Having put more than 70 points past the home side in the fixture last October, there was hope that, even with a team seriously depleted through injury, ‘Ensians might just be in with a chance of victory. In the event, on their own pitch, the home pack proved too strong and, with good support from their backs, in the end they pulled of a comfortable victory.
With the home pitch being in reasonable condition considering the recent weather, the useful home pack put pressure on the visitors down the slope from the start and an early edge in the scrum produced an unconverted try from a dominant scrum in the ‘Ensians 22 on 7 minutes to establish a 5 – 0 lead. The visitors began to settle and good work by half backs Rob Lofthhouse and Will Cooper put centre Cowdell away on a weaving run. Unfortunately, the final pass was lost in the tackle.
Winger Nick Keinhorst was replaced by Lewis Robinson as the visitors continued to press with good interplay between forwards and backs. On 24 minutes Cowgill again made a fine break and this time winger Connor Paley was on hand for the offload to go over in the corner. The failed conversion levelled the scores at 5 – 5.
The hosts then responded with pressure in the visitors’ half which produced a penalty on 29 minutes to regain the lead at 8 – 5, but this was followed up by a good break by visiting full back Alex Murphy. Northallerton infringed, but the penalty was wide. However, ‘Ensians regained possession after a bounce off the posts with the right winger being pulled down just short. The hosts responded with some powerful forward drives to take play into the visitors’ 22 where they rumbled over through a rolling maul on 37 minutes increasing their lead to 15 – 5 with the conversion.
From the re-start ‘Ensians took play up field through good work from Alex Murphy and fly half Will Cooper, but well into extra time, the home side drove the ball into the home 22 for a well-worked try on 47 minutes to stretch their lead to 22 – 5.
The second half started with both sets of forwards trying to establish supremacy, with the visiting pack making steady progress against the heavier opposition. The visiting pack took an opposition lineout, but then lost the ball in a turnover only to see it booted back into their own 22. The trusty Northallerton scrum then produced good ball to set up a series of trademark pick and drives for another try which, with the conversion, took their lead to 29 – 5 on 14 minutes.
For ‘Ensians Chris Westland came on at centre for Kristian Keinhorst with Michael Groves replacing Ross Nichols in the pack. When the hosts were caught offside, a kick by Will Cooper took play into the home 22. When Northallerton conceded another penalty, lively full back Alex Murphy snapped up the ball for a quick tap to dive over to reduce the deficit to 29 – 10 on 60 minutes, the conversion failed. The visitors the suffered another set-back when a clearance kick was charged down on 68 minutes, presenting the hosts with an unconverted try to extend their lead to 34 -10.
Kristian Keinhorst came back on for Cowdell and helped set up another promising attack in the home 22 only to see the final pass knocked on just short of the line. The final few minutes were played out with neither side dominating and the referee seeming to cut things short to make up for what seemed an excessive amount of extra time in the first half. ‘Ensians played well in patches, but on many occasions the cohesion was missing with chances going begging. Added to this, the experienced home pack had the edge with the hosts knowing how to make the most of the sloping pitch.