On a warm sunny day visitors Stocksbridge arrived with a sizeable band of supporters with the intention of ending the season on a high note, despite already being relegated to Yorkshire 4. What resulted was a very entertaining game of rugby with the lead changing several times in the first half before gradually the superior fitness of the home side began to tell.
From the kick- off the visitors used their strong runners to take play up to the home line. The hosts strayed offside and a forward drive took the visitors over the line for their first try on 3 minutes. The conversion failed leaving them with a 5 – 0 lead. With several regular players on the injured list, it took the home side time to settle, but when the ball was moved wide, half backs Lewis Robinson and Will Cooper put centres Josh Howarth and Luke Cowdell away up the right. A looped overhead pass found winger Connor Paley and he rounded the cover to score halfway out. Full back Connor Bateman converted to take a 7 – 5 lead on 11 minutes.
After eventually re-gaining possession, the visitors then made the mistake of kicking the ball deep into the hands of Connor Bateman who set of on one of his weaving runs beating several defenders to score under the posts. He converted to move the score to 14 – 5 on 15 minutes. With ‘Ensians perhaps relaxing with this modest lead, the visitors moved play into the home 22 with some strong running and offloading. Good support play saw them scoring two well-worked tries on 25 and 28 minutes. The conversions failed, but they now led by 15 points to 14.
This stirred the hosts into action and from broken play, centre Luke Cowdell jinked his way through to score half way out. Bateman converted to re-take the lead at 21 – 15 on 31 minutes. The home side was holding its own in the scrums through the front row of Joel Wakeford, Alex Burnett and Paddy Phipps, but their lineout struggled occasionally against the well-drilled Stocksbridge side. Once more the visitors gained possession and re-cycled the ball well to run in another try on 34 minutes, with the score now standing at 21 – 20.
It was now home fly half Will Cooper’s chance to slice through on 37 minutes for fine try which Bateman converted to move the score to 28 – 20. The see-saw encounter continued with the visitors taking advantage of some indifferent defence to run in a good try, taking the score to 28 – 27 at the break.
With former skipper Nathan Rogers and forward John Offer off the bench, the hosts started confidently and quickly ran in two tries through Luke Cowdell and Connor Batemen. Bateman’s accuracy with the boot continued with one conversion to stretch the lead to 40 – 27 on 48 minutes. Not to be outdone, the visitors responded with good interplay between forwards and backs to narrow the lead to 40 - 32 on 54 minutes.
Josh Howarth then crossed over at short range which, with Bateman’s conversion, extended the lead to 47 – 32 on 60 minutes. Bateman then followed this with a penalty on 71 minutes moving the score to 50 – 32 and soon after he again evaded the cover to score his hat-trick on 73 minutes, taking the score to 57 – 32.
Despite tiring, Stocksbridge had the last word when they created a try in the closing minutes to make the final score 57 – 37. Despite their lowly position in the League, credit must go to Stocksbridge for a rousing performance. ‘Ensians always looked like winning as the match progressed with an outstanding performance from Connor Batemen, who notched up 32 points through a hat-trick of tries, seven conversions and a penalty.