1st XV Match Report - 9th September 2017
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
Despite making hard work of this entertaining encounter, Ripon sealed their second successive victory of the season and secured the first of hopefully many weeks in the top three places of Yorkshire Division Two.
The visitors came to Ripon on the back of an opening defeat and seeming uncertainty over their starting line-up. Ripon however, were confident from their narrow victory the previous week, that further work on the training field would increase their chances of a more emphatic win. Bolstered by the return of last year’s skipper Adam Newcombe to the front row and athletic Jonty Lister to the second row; plus the “Get him while you can” selection of Joe Rowntree at Scrum Half, not to mention the unleashing of the havoc commonly known a Euan Findlay; Ripon looked capable of winning a significant amount of first and further phase possession and distributing it effectively.
Before a disappointingly small crowd, despite the patronage of the Bishop Monkton supporters and in fear of autumnal cloudbursts, Ripon set out to do a job and that they did. Apart of course from gifting the opposition with undeserved possession on three occasions, one of which resulted in a penalty try to the visitors after only four minutes. That aside, generally the first quarter was pretty much all Ripon in attack and the mouth-watering prospect of an emphatic home win was palpable.
Grovians to their credit, competed purposefully at the scrum and so the “go forward” from the base, wasn’t really an option for Ripon. Conversely, the visitor’s competitiveness at the set-piece initially gave them a life line and then as the game progressed, gave them a launch pad to get back into the game with a vengeance.
From the kick off, Ripon looked organised and hungry, pressuring the visitors into their own territory. At three minutes, Ripon won a line out in the visitors’ 22 metre area and a miscommunication saw an interception between Rowntree and Scull by the Grovians’ Number 8. The ball travelled quickly to the visitors’ right and was then hacked on downfield. A disagreement over possession of the loose ball, between Tom Leeming and the Grovians Right Wing, saw an accusation of barging from the referee and the award of a penalty try to the visitors. Under the new law changes, an immediate advantage fell to the opposition with the automatic addition of a conversion to given them a 7 -0 lead with fewer minutes played.
Ripon then got a grip and showed what an effective attacking force they could be. From one to fifteen, the side played with fluency and commitment that saw the opposition on the back foot for the rest of the first quarter.
A reply on the scoreboard was soon forthcoming at seven minutes, when Butler turned over a kick reception and set off down the left wing. From the breakdown, Rowntree hit Richard Scull at full tilt, on a perfect line towards the posts. Adjusting his line slightly to the left to wrong foot the cover, Scull crossed the line with ease and in converting his own try, put The Blues on level pegging.
From the restart, Ripon attacked again and after a couple of phases, Jonty Lister made a Gazelle like gallop down the middle before handing over to Gilchrist, who was hauled down just short of the visitors’ line. Going for safety, Grovians conceded the five metre scrum, which saw Joe Rowntree make a telling break to leave the defence flat footed and run in for Ripon’s second try under the posts. Scull made no mistake of the conversion to put Ripon 14 – 7 in the lead and a seemingly more slippery slope for the visitors to climb.
Attacking again from the restart, Ripon settled into fifth gear and started to dominate the loose encounters, with fluid passing and free running. At 19 minutes, Euan Findlay powered through several attempted tackles to streak up the left wing. At the breakdown, Scull with all the time in the world, checked out Tom Leeming unmarked on the far wing and let loose the perfect cross kick. The outcome was inevitable the moment the ball left Scull’s boot. “Safe Hands” Leeming caught the ball on the full and scampered in for Ripon’s third try in the right hand corner. With a difficult angle, Scull narrowly missed the conversion, but the 19 – 7 lead was looking more comfortable by the minute.
As Grovians struggled to stay in the game, the inevitable run of penalties ensued and at 27 minutes a visitors’ Flanker was yellow carded for not rolling away. Ripon responded better to the power play position than last week and within moments, Findlay was off again down the pitch with ball in hand and knocking the defence over like skittles. Once finally slowed down, Findlay offloaded to Audsley-Beck in close support. Again, a last ditch tackle prevented a further score.
Not deterred, Ripon again attacked from a quick line o
ut delivery, which saw simple handling at pace, put Tom Newby in for Ripon’s fourth and bonus point winning try in the right corner. Scull added the conversion to conclude Ripon’s scoring and seemingly winning ways for the rest of the first half.
With ten minutes to go, Grovians played like men possessed and hammered at Ripon with some vigour. From a penalty kick to touch, the ensuing line-out saw the visitors hoping to drive over the line to finish with some credit. A quick steal from Lister however, allowed Rowntree to touch down for safety and offer the opposition the put in to a five metre scrum. Despite their best efforts, the visitors could not break down the home defence, but they looked like they suddenly wanted a game and shades of last week’s turnaround of fortunes for Ripon at Thorne sprung to mind.
The second half started well enough, with Ripon attacking from the kick off reception. With the attack breaking down just short of the visitors’ line, the second cruel blow of the game was dealt to Ripon. Uncharacteristically slow to get on side at a ruck, skipper Barker was adjudged to be impeding play and so was sin-binned at five minutes. From then on, Grovians played with passion and purpose to dominate the third quarter, resulting in a converted try and penalty goal.
Ripon gathered their composure later on and early on in the final quarter of the game, in open play, Scull took on the attack and bouncing off defenders easily, ran in for Ripon’s fifth and his second try of the game. The conversion in front of the posts then took Ripon to what looked to be a comfortable score line of 33 – 17.
Grovians however, were determined to finish the game with pride and launched several attacks and stifled Ripon’s possession to run a further converted try in with two minutes to go. The Blues then weathered the final storm and held out worthy winners at 33 – 24 to put them into third place in the division.
Still some questions to be asked and answered, but if Ripon can start as well and sustain their efforts for 80 minutes, some very decent results will follow.
Next Saturday, Ripon travel to Old Crossleyans to improve on this week and consolidate their league place. Kick off 3.00pm, all support welcome.