1st XV Match Report Saturday 22nd April 2017
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
On a bright enough day, on perhaps the division’s finest playing surface and with plenty to play for, Ripon did many great things during the afternoon. They contended with a feisty opposition, who maybe wanted to make more of a mark on the game than they needed to. They dominated the set piece and in particular, the scrum, where the hosts were very much shadows of their former selves. They fielded a back line that was ball hungry, incisive, enterprising and skillful. They didn’t quite however end the season with as much of a bang as they wanted to, but they did give a keenly fought contest and a fitting send off to club stalwart Scrum Half Scott McAra; in his last game for the club before emigrating to Australia during the off season.
McAra, a no-nonsense, no-frills half back, has given sterling service to the club over many years. In and around the 1st XV squad, enthusiastic and uncomplaining, a credit to the true meaning of sportsmanship and the club wishes him well in his new venture. May he find another Rugby Club in Adelaide that will be just as proud of him in time as Ripon has.
With as good a side as any fielded so far this season, Ripon went into this game with two aims: to play to the best of their potential after perhaps the most successful season in a decade and to give Scott McAra a fitting send off. Alas the result was not quite as intended and was certainly not a reflection of Ripon’s dominance for so much of the game. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is about complacency and finishing. On so many occasions, ill-discipline, or minor errors, conceded penalties, or gifted away possession. If the club has aspirations of playing at a higher level, all these little niggles need to be eliminated. Great hopes therefore, for a restful, but thoughtful off-season, in which the players will recover from their wounds and take advantage of the opportunity to come back stronger, fitter and faster.
West Park Leeds kicked off the game, allowing Ripon to set up their counter. Unfortunately an error at a very early line out, gave the hosts possession and saw them attack to within inches of the visitors’ line. The one and only erroneous Ripon scrum, saw the ball lost from their second set piece and the hosts attacked wide out to the left. The ensuing line out was won by the hosts and in a flurry of fast running and quick hands, the home Right Wing ran in to touch down for the opening score on the 8 minute mark. The conversion missed.
The next ten minutes saw Ripon build up their strength at the scrum and improve in the line out, to create a number of fluent exchanges. Scull was ever keen to find the gaps and Seal ever present to exploit them. Too often however, the attacks broke down through lack of speedy support and unnecessary penalties for holding on too long. At the 20 minute mark, West Park Leeds broke Ripon’s pattern of play, to score a second runaway try, again not converted.
This spurred Ripon into action and they put together successful sequences of play, used the scrum to decent effect and probed through the speedy backs. Camped in the home 22 metre area, Ripon were offered four successive penalties, all of which they opted to scrummage, each breaking down in turn. On the fourth attempt, slick handling saw James Audsley-Beck set off on one of his characteristic runs to touch down for Ripon’s first try of the day at 30 minutes. Scull added the conversion.
Eight minutes later, Tom Leeming fielded a mighty kick, just in his half, to launch one of the finest counter attacks of the season. Linking with Audsley-Beck, the move progressed at pace towards the right side. Audsley-Beck offloaded infield to Tom Newby coming in off his wing, to finally gift Dom Butler with the touch down. A masterpiece of pace, communication and skill. Scull added the conversion to nudge Ripon ahead 10 – 14.
In the dying seconds of the first half, the hosts broke out of defence and had sufficient time to benefit from a penalty kick to touch and a rapid attack from the line out to touch down for their third unconverted try of the game and retake the lead to end 15 – 14.
Stern words were offered to both huddles at half time. Talk of pride, passion, discipline and will to win, echoed around the ground. The second half definitely took on a different mantle and it soon became evident that this was not just a game to either side and that both wanted to win.
In the second flash of brilliance of the afternoon, Ripon kicked off the second half with a well-rehearsed “funny”. Scull put just enough weight on the kick to the opposite side of the field for Seal to run onto. Seal offloaded to Butler and after a second one-two, Josh Seal unselfishly put Dom Butler in for his second try of the game to retake the lead. Scull again made no mistake of the conversion, all within one minute of the restart.
Unfortunately from the hosts’ restart, a visitor’s indiscretion offered a penalty opportunity to the hosts, which took them back to 18 – 21. Ripon then stepped up a gear and from a penalty on the 6th minute of the half, opted for the scrum again and launched Tom Leeming into the attack. Despite being chopped down, Leeming offloaded to Audsley-Beck, who again careered through the defence to touch down for Ripon’s fourth, final, but bonus point winning try. Scull was unlucky to hit the woodwork for the conversion attempt to fail.
At 18 – 26, Ripon knew there was still a game on, but the hosts pulled out all stops in the last quarter to run in a further three tries, two of which were converted. Maybe not a true reflection of Ripon’s forward domination and creativity, but another example of maybe a stronger will to win?
Of note, whilst the effervescent Euan Findlay was noted by the opposition as man of the match, Dave Robinson has to be mentioned in despatches for his sterling graft throughout the game. A true testament to grit, determination and fitness. May many others follow his role model, but not his interpretation of the off side law!
In ending this season, Ripon have finished in their strongest position in over a decade – at sixth, a top half place and not had to worry about other side’s results to avoid relegation. The squad has used less players than in the previous two seasons and therefore shows resilience in the individuals and consistency as far as performance is concerned. Credit to the commitment of the players as well as the coaching team for their unstinting efforts to plan and prepare for each game, as well as the club executive committee and all of the other volunteers and helpers, who keep the club afloat.