1st XV Match Report - Saturday 30th September 2017
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
In looking for the origins of the expression “Not much to write home about”, research revealed no specific event in history that inspired it. Well, that can change from this weekend onwards as Ripon’s performance was exactly that and may well work its way into the history books. Wath upon Dearne is never an easy place to play at. Hospitality off the field is just marvellous and one couldn’t wish to meet a more accommodating and sociable club. On the field, the hospitality takes on a different mantle and one should expect fierce competition at all stages of the game, including the odd “clash of heads”. Such is the spirit of Rugby Football and seemingly more harm done to the swinging “head” than the recipient’s!
So, at Wath, on their park pitch, the partisan supporters, the ice cream van and oh yes; the drizzle, amazingly turned on after the match started; Ripon succumbed to everything bad about playing at Wath. Surprisingly though, some common themes were developing in Ripon’s game that were reminiscent of last week’s home defeat and the previous week’s away loss.
That common theme was an overarching lack of killer instinct, underpinned by inconsistent leadership and decision making. Ripon remains a club proud of its history and sustainability with a blossoming age grade section; but the debuts of the likes of Under 18 year olds Charlie Britton and Charlie Graham, were sadly overshadowed by a lack lustre team performance. Individually, the two teenagers shone with their efforts and commitment, but overall, they were unable to make any impact on the score-line.
A not all bad, but somewhat disjointed display, saw Ripon struggle to provide a consistently solid platform at the set piece for quality first phase possession. Sadler beefed up the scrum for a while, Lister played his usual athletic best in the line out, Gary Nicholson was solid from the base of the scrum and Rob Nicholson an inspiration in the loose. Out wide, Seal played a safe game out of position at Full Back and Charlie Graham made the most yards in attack as well as tackling furiously.
What led to Ripon’s demise was the inability to look after the ball from first phase and gift the hosts with accidental possession, which they unselfishly converted into points. Too many handling errors or missed kicks, or simply being allowed to be turned over; allowed Wath so many life lines to build on their already emphatic own possession.
Ripon kicked off and a home mistake in the reception saw the Blues press up to forcing Wath into a hastily despatched touch kick. With a line out on the home five metre line within a minute of kick off, the odds looked good for Ripon, but a communication error resulted in a home clearance and a break out by Wath. Play progressed into the Ripon half and with frantic touch line battles, Ripon lost a further line out put in.
With five metres to the Ripon line in less than five minutes play, Wath caught and drove and opened the scoring at 7 – 0 with a converted try.
Ripon attempted to respond positively from the restart and with Gilchrist and Charlie Graham adding many yards through well timed line breaks, looked to be getting back into the game. Wath however, sought to exploit Ripon’s inability to string more than three phases together, to press back and add a penalty goal at twelve minutes to make the score 12 – 0.
Ripon responded positively after that and for a good ten minutes, showed some composure and determination. An interception in open play by Karl Craven saw him make good yardage down the middle. Eventually brought down, but forcing the defence to clear for touch, Ripon had an opportunity to redress the balance. From the line out, Lister caught and the pack drove on. The defence eased the maul infield, so when the ball was released, Craven was up on Watkinson’s shoulder to take the close pass and crash through the last five metres of defence. Guy Watkinson added the conversion to lessen the pain to 10 – 7.
The remainder of the half saw Ripon trying to gain some order, but stout defence from Wath, poor communications and increasingly inclement weather, just didn’t get them going. Wath however, continued to react better to opportunities and gradually increased their hold on the game with two further tries, one of which was converted; to make the half time score 25 – 7.
Seemingly nothing in either side’s team talks made any difference and the second half was a dour affair of two sides trying perhaps too hard to play Rugby in worsening conditions. Neither side looked like scoring and Wath held on to their precious points, whilst Ripon played a good defensive game. The score-less second half spoke volumes about Wath’s lack of penetration and Ripon’s lack of cohesion. Wath, to their credit came within striking distance to miss a penalty goal attempt, but neither side had any tries left in them. Not much to write home about.
There remain in the squad and considering how many players have started so far this season and become injured; many talented players and the squad has a great future as and when everyone gets into the same mind-set they were at the start of the season.
Next Saturday, Ripon entertain a strongly fancied Barnsley side at Mallorie Park, with whom the Blues have had mixed fortune over the past few seasons. Another good turn out on the training pitch on Thursday would be good to get the squad into a more cohesive frame of mind and might help to yield a more favourable performance and result on the field. Kick off 3.00pm, all support welcome.