1st XV Match Report - Saturday 6th October
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
A refreshing change in the weather brought a refreshing change in Ripon’s fortunes. From the cool and damp of the week emerged a bright and sunny day and a largely bright and sunny performance from the Blues. Against popular opinion and many betting people, Ripon put in a strong performance of individual and team collaborative efforts to proceed through to the next stage of this competition via an emphatic victory over West Park Leeds.
There is much discussion over the credibility and validity of the current cup competition structure. Ripon however, willingly participate in the programme and taking each game as it comes, will endeavour to play available players and compete as necessary for club pride and the enjoyment of the game. This week therefore was no different from the previous five weeks of the season, in that a further six personnel changes were made, as well as at least four positional reorganisations. Whilst almost “running on vapours” as far as strength in depth is concerned, Ripon still managed to field a strong squad of competent, energetic and committed players. Full credit due therefore to the members of the squad still standing and the coaching team who commit week in week out, to mould them into an effective force.
Recent results have not gone Ripon’s way and not through lack of trying. Personnel issues as well as on pitch performances have led to a difficult start to the season. This weekend however, was a Cathartic realisation that the squad had sufficient talent, ability and commitment to take the game by the scruff of its neck and turn in a Sterling Silver, if not Solid Gold display.
This week’s squad changes reflected a return to action for some members of skipper Barker’s cultural mission to Hungary last weekend. International relationships remain intact and all “ambassadors” were allowed back into the UK without charges, or blemishes to the reputation of Ripon RFC. The images of quite how the missionaries described their sporting passion and prowess to the locals, must leave much to the imagination. Suffice to say that the Ripon pack was bolstered by the return of Barker and Newcombe to beef up the set piece and offer some go forward in possession. Slator and Payne added the luxury of front row options on the bench and Eddleston provided youthful exuberance to wherever he entered the game.
Big boys Butler and Graham dropped from the pack to create an experimental Centre pairing, designed to punch holes and build barriers and that they did for most of the game. The reintroduction of Seal at 10 and Buckley at Full Back completed this week’s re-shuffle. Most reports would from here on in, recall a blow by blow account of the game. However and not wanting to gloat, the eight try extravaganza that followed, was mesmerising and to be honest, difficult to keep track of. What follows is as much as could be retained from a brilliant team performance, which whilst not perfect, gave Ripon an opportunity to show their individual, unit and team skills to an appreciative audience. To play as well as they did in all departments is such a big boost to confidence for a side seemingly struggling. More positive performances like this will encourage greater confidence and more strength in depth in the squad will promote competition for places.
In fine conditions and with a sizeable travelling Ripon contingent, the visitors kicked off up the slope and into the wind. The hosts cleared well to offer the Blues their first bite at the ball. The line out went according to plan with Taylor Jnr leaping like a Salmon to release quick ball to the right field. Butler carried well, ably supported by Barker, before releasing Buckley to open the scoring with a try within the first minute. Seal added the conversion to take Ripon to 0 – 7. Game on!
During the next ten minutes, Ripon pounded mercilessly at the home defence. Three try scoring chances went begging through indiscipline, or basic errors and let the hosts off the hook too easily.
Ripon’s set piece however, grew in confidence and power from the outset in the scrum, dominated by the not insubstantial Plant, Newcombe and Sadler, and did all kinds of damage. At the line out, Taylor and Pritchard ruled the roost, with own throws secure and a number of steals to their credit. At the breakdown, Ripon edged the turnovers, though were guilty of poor discipline during a period of the first half. Overall, the Ripon penalty count remained at a creditable single figure count of nine for the whole game.
At 15 minutes, Ripon exerted sufficient pressure to create a scrum situation for the hosts on their five metre line. A quick strike and lightening break out of defence saw the hosts scream away in a counter attack. Quick thinking by Tom Leeming stopped his opposite number and turned over possession to Ripon’s advantage. Quickly regathering, the Ripon backs aligned on Seal to release Graham for a smashing break, before looping a pass out for Callum Findlay to scamper in for try number two. Seal was unlucky to miss the conversion attempt to leave the score at 0 – 12.
At the end of the first quarter, the game was paused to deal with a muscle tear suffered by the referee. After much deliberation between various parties, a replacement was agreed on and the game continued in earnest with a new official.
At 36 minutes, Barker who was clearly invigorated by his visit to Budapest, was instrumental in a turnover that saw Graham and Butler handle twice each in a counter attack before sending Callum Findlay in for his second try. Seal added the conversion to take the score to 0 – 19.
West Park Leeds got the bit between their teeth for the last few minutes of the half and pressed home a solid attack to score an unconverted try to make the half time score 5 – 19.
Playing into the wind and up the slope, one would imagine that Ripon would struggle somewhat. However, due to the injection of pace and mobility with the likes of Payne, Slator and Eddleston from the bench, the intensity of The Blues’ game just increased.
What followed was a ruthless execution of superiority by Ripon. The hosts tried gamefully to resist, but the five try to nil display by Ripon showed just what the squad is capable of. Admittedly there will be teams who will defend more strongly, but with a confident set piece and creative backs, the rest of the cup run looks exciting, as do the prospects for regaining some pride in the league standings.
Further tries in the second half came from: Taylor, Pritchard, Euan Findlay x 2 and Tom Graham. Seal added three conversions and Hamish Mainey added one to position himself on the scoreboard for the first time.
The second half, whilst not wishing to detract from the hosts’ performance, was a credit to good communications, teamwork and sheer determination. None of the scores were easy and at no stage in the game was the team complacent. Such character as displayed here will stand well for the weeks and months to come.
Next week Ripon return to Yorkshire Division Two action and look forward to hosting Yarnbury. Kick off 3.00pm and all supporters welcome to get behind Ripon and cheer them on.