1st XV Match Report - Saturday 29th September
By Becky Naylor
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
Recording their fifth straight loss and perhaps the most inauspicious start to a season for many years, Ripon didn’t have much to be cheerful for. Knowing that Goole were going to be a handful all round, the Blues travelled to South Humberside with an open mind and yet another rearranged squad. This time ringing the changes again (nine in all) with the recall of the Findlay brothers, Smith and Pritchard in the Second Row; McDaniel and Slator back from injuries; Matty Taylor back from a cultural event; Ashley Plant beefing up the pack after an extended break and the debut of Connor Eddleston, to bring the Under 18 contingent to six.
The squad squared up to the task in hand, performed well individually and worked well together as a team. The set piece performed well and produced plenty of quality possession to work with. The youngsters morphed seamlessly into the side again and produced an energetic and committed display that was a credit to the Club’s Academy system. With week on week expectations of league wins against more experienced sides, youthful exuberance is however; more of a “Get out of jail” tactic, as Goole with 6 Under 21s in their side will testify to; than a plan to move Ripon up the rankings. A blend of youth and experience will help to restore some confidence in the squad, as well as commitment to training as a squad.
Apart from the age profile, the key difference between the two teams was the home side’s ability to consistently score from intended plays, or opposition’s mistakes. By no means rocket science, but basic skills and sensibility with the ball in hand, should be the bread and butter of any competitive team. Ripon has a wealth of talent within the squad and old and young players step up consistently in the face of adversity. Failure however to create scoring opportunities consistently from quality possession, is the current downfall. Clinical finishing needs to be worked on as well as better communications, notwithstanding that the squad could change by up to half the players week on week. So, we encourage everyone to keep making themselves available and we build on what we have.
In fine conditions and on a rock hard pitch, Ripon opted to receive the kick off and play with the wind. A good enough plan if the kick reception hadn’t been miscalculated and the hosts gifted the ball from the outset. Goole switched on immediately and harassed the hastily reorganising visitors’ defence. A breakdown in midfield initiated by Euan Findlay, released Williams at first and then Smith, to carry effectively back into the home half.
At the tackle on Smith, the home backs were adjudged off side and Hassall Jnr belted the ball even deeper into the home half. From the line out, Ripon sought to move the ball through the backs left and then right. At the five minute mark, with Ripon at full tilt, a home error gave the Blues the put in to the first scrum of the game. Held true, with Sadler and Slator propping, Scrum Half Mainey broke right to feed Taylor Jnr to take on the attack. From the breakdown, quick ball to Williams enabled him to poke a grubber through the defence for James Audsley-Beck to run on to and score Ripon’s opening try. Despite the wind assistance, Williams couldn’t quite close the conversion attempt, but after an intensive opening five minutes, Ripon were happily rewarded with a 0 – 5 lead.
In a repeat of the initial kick off, Ripon fluffed the second restart and again gifted the hosts with the ball. Making no mistakes in possession this time, Goole proceeded through phases, to grind their way towards the Ripon line. Such was the pressure and continuity of play, that the home Right Wing found a chink in the defence and scampered in to open the scoring for the hosts. The wind definitely didn’t favour the kicker this time and the conversion attempt fell short to leave the score at 5 – 5.
From a deep restart Goole countered with a probing kick, which was recovered and returned with interest by Leeming. The breakdown saw a high tackle and a penalty to Ripon with an opportunity to get back into the home 22. Unfortunately, the well-oiled Ripon line out machine misfired on this occasion and let the hosts off the hook.
At 13 minutes. Ripon were starting to gain confidence at the scrum and caused the hosts some difficulty. Putting the hosts under pressure, Butler soon forced a turnover and gained a penalty for a home player holding on. The touch kick and line out worked well and saw the Ripon pack drive forwards cohesively. From the next breakdown, Hassall saw an opening for Callum Findlay to run on to, but the latter was cruelly judged to be off side, so the second scoring chance for the Blues went begging.
After some even exchanges, Ripon seemed well in the contest and the likes of Graham, Findlay and Butler were making strong advances with ball in hand. Plant entered the fray to make a difference in the scrums and also made great efforts carrying at every opportunity. Mainey continued to probe and Hassall looked to use the wind cleverly to Ripon’s advantage. At 28 minutes however, Slator suffered the indignity of a yellow card for a potentially dangerous tackle and that had a demoralising impact on the team, who were doing so well up to then.
From the penalty restart, Goole opted to run and at the first breakdown, despite an obvious knock on by the Scrum Half, the referee waved play on and allowed the home Centre to canter in unopposed for the host’s second try, whilst the visitors remained like statues dumbfounded. Scoring under the posts, the conversion attempt was easy despite the wind and took the score to 12 – 5.
The closing minutes of the half saw Ripon fighting back strongly, but despite another penalty touch kick, messed up a second line out. Butler did well to recover the situation with an interception between the home half backs, which he hacked on. Euan Findlay chased the kick manfully, but the wind cruelly carried the ball dead and despite further attempts to threaten the hosts, the first half ended with Ripon 12 – 5 down.
Not despondent by any means, the Ripon half time talk was around consistency, strength in defence and belief in attack. What then followed was a dream restart in anyone’s imagination. Hassall kicked off for Ripon and forced the defence into a hastily executed kick out. Leeming hanging deep in his own half and close to the touchline fielded the ball perfectly and outstripped the chasers to run in unopposed over 50 metres and touch down for Ripon’s second try within a minute of the restart. “Not bad for a 33 year old” was the comment offered by the perpetrator as he wandered back down the touchline. Into the wind, Williams struggled with the conversion and so the score remained at 12 – 10.
Goole soon got back into the game and after a further six minutes earned a penalty from Ripon hands on the floor. The kick to the left touchline gave the hosts a strong attacking line out opportunity. Prepared for the catch and drive, Ripon lined up the defence close in. Seeing the space out wide, the Goole 10 whacked a long ball over for the Right Wing to run on to. Callum was just short of the intercept, but the unconverted try extended the home lead to 19 – 10.
The next ten minutes saw the hosts exploit every error by Ripon and every 50/50 bounce of the ball, to extend their lead by a further two converted tries and a penalty to take the score to a flattering 36 – 10 within 15 minutes of the second half. Undeterred, the Blues attacked with courage and continued to make good yards through enterprising phases of play.
At the 68 minute mark, strong running by Euan and Graham, saw the latter power over for Ripon’s third try and perhaps a lifeline. Williams managed the conversion into the stiff breeze with the aid of the woodwork to take the score to 36 – 17.
Playing a full 10 minutes of injury time, one could be forgiven for thinking that the referee was just intent on allowing Goole a further chance to score rather than Ripon. During those minutes, Ripon were penalised incessantly and Goole attacked mercilessly. After successive line threats, penalties and sheer bludgeoning the Ripon line, Goole finally added to their score-line in the 50th minute with a further converted try to give them an emphatic 43 – 17 win, though not reflective of Ripon’s input to the game.
There will doubtless be more changes to the Ripon line up next week but nobody from this week’s squad need feel that they gave anything less than their best.
Next week Ripon travel to West Park Leeds in a Yorkshire Silver Trophy match and hope to find sufficient form to avenge the narrow defeat suffered in the first game of the season. Kick off 3.00pm and all supporters welcome to get behind Ripon and cheer them on.