Saturday’s game vs local neighbours Aireborough was preceded by an England RFU lifetime acknowledgement to club president George Leach. The day began with the RFU filming interviews with George, Dave Beardsley (Ensians Chairman) & members of George’s family. This was followed by the official presentation made on behalf of England & Yorkshire RFU by current Yorkshire President, Mr John Riley. Heartfelt congratulations George!! The England RFU then videoed the game & this will be made available on the RFU website; check the Old Otliensians facebook page for further details. On to the match.
Saturday turned out to be a better day than forecast, with ground conditions good-to-soft after last weeks snow & a light westerly breeze blowing down the pitch. Ensians support were rightly wondering if the loss of top try scoring wingman Will Howarth, who unfortunately fractured a leg during training mid-week, would blunt their usual attacking flare. Only time would tell.
Ensians kicked off playing into the breeze but neither team could force any real openings & the first 10 minutes was played between the 22’s. Penalties by both teams went unpunished until Aireborough, after a yellow card was issued to the Ensians, created a nice overlap from a scrum & went over in the corner. The try went unconverted.
From the re-start, Ensians lifted their efforts & a high shot resulted in a penalty that Jake Bentley stroked over to cut the deficit to 2 points. Aireborough responded by driving down the pitch & a couple of promising positions within the Ensians 22 resulted in a lineout 5m out. This was successfully repelled by the Ensians forwards, Rigg, Campbell & Featherstone leading the way with dominant hits, resulting in Eaves clearing well to relieve the pressure. This was followed up by a neat break by Cooper from within his own half, resulting in what looked to be an overlap left, only for the final pass to go to ground 5 out. With 5 minutes of the 1st half left, a brief melee resulted in a player from each team seeing yellow. Ensians ran the resulting penalty but the opportunity went unrewarded. However, Ensians increased the pressure by good forward drives & on the stroke of half time, an opportunity blind was powerfully finished in the corner by Harry Wales, the conversion missed.
Half time; Ensians 8 – 5 Aireborough.
The second half started brightly for the home team with Harry Bentley, Eaves & Cooper both using the breeze to their advantage, forcing the Aireborough backs to either kick for touch or adventure out on foot. A couple of enterprising breaks by the away side backs were snuffed out & a chip ahead by Cooper just ran long before Bateman could pounce. A failed defensive clearance was taken by Cooper 40 out who broke, chipped ahead & was fortunate enough to find the ball bounce kindly into his hands for him to force over close enough to the posts for Bentley to add the conversion. 15-5 Ensians.
Yet another Ensians yellow card was dished out by the referee, this time for a perceived high shot, but Airborough were unable to make their man advantage tell. Organised defence turned Aireborough possession over and intelligent kicks by the home team backs turned defence into attack, from which Bentley slotted a penalty when an off-side was awarded. 18-5 Ensians.
On 65 minutes, Ensians permanently lost the services of a prop for a technical 2nd yellow & Aireborough again began to turn the screw up front, resulting in a fairly forward dominated last 15. Play predictably became a little scrappy, with Ensians defending resolutely & Aireborough trying to extract every last ounce of effort from their players to reduce the arrears. Yet it was the home team who completed the scoring when winger Lewis Platt powerfully finished off good hands to smash over near the posts, close enough for Bentley to convert, the ref then bringing the game to an end.
In summary, a good, hard, competitive derby that both sides contributed to well, entertaining the large crowd to the sort of rugby appreciated by all.
F T; 25-5 Ensians
Report: Andy Cooper
Photos: John Eaves