1st XV Match Report - Saturday 6th January
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
After a break of just over a month, this was a welcome return to Rugby for Ripon and with a relatively stable and well trained side, the Blues were hoping to put a stop to losing ways and start the second half of the season with a bang. Unfortunately Old Crossleyans had other ideas and whilst never looking like scoring a try, gave the home team a solid masterclass in ball retention and multi-phase play. Ripon on the contrary, were dominant in all aspects of first phase possession, but simply couldn’t put any continuity of cohesion into their plays. Countless breaks and significant advances made good ground, but failed through dispossession in the tackle, turnovers and critically timed handling errors.
The score-line of one penalty try to Ripon against three penalty goals to the visitors, spoke volumes as to the closeness and intensity of the game. Ripon defended resolutely throughout and apart from one break, effectively snuffed out the Visitor’s danger man, Number 8 Hammond. In the clash of the Titans at Number 8, Ripon’s own Dudley Stead made hard yards from the base of the scrum, as well as in the open. Other individual efforts were notable, with James Audsley-Beck getting more than his usual share of possession and the likes of Dalby and Newcombe carrying hard for the short yards. Outstanding however for Ripon, was man of the match Mark Greenwood at Prop, for his tireless tackling, powerful scrummaging and relentless work rate in support.
Not a poor display by any means, but one in which Ripon secured good solid possession, but simply couldn’t find their rhythm when it counted. Up against a Crossleyans side, who just kept it short and simple, Ripon spent long spells defending against sustained attacks and so perhaps rushed their opportunities to counter. With a strong scrum and line out, Ripon will take heart from their ability to secure solid first phase ball and be able to compete fiercely with any future opponents.
On a cold afternoon, with a heavy pitch, this wasn’t going to be a game for the purist, or one expecting some dazzling back moves. As the pitch became heavier, it was going to be more about who could hold on to the ball longest and in that element of the competition, the visitors won hands down. Ripon kicked off with the sun at their backs and immediately took advantage of a poor reception and attempted to pin the visitors in their won half. Through dogged determination and about 12 phases of unbroken play over the next five minutes, Crossleyans battered their way up-field to reach the Ripon 10 metre line. An uncharacteristic handling error gave Ripon their first scrum put in at 5 minutes, after which they were gifted with their first penalty. Watkinson found touch deep back in the visitor’s half and from the line out, made some good yards through Nicholson and Dalby, before another penalty offence halted play. The next penalty touch kick took Ripon tantalisingly close to the Crossleyans’ line, but the attempted catch and drive was thwarted by the visitors breaking away, forcing Ripon into being accidentally off side. The following scrum allowed Crossleyans to clear their lines and push Ripon out of striking range.
At fifteen minutes, another solid Ripon scrum saw Stead break blind for 10 metres and from the ensuing ruck, Whitaker banged the ball deep into the visitor’s half. James Audsley-Beck was odds on to make the touch down before being barged off the ball by his opponent and so the referee had no option but to award the penalty try and yellow card the offending Winger. Thus Ripon entered the second quarter with no penalties conceded and a 7 – 0 lead.
Crossleyans then stepped up their pace and within minutes were pressing up to the home 22 metre line, again through multiple phases of possession, slick offloading and short range passing. The pressure was being soaked up, but inevitably Ripon began to crack and on the half hour mark a penalty for tackler not rolling away, was rewarded by Crossleyans opening their score with a penalty goal to make it 7 – 3.
A further indiscretion in the tackle at 38 minutes, saw Crossleyans add to their score with another penalty goal to take the score to 7 – 6.
Despite a late flurry, Ripon weren’t able to make any significant inroads against the opposition and the first half ended with no further score.
Without wishing to detract from the heroic efforts of both sets of players in combatting the cold, the mud and each other at times, the second half was a pretty unremarkable slug-fest. Both sides battered away at each other for the full 40 minutes and despite bringing “fresh legs” on from the bench, the attrition continued. The only break for Crossleyans was a solitary penalty goal midway through the third quarter to take the lead at 7 - 9.
Fortunately for Ripon and a true test of their character, their discipline really tightened up in the second half and only conceded three penalties in the whole 40 minutes. Unfortunately however, the same applied to Crossleyans and therefore opportunities to either break out, or kick further points were fewer and further between.
One such rare opportunity arose with just 10 minutes left to play and Bob Whitaker stepped up before a silent crowd to attempt a penalty goal to retake the lead. Was it the heavy ground, or exhaustion, or just bad luck? We will never know, but the attempt just slipped uncharacteristically wide of the near post and left the opposition in the lead through to the final whistle.
A disappointing conclusion to a well fought game by both sides.
Next Saturday, Ripon travel to local rivals Wetherby, with an aim to return to winning ways. Not only to strengthen their position in the league, but also stop Wetherby’s record of three successive wins versus the Blues in Yorkshire Division Two so far. Kick off at Grange Park is 2.15pm, all supporters continue to be very welcome.