cards ! The front row of Bonner, Wheely & Sam Pickering had never seen a famine, with Ross & Matty adding even more ballast. John offer, Jack Graham with friendly Ben at eight gave a ferocious edge to the back row. Local entrepreneur Foz put the 9 shirt on, with pop-star Jonny Rah at ten. Ivan Cranshaw gave up choir practise at the local pit for the day to put the 12 shirt on with conner paley trying his hand at 13. Joe Tindall moved to full back with young Max on one wing & new start rob Armitage on the other.
Rishworthians came flying out of the blocks, as expected, with their own selection of pie eaters taking some stopping, & when Otley strayed offside, they were down 3 points on six minutes. Otley came back & worked their way up to the Rishworthians 22, but Jonny Rah got a bit giddy with his passing & after a series of kick & chase & a bit of spawn, the Rishworthians ten went over under the posts to give them a flattering 10 – 0 lead on 12 minutes. With Otley's line out struggling, with Jack Graham doing his best as a lone jumper, Rishworthians used their dominance & forward power to drive the ball forward from the line outs, with their stand-off using their unusually quick but portly centre to keep conner & ivan on their toes. With Jonny having to kick out from behind his own try line, Rishworthians drove forward to suck in Otley's forwards, before there open side nipped in down the blind to make it 15 - 0 on 16 minutes.
This seemed to kick start the home team with Matty Tenniswood having some barnstorming runs off the rucks , with Bonner, Wheely, Sam, & Ross taking it on, with Jack, John & Ben always in support. Foz & Jonny now had their passing game in full swing & Ivan & conner was starting to find holes in the Rishworthians defence. After another good run by offer, Ben pulled the rabbit out of the hat with cheeky show & go with a little pirouette to go over & make it 15 – 7, with a great conversion from Foz on 25 minutes. From the kick off Otley were straight on the attack with Matty t smashing it up the middle, with Sam & Wheely in support. From an Otley line out, Bonner did his special move to trundle off down the wing, & when the ball was spun across the backs, Ivan cut inside, then back outside to score to make it 15 – 12, & it was squeaky bum time for Rishworthians who were desperate to win.
Coming up to half time, Otley were camped on the Rishworthians line, with Rishworthians players dropping like flies hoping the whistle would go, & it was only a dropped pass from Otley that stopped what could have been another score.
At half time, changes were made to get the subs on, with one of Otley's best blowers – Dan Ridgeway coming on at 8 for ben, young paddy for Bonz at prop, Morgan at 6 for his first game, with offer moving to hooker & Wheely coming off. Ed goodwill went in to the centres with conner moving to the wing, & with Matty t having a great game, Ross Nicols made way for Jimmy to get on the park to challenge in the line outs. With fresh legs & the bit between their teeth, Otley carried on where they left off, & conner Paley now in his more comfortable wing position, skipped round his winger to make it 17 – 15 on 55 minutes, & Rishworthians were starting to feel the heat.
Rishworthians came back though, as any top of the table team would do, kicking for position & using their powerful forwards & backs to cause Otley all sorts of problems. Jack Graham & Morgan were putting in some desperate tackles on their big forwards with Ivan Cranshaw having to go low on their powerful centre to stop him before he got a head of steam up. With penalties being conceded, Rishworthians put another over the sticks to take the lead again at 18 – 15.
After a kick for touch bounced awkwardly evading the Ensians winger, the Rishworthians fullback kicked on & scored under the posts to make it 25 – 15 with an easy conversion. This took the wind out of the home team's sails.
Rishworthians were desperate for the whistle to go, with a growing injury list & Otley desperate to get another score, chances came & went with dropped passes on both sides. Ross Nicols broke through and hopes were raised, but a desperate scramble defence from Rishworthians managed to hold out for the final whistle and to celebrate a win which should give them the merit league.
Ensians/Viscounts can hold their heads high after a game where they showed they can compete & on a different day, maybe beat the best in this merit league (if they really want to).