Last Saturday Otliensians welcomed Halifax in a top of the table battle. The pre match tensions were running high, as Halifax had only lost once this season and Ensians haven’t lost at home.
The tourists arrived almost 2 hours before the match, giving the nervous home fans a glimpse of their hefty forwards. The conditions were perfect, with the low November sun only catching the easterly quarter of the pitch.
Halifax’s rugby league style defence frustrated ‘ensians initial sorties into their 22. The first chance was from a penalty to the home side, with stand off Jake Bentley kicking for the corner, resulting in an attacking line out. Sadly the line out was lost and Halifax’s stand off ’hoofed’ the ball back into the home sides half. Halifax regained possession and pressured ‘ensians defences on the 10m line, eventually winning a penalty. This was the home fans first glimse of Halifax’s very competent goal kicker, and his successful right boot. 0:3
Otliensians reacted positively with a long restart, taking play up to the oppositions goal line. Winger Ethan Heade was up on his opposite man in a flash, and forced a sloppy clearance kick. The second attacking line out for ‘ensians was again unsuccessful, giving possession back to the tourists. The scrum this time was won by Ensians, giving flanker Noel Gillson a glimpse of glory. A defensive wall was soon formed, and Gillson couldn’t break through.
Halifax again took play back into the home half with long kicks, and once again found themselves with a penalty on the 10m line. In a carbon copy of the previous three points, their fly half slotted the ball cleanly through the uprights. 0:6
For the second restart, Bentley kicked a lofty ball that held in the air, giving Ensians loose forwards enough time to pressure the catcher. Harry Gillson’s dogged pressure, forced the first of three penalties. 6 points down, ‘ensians were not happy with a three point kick, nor with a tactical line out. They opted instead for quick penalties, driven forward by Rob Arbuckle (…yes, out of retirement for the umpteenth time). On the third attack, full back Luke Cowdell found himself in possession, tight up against the touch line. In a combination of brute force, and the nimbleness of a ballet dancer, he dived for the line, twisting in mid air to avoid touch and ground the ball at the same time. With Bentley claiming a successful conversion, the home side took the lead. 7:6
This one point lead ‘stoked the fire’ of the opposition and they restarted the game in a frenzied fashion. Their side line fans only adding to the elevated passions. Sadly this increase in tension, had a detrimental effect on Halifax’s discipline.
The half time score finished un changed at 7:6. Despite the close scoreline, Halifax hadn’t once look like scoring a try, whereas Ensians had missed 2 or 3 opportunities.
From the restart, home centre Joe Tindall made an elegant break down the left side, eventually off loading, to speedy winger Will Howarth. Sadly the pass was deemed forward and the attack halted. Halifax tried to run the ball back, but they lost the ball in the tackle, giving Jake Bentley space to break through. He was cut down on the 22m line in an ankle twisting tackle. Eventually Halifax cleared the ball in to touch near the half way line. Ensians won the line out, and spun the ball wide. Luke Cowdell attacking down the left wing was taken down around the neck, in what should have been a yellow card offence. Luckily un injured, Ensians opted for a scrum. This time flanker Ali Booth broke forward and slipped the ball out to Will Haworth, who had an easy dash to the corner to increase the lead. With regular kicker Jake Bentley out injured, the conversion was sadly missed by the replacement. 12:6
Minutes after the restart Halifax found themselves with a line out 15m from Ensians goal line. The line out was won, but their backs under pressure knocked the ball on. Luckily one of the Gillson cousins was on hand to gather and pass out to centre Joe Tindall. Tindall made it to the half way line before passing out to winger Will Howarth. Howarth paused making his opposite winger guess which way he way going, before shooting down the outside to score his second. Again the conversion was missed. 17:6
Halifax regrouped well after the restart, and piled on the pressure for a good 5 minutes. Eventually they were rewarded with a try in the corner for their winger. If we had VAR, it would have been scrutinised, as the winger knocked over the touch line flag in his dive for the corner. Despite the protestations of the home fans in the vicinity, the successful try would luckily not effect the out come of the game. An unsuccessful kick, closed Halifax's point tally at 11 against Ensians 17.
From the restart Ensians came back quickly. This time Rob Arbuckle gathered the kick, passed out to Tindall and onto Will Howarth, who moments later shot down the wing like a bullet. He still had the full back and winger to beat, but cut inside past one, and then back outside evading the full back. The fans erupted as Howarth sealed the fate of Halifax to score his hat trick. 22:11
In reflection, the scrums were well matched, but Ensians usually strong line out let them down on the day. It was the superior backs that tipped the balance in the home side favour.