On a day perhaps more suited to cricket, conditions were nonetheless ideal for open, running rugby at Marsh Lane.
A slight breeze freshened soon after the start and the visitors, playing into it, were on the back foot. Following a penalty miss by the hosts, scrum problems gave ‘Ensians a chance to seize on bad ball. Wingers Bateman and Paley combined and John Offer had a strong run which led to a penalty award, duly converted by Will Cooper; 3 nil after 15 minutes from their first visit to opposition territory. The wind was certainly a factor and both sides were making mistakes. ‘Ensians kicked directly into touch, Knottingley lost their own lineout, Cowdell ran strongly, kicked ahead and Sam Featherstone forced the home defence into touch. Knottingley were quickly back in the visitors’ half and a penalty kick to the corner resulted in a forwards try. The improvement was successful and 7 points to 3 on 20 minutes was about right.
Knottingley chose to kick for position from the kick off, but missed touch and Cooper ran it back. ‘Ensians were pushed at a scrum, but did better second time round and from a charge by substitute second row James Smith, the ball reached Joe Ridgway, who went over wide out. A superb conversion by Will Cooper put the men in blue ahead again at 7/10. The lead was short-lived however and sustained Knottingley pressure led to a converted try and a scoreline of 14 points to 10 on 35 minutes. Play fluctuated, with Knottingley infringements keeping ‘Ensians in the game despite lack of territory. Cooper was just short with a shot at goal from half way before the break.
After the restart Knottingley lost some of their own line outs and gave the visitors hope, but the wind was causing problems for accurate passing and a loose ball gave the hosts a clean break which led to an unconverted try. 19 points to 10 now required at least two scores and ‘Ensians were not controlling the game. Penalty kicks were not finding touch and play was constantly pushed back into the visitors’ half of the field. Desperate defence after a breakaway could not prevent Knottingley increasing their lead by another seven points. 26 points to 10 was looking ominous, but ‘Ensians came back and after good running and a kick chase, an unconverted try by Connor Paley narrowed the gap. A further try wide out by Connor Bateman put them within reach, but time was too short and and a scoreline of 26 points to 20 to the home side was slightly disappointing.
Two players returning from injury was somewhat offset by the unavailability of 9 members of the previous week’s squad, but the efforts from today’s 17-man group (Just 2 subs, Rob Arbuckle & James Smith, the latter coming on after only ten minutes) spoke encouragingly for 1st team potential and 2nd team strength going forward.
Yorkshire 3 rugby, a delightful sunny afternoon and some home supporters saw fit (in front of ladies and very young children) to hand out to the visiting players and fans abuse and the worst possible foul language. Absolutely unacceptable. An after-match drink in the hosts’ clubhouse? Not a chance! Shame on the Club.