1st XV Match Report - 2nd September 2017
MATCH REPORT BY BOB CHAMPION
Ripon headed to sunny South Yorkshire keen to demonstrate the learning from their three pre-season warm up games and embark on a successful campaign in Yorkshire Division Two.
What followed was a close-run game throughout, but testament to the resolve of the Ripon squad to pull back from 19 - 3 down at half time to grind out a lead in the second half and hang on to it despite many attempts by the hosts to score and to win by the narrowest of margins.
Thornensians were the pundits’ clear favourites and obviously felt confident of their power and pace. Despite their size however, Thorne struggled at the scrum, with the might of Dalby and the evergreen Sadler, showing the way in the front row. After a shaky start, Ripon dominated this area of the game throughout and caused the hosts no end of problems. Behind the scrum, Ripon made experience, talent and sheer determination count against much bigger and more powerful opponents. Poor discipline was the host’s downfall and sticking to the game plan in the face of adversity won the day for Ripon, which with the 2nd XV also winning their away game at Thorne, was the first of hopefully many “Blue Rinses” of the season.
Two areas of concern for Ripon, which need some urgent attention, were the line out, which just didn't gel for most of the game and then in open play, defending against the offload. Too many first-time tackles were missed, which allowed the opposition to gain much ground unnecessarily. The line out, normally a certainty for quality attacking options, didn’t “get off the ground” on many occasions and gifted the opposition with valuable possession. Had the hosts got a more reliable goal kicker and had they been more disciplined in one to one encounters, the score line could have been very different.
Indecision at the opening kick-off gifted Thornensians with a first touch of the ball and they immediately set of for the Ripon line at pace, through some slick passing. In their efforts to slow down the attack, the visitors inevitably conceded a penalty, which the thankfully out of form home Fly Half, drifted wide.
Four minutes after that restart Thorne knocked on giving Ripon their first scrum of the game, which due to a communications breakdown, they lost against the head. The burly Thorne Number 8 capitalised on the unexpected possession and broke left. Within two quick passes, the Thorne left wing sprinted in to open the scoring with an unconverted try.
The next twenty minutes saw some enterprising but unsuccessful midfield exchanges from both teams, but with the home side looking more comfortable and confident with ball in hand.
Thorne finally broke the deadlock at 27 minutes after a penalty to touch gave them the opportunity to try out their line out catch and drive. Despite valiant efforts, the Thorne juggernaut bulldozed its way to the line and with a converted try, took the score to 12 - 0.
Thorne pressed again from the restart and soon found themselves camped on the Ripon line again. This time the Ripon defence was rock solid and was saved by forcing a last moment knock on. The ensuing scrum saw Ripon break out of defence and then with further resolve to continue play, saw them approach the home 22 for the first time in the match. Their efforts rewarded by a well struck penalty goal by Richard Scull.
Thorne then started getting the worse of the referee, when he finally stopped tolerating their high tackling, dismissing the home fly half for such an offence. Any hopes however, of finishing the half with a more respectable score through the advantage of numbers, were soon lost when Ripon again fumbled the restart receipt after the penalty goal and again the home forwards pounced on the loose ball to catch Ripon flat footed. More slick inter-passing gave the hosts the momentum to score a further converted try and give them a creditable half time lead of 19 - 3.
Some heartening and motivational words were exchanged at half time, with skipper Barker passionately calling for more effort.
Ripon restarted strongly, but Thorne soon countered, almost to the extent of threatening a further score. The visitors bounced back however and through good support play and ferocious tackling, stifled any home attacks.
After five minutes of the second half, with Ripon just starting to get into the groove and exploit their powerful scrum, a cynical head high tackle saw scrum half Tom Graham removed from play 1st XV and the Thorne number eight sin binned for ten minutes when many thought the offense should have attracted a red card.
Finally making good use of the lack of Thorne players on the pitch, Ripon were able to turn over a Thorne attack, with Tom Newby finishing off a ruthlessly efficient handling move down the left wing to score Ripon’s opening try. Scull made no mistake of the conversion to move Ripon up to 19 - 10.
After twenty minutes, a third Thorne player was yellow carded for a further high tackle, this one laying out Gary Nicholson in his first game back with the club after a few years in the Midlands. Ever resolute, Nicholson returned to play, showing no signs of concussion.
Despite Ripon playing more cohesively, Thorne were soon gifted a further penalty opportunity, which pulled just wide. A let off for Ripon and a spur to focus on going for the win.
At 28 minutes, Ripon turned the opposition over again allowing James Audsley-Beck who was involved twice in the move having made the initial tackle, to score Ripon's second try, ably converted by Scull. With the score balanced at 19 - 20 in Ripon’s favour, the last 10 minutes saw Thorne throwing everything they had at the visitors.
The ”thin blue line” however held firm, with outstanding defensive play by all. The home side were even gifted a sitting duck penalty in the final minutes, but unexpectedly pushed the kick wide. Fighting out from their 22 in the dying seconds, Ripon were awarded a penalty, which Scull gratefully kicked off the park.
For Thorne, a valiant effort from a good side. Let down by poor discipline and inaccurate goal kicking, they look capable of much better. Ripon know their areas for development and will no doubt be working on them during the week.
Credit to what turned out to be a real test of character and a solid team performance. Ably contributed to by the likes of Sadler and Wolloms up front and Newby and Scull from behind, this was a good game to win at a difficult place to play at the best of times. Big credit also to Tom Gilchrist, who very ably took up the mantle of Scrum Half after Tom Graham’s departure.
Next Saturday, Ripon entertain Old Grovians for their first home league game of the season. Kick off 3.00pm, all support welcome.