Typical autumn weather, wet under foot but a still, cool day, greeted Old Otliensians 1st XV at Cookridge as they looked forward to renewing acquaintances with old foes, Leeds Modernians.
The game was a little disrupted from the start with Mods requesting uncontested scrums from the off, something Ensians, in the spirit of rugby & allowing a worthwhile match to take place, agreed to. Ensians spectators were a little perplexed then when one of the biggest packs they had yet encountered all season took to the field in the home colours! Ensians were to lose the toss & asked to play with what little breeze there was & with the slope in their favour.
The first 5 minutes passed with Ensians camped in the home half & were unlucky not to take the lead when a penalty drifted just past the post. Mods then decided that they should utilize their considerable weight advantage and began to grind their way into Ensians half. Gifted a penalty, Mods kicked the ball to 5m out but spirited defence, a feature of what was to be called upon numerous times during the game, repelled the home assault and a knock-on led to a fine clearance from Ollie Eaves, deep into the home half.
The following 10 minutes was basically to and fro, with neither team able to exert any real territorial advantage. The game had become a little disjointed, with numerous high tackles from both sides being penalised by the referee.
The breakthrough came on 18 minutes when after good defence & counterattack by Ensians, great hands by the backs allowed Will Howarth to screech around his opposite winger & score in the corner, Jake Bentley adding a beautiful conversion from about 10 in from the touch. 7-0 Ensians.
Mods attacked from the off, but again, solid defence from the entire team led to Mods becoming increasingly frustrated. Ensians cause was not helped by the referee issuing Ensians a yellow card for a no-arms tackle. Mods again chose the direct route, and Ensians again repelled them with hard, no-nonsense tackling, led by the Gilson filled back row, Bentley & Cowdell adding impressive hits in the centre. A further knock-on by Mods led to a long clearance from Eaves. 28 minutes in, Ensians forwards were able to again win possession for the backs and again, simple draw & pass hands by the backs gave Howarth yet another opportunity to round his opposite winger and score halfway out, Bentley just missing with the conversion. 12-0 Ensians.
Mods were becoming increasingly frustrated with the resolute defence shown by Ensians, exemplified by a crushing tackle by Roman Gilson which led to a Mods forward leaving the field with a leg injury. Mods frustration boiled over when one of their number was yellow carded for a reckless, soccer like challenge on Eaves, closely followed by a high challenge on Cowdell. Yet another smart kick down field saw the Mods fullback under pressure. The ensuing ruck developed into a fracas, with elbows & punches being thrown by both teams, leading to the permanent departure of Ensians Harry Wales via a red card. The ref then promptly blew for the half, with Lewis Platt replacing Ethan Heede on the right wing for his debut.
HT; Mods 0 – 12 Ensians
The 2nd half began with neither team able to exert control, though Mods, buoyed by return to full strength, Ensians down to 14 & the slope in their favour, began with confrontational aggression. Again, the continued clinical tackling by Ensians led the home team to lose patience and the game lost much of the structure Ensians showed in the 2nd 20. The home indiscipline resulted in a penalty 25 out and 15 in, which Bentley slotted to put Ensians 3 scores up.
The sound, controlled Ensians defence was now beginning to frustrate the Mods XV to the extent that they spurned a number opportunities from line-out drives & mauls within the away 22. When this route to the line was cut off, the ball was passed wide, where again the away defence killed off any chance of a try. Notable was the timing of 2 tackles by Platt and further ones by Tindall & Bentley that snuffed out what looked to be promising attacks by Mods.
The last 10 minutes was played with Ensians continually with their backs to the posts inside their own half, but spirit and determination kept the home team at bay, until, with the referee deeming Cowdell to have offended and yellow carded, the home team scored wide out with the last play of the match. Never has the Ensians defensive effort deserved to nil a bigger, more powerful opposition & the Mods try did not do justice to the away teams determination.
Full time; Leeds Moderians 5 – 15 Old Otliensians