This was a disappointing afternoon for ‘Ensians who, despite losing three key players through serious injuries sustained in the mid-week Aire/Wharfe Cup match at Keighley, felt they had enough in reserve to come out on top. On the day, the heavier Halifax pack dominated and the ample supply of possession saw the hosts score four tries to two by the visitors. Again ‘Ensians were plagued by injuries, losing leading try-scorer Declan Jackson with a neck injury after four minutes, fly half Luke Freer went off with a knee injury and just after the break, winger Josh Howarth suffered a broken collar bone. The visitors clawed their way back to 17 – 16 with 12 minutes to go only to see the home side seal the victory with a try under the posts in the closing minutes.
Good news about the League Championship came after the game when it transpired that second-placed Stocksbridge had only managed a draw at home to Wetherby, which meant that ‘Ensians were home and dry at the top of the League by virtue of their nine point lead in the table. Chairman Steve Robinson poured the champagne to toast the success of Coach John Walker and his young squad.
There was a promising start for the visitors when they moved the ball wide after only four minutes for winger Declan Jackson to beat his man on the outside and put full back Kristian Keinhorst over in the corner for a 5 – 0 lead. Unfortunately, Jackson had to leave the field with a neck injury and newcomer Andreas Xiarchos took his place on the wing.
In the scrums the heavier home pack made life difficult, but the ‘Ensians’ front row of Ross Nichols, Jim Dyson and Tony Myers generally held their own, but on many occasions scrum half Rob Lofthouse had seriously untidy ball to deal with. Halifax used the boot to take play into the visitors’ 22 where they produced a powerful drive to trundle over on 11 minutes to level the score at 5 – 5.
The visitors responded with some good interplay between forwards and backs and full back Kristian Keinhorst put ‘Ensians in front with a well-struck penalty at 8 – 5 on 20 minutes. The injury situation for the visitors became worse when fly half and acting skipper Luke Freer had to leave the field with a knee injury and to add to their problems, they had a forward yellow-carded on 35 minutes. Halifax took advantage of superior numbers to go over for their second try to give them a 10 – 8 lead at the break.
Early in the second half ‘Ensians suffered another set-back when winger Josh Howarth broke his collar bone to be replaced by Callum Doherty with centre Tobias Gill already deputising at fly half. On 47 minutes the hosts scored a well-worked try and the conversion stretched their lead to 17 – 8. The visitors were far from finished and took play into the Halifax half with some strong drives by locks Ali Campbell and Steve Wade and No.8 Rob Arbuckle. When the home side transgressed, Keinhorst converted a penalty to narrow the gap to 17 – 11 on 65 minutes. Meanwhile, fly half Luke Freer had bravely come back on and ‘Ensians started putting some of their trademark phases of back play together. A slick pass put centre Luke Cowdell away down the left flank to beat three defenders and score wide out and, although conversion failed, the gap narrowed to 17 – 16 on 67 minutes.
In the lineout Halifax had never put a foot wrong and they worked their way up the touchline to give their strong-running backs plenty of opportunities. The visitors were on the back foot, but good defence from flankers Sam Featherstone and Alex Albrecht kept them at bay for long periods. However, ‘Ensians could not clear their line and eventually the pressure told when the home fly half cut through to score under the posts on 76 minutes. The conversion stretched their lead to 24 – 16 and although the visitors threw everything at them in the last few minutes, Halifax held out.
The disappointment of injuries and a patchy performance were tempered by the news that second-placed Stocksbridge had only managed a draw at home to Wetherby, thus meaning that ‘Ensians’ lead at the top of the League table was unassailable and they emerged as worthy champions, having played some top-class open rugby under the guidance of Coach John Walker.
‘Ensians are at home to York RI for the last League game of the season next Saturday.
‘Ensians 2nd XV had a comprehensive 60 – 27 Merit League win at home to Keighley 3rds.
Scorers were – tries: Adam Baird, Will Preedheough, Keiron Walker 2, Connor Bateman 2, Ben Smith, Pete Bonner, Ken Luu and Rob Lyon. (Nice to see Rob Lyon back playing after a long illness.) Conversions - Connor Bateman 5
Keighley turned up with 11 players & ensians had 14. Mad chemist baltrop said he was going to be down later, but managers alan & pete knew that meant he wasn’t coming, so they gave Keighley the experienced mark elam & started the game 13 against 12 to even it up. Both teams played with a six man pack so it meant it was going to be a open game. Ensians welcomed back rob lyon at hooker who had been out for a while with illness. The question the team managers had was would he last ?, but within 10 minutes they realised his jaw was as fit as ever as he gave advise to everyone around him including the ref who aqainted him with his old friend the yellow card before half time. The game kicked off with ensians using their backs to attack, but a good inside ball by rah to oddy which split the defence was dropped. From the scrum the ensian front row of bonner , lyons & josh dyson shunted Keighley off their ball & adam baird at no 8 took a couple of desperate tacklers over the line with him to score by the posts. Connor bateman knocked over the conversion & it was 7 – 0 with 5 minutes on the clock. The Keighley pack were a solid bunch so the game plan was to move the ball away & use the young legs of Kieran walker& connor bateman in the back row to make the breakdown quick & move the ball. With ben smith at scrum half,because the old badger rich crossley was away, the worry was he wouldn’t pass the ball, but over the last few games ben has realised the pleasure in passing to his fellow players so jonny got a good supply of ball all afternoon. Ensians were finding holes & when connor bateman went through a gap he should of passed, but took it himself & was tackled. Keighley came back but the backrow & craig mawson were all over them & turned the ball over. It was kicked down the field & connor bateman was there to tackle the player with rah in support. He passed out to oddy who drew the last player to put Kieran over. Conversion missed it was 12 – 0. Kieran & connor bateman were been thrown up in the line outs like steve wade but only higher & better, by man mountain bonner & the most powerfull of the dyson brothers josh. It came as no surprise the Keighley line out was creaking & when the ball was stolen jonny rah got the red arrows going with ken lui & dom oddy hitting great lines to open up Keighley. Connor bateman found himself in space, but again took it on instead of passing to team mate connor paley in support. Tempos coaching manual says at rule 32, if a player wont pass the ball, stick a cork up his backside & fill him with laxatives, then he will know what its like to want to pass something ! Luckily with Kieran & ben smith closely behind the ball was recycled & dom oddy again just did the right thing, he drew the defence , held them, then put in a easy pass to put new boy will in for his first try for the club. With connor converting it was 19 – 0 after 15minutes. From kick off Keighley put the pressure on, & after a couple of penalties drove over the line but were held up. They came back but were stripped by josh dyson & the lines were cleared. From the line out , connor was quicker to react & the ball was gone with ken lui hitting a good line taking the defence with him, & with rob lyons, craig mawson & josh setting the ball up, adam baird crashed through two Keighley players before popping the ball up to ever present Kieran who went in by the posts. With conversion it was 26 – 0 with 20 minutes played. Shortly after kick off rob lyons was yellow carded & Keighley scored with forward drives from the penalty. Otley came straight back & after turning over the ball, rah put wing commander ken lui straight through the gap to score wide out after running a great line. Connor converted to make it 33 – 5. With rob lyons back on the field after a 10 minute break it wasn’t long before connor bateman who was hanging about in the back line scored & converted to make it 40 – 5. keighley looked deflated but rob lyons wasn’t taking prisoners & after finding space using an arby side step he set off to the line but was caught & tackled by loaned player mark elam who had three attempts before bringing him down, much to the delight of the ensians crowd who all cheered ! At half time ensians lent Keighley connor paley & new boy will, to help them, & took back mark elam to make it 13 against twelve to keighley . This gave them the lift they needed & after some powerfull drives by their prop, the centre scored, but with the missed conversion it was 40 – 10. Keighley were back on the attack but after another turnover, connor bateman side stepped his way out of his 22 leaving a trail of bodies but the ever improving loaned player connor paley tracked back to tackle him on the half way line. The ball was recycled & spun across the backs to mark elam at pace who only had to pass the ball to his supporting player, but unfortunately he murdered it with line begging. Keighley came back & after some good back play & slack tackling scored. With conversion they were 45 – 17 down & on 22minutes were over the white wash again & back in the game at 45 – 22. This woke otley up who from the kick off forced a scrum where ben smith went over & shortly after pete bonner drove over from a maul to make it 55 – 22. The last try by ensians was scored by rob lyon who went in at the corner from close in to mark a fantastic return to rugby after a long lay off, but Keighley had the last say when their scrum half slipped in to make the final score 60 – 27. This was a good game played in good spirit. By giving Keighley the extra man for the 2nd half it made for a better game.