1st XV Match Report - Saturday 10th March 2018
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
In milder weather conditions than of recent weeks and despite a very heavy playing surface, Ripon eagerly anticipated the return match versus in-form Goole to build on the 10 – 10 draw from earlier in the season. Whilst only increasing the score-line by two points, Ripon not only showed a welcome return to winning ways after a long, bleak winter, but also showed courage and determination to come back from 0 – 10 down at half time to run out worthy winners of a very challenging match.
With an effective scrum, beefed up by the return of Mark Greenwood and recall of the legendary Mark Sadler in the front row, the Blues were going to be in a much stronger position to secure all of their own first phase ball and threaten the opposition somewhat. That happened as planned from the outset and there can be no greater pleasure than seeing the blue scrum steady and advancing again. Not quite restored to former glory, but a great start. Other changes in the pack, saw a starting berth for U18 Flanker Will Smith, after previously benching and an opportunity for Dom Butler to make his mark at Number 8.
The back line saw no changes from the last two selections and with a second U18, utility forward Will Pritchard making his debut on the bench, the side had an encouraging balance of youth and experience. Coach Pete Taylor’s willingness to take up the third bench position was testament to his enthusiasm to play his part, or perhaps solid belief that the youngsters would carry the day. That they did, with Smith turning in an heroic performance from start to finish and Pritchard making a huge impact on the last 30 minutes, with his solid defence and powerful carrying. Definitely two fine forwards to watch for the future.
Games aren’t always won up front however, and as long as the back division does the right thing in attack and defence, great team working can have a positive outcome. Thus emerged a game of two halves in which Ripon perhaps tried too hard to play in the first period, rather than controlling possession and working the percentages. Goole however, used their youth, pace and all round hungriness to exploit chinks in the home armour and so scored two breakaway tries in the first half, both mercifully unconverted. The second half was conversely, largely Ripon.
Making steady inroads to build up phases and launching pacey attacks when safe to do so. The magic boot of Bob Whitaker being stymied by the woodwork on his first conversion attempt and assisted by the very same on his second. The two point lead at full time was a welcome relief to all and whilst not affecting Ripon’s league standing, opened up the points gap between them and the bottom three sides and therefore giving more of an air of security than was evident after recent less successful games. Critically the difference between the two sides, was Ripon’s composure and discipline under pressure and perhaps one for Goole to look into, their persistent indiscipline and penalty count?
Goole kicked off into the still, dank air, in front of a modest crowd obviously uninterested in watching Ireland’s march towards a Grand Slam success in the clubhouse. Appreciation goes to those who stayed out to the bitter end and offered the support and encouragement to both teams.
Ripon’s kick off reception was not executed too well and gifted the opposition with possession from the outset. An indiscretion from the following breakdown saw Goole offered a penalty within the first minute of play, which they kicked to touch. The line out saw a visitors’ catch and drive, which petered out into a home turnover and a break out of defence.
Pressing steadily up-field, Ripon entered the visitors’ 22 metre area for the first time at 13 minutes. With a flurry of penalties given away in defence, Goole gifted Ripon with three penalty touch kicks, all of which led attempted drives, the first two of which led to further penalties and the third, to a break out by Goole. Unfortunately and unlucky for Ripon, the perfectly executed line outs, led to improperly formed mauls and so let the defence do their damage, albeit illegally. The final breakdown was just bad luck as an attempt to throw long to the tail of the line out, saw an overthrow and Goole snapped up the loose ball to attack at pace and spin the ball wide to the open side to the left. A chip and chase by the Goole Left Wing saw a tussle with Callum Findlay defending well, but the visitors’ cohesion in attack, saw the play enter the Ripon 22 before halting. A reminder of the pace and quality of the Goole back division and a reminder for Ripon to tighten up their game.
With Goole back in the Ripon danger zone, they stepped up their act and from the home clearance, sought to make the most of their line out put in. A quick ball off the top was fed out at pace and after two quickly recycled breakdowns, followed by a couple of tragic missed tackles, the Goole Right Wing scampered in to open the scoring for an unconverted try and for Goole to take the lead 0 – 5 after 15 minutes play.
From the restart the visitors attacked again at pace and got close to the home line through their Full Back, with Seal perfectly executing the try saving tackle. Being denied their second try was cruelly added to by the Goole Full Back suffering a head injury in the collision and being removed from the rest of the game. We wish him a speedy and full recovery. The ensuing breakdown saw a visitors’ offence of holding on to the ball and so Ripon were able to clear their lines through Guy Watkinson’s touch kick.
An interesting point at this stage is that Ripon have worked so hard on their “under pressure” penalty count and reduced it week on week, to a creditable single figure number for the last few outings. On this occasion, Ripon conceded 6 penalties, with only one in the second half and one yellow card for a repeat offence (twice). Goole however, conceded a massive 18 penalties, 10 in the second half and suffered three yellow cards for repeat offences. Fortunately for Goole, most of the offences were out of goal kicking range, or “Golden Boots” Whitaker might have had a field day.
Play continued for a further ten or so minutes, with no big deals. Scrums were even, lineouts generally went with put in and apart from a three minute purple patch in which Ripon gave away as many penalties, it was mainly Goole who tried and got penalised for offences and Ripon who tried too hard and lost possession. Just after the half hour mark however, Goole took advantage of Ripon’s momentary indiscipline and opted for two successive scrums from penalties. The ball was obviously getting heavier by the minute and touch and goal kicks getting less of an option. From the second scrum, Goole attacked left and their Left Wing touched down for their second unconverted try to take the score to 0 - 10.
With tails up, Goole attacked again from the restart and closed in on the home line, only to be thwarted by a knock on. Seemingly approaching half time (50 minutes was played in the first half) Ripon fought back up-field and got into a seriously threatening position again. Again Goole indiscipline led to penalties and with two touch kicks, again two attempted line out catch and drives were superbly defended against. The final opportunity to score came to Ripon, with the visitors’ backs caught off side from the last line out. What would normally be a “banker” for Whitaker, just nicked the woodwork to leave the score at 0 – 10.
The half time team talk for the Blues was about pride, commitment and making the most of their quality possession and what followed was a solid team performance with everyone shaping up and doing their duty.
Ripon kicked off the second half and put together some solid plays showing good control and effective game and positional management. Capitalising on the visitors’ indiscipline, the second half saw many opportunities to take quick penalties and exploit the fact that for most of the half, Goole only had 14 players on the pitch. Something therefore had to give. Harrison started early on, with a classic mercurial run, only to be unable to complete the touchdown.
Shutting out Goole’s attacking options was the first priority to be achieved and then realising Ripon’s potential in attack was the next objective. With the entry of Will Pritchard to the game, the injection of pace, youthful exuberance and energy, was bound to make a difference and so it did. On 23 minutes into the half, a line out win by Britton saw the ball shifted quickly to the left. Josh Seal came into the line at pace and after rounding one defender, chipped across to the left wing. Rob Harrison was there on cue to beat the full back to the touch down to open Ripon’s scoring. Whitaker was able to lift the ball out of the mud sufficiently for it to bounce over the cross bar to edge the score to 7 – 10.
Play continued in Ripon’s favour and more indiscretions from the visitors increased the hosts’ opportunities to attack from penalty situations. Watkinson gamefully attempted a long range goal attempt at 26 minutes, but without success. With further yellow cards awarded to Goole players, the visitors’ bench looked in danger of exceeding the crowd numbers at this point, and so the last few minutes of the game (perhaps a 46 minute second half), saw Ripon offered ample opportunities to compose themselves and take the game to a positive conclusion.
The perfect opportunity arose after five minutes of stoppage time, with Goole down to 13 men and Ripon offered a penalty in front of the posts. Knowing that only a try would do, Skipper Barker opted for a scrum and as planned, it worked. The ball was shipped left with minimal effort and Harrison exploited the overlap to run in for his brace and to put Ripon into the lead. The conversion attempt from the left wing was academic, it being the last play of the e game, but on a drier pitch, Whitaker would surely have made the kick work. No regrets however and no stinting on effort from anyone as the final score showed a creditable 12 – 10 win. Commiserations to Goole and we wish them well in their aspirations to move up the table.
Next Saturday, Ripon entertain Halifax Vandals, who the Blues also drew against earlier in the season. Vandals will clearly be looking to claw their way out of the relegation zone and Ripon will also aspire to continue with their return to form. All support very welcome and with spring in the air, we hope that the pitches begin to resemble dry land. Kick offs are all at 3.00pm for the rest of the season.