1st XV Match Report - Saturday 8th September
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
Aspiring to their first win in five encounters with local rivals Wetherby, Ripon welcomed the visitors to a gloomy and drizzly Mallorie Park. The incessant rain dominated the first half, but didn’t prevent either side from trying to play a decent game and didn’t spoil the continuity of play either way. Ripon fielded a very different looking squad from last week, let alone the tail end of last season, employing a subtle combination of youth and experience. With 1st XV debuts for Slator at Prop, Mainey at Scrum Half and utility forward Ranson on the bench, Ripon were happy to ring the changes from last week and the inclusion of veterans Pete Taylor and Craig Wolloms, guaranteed some nous up front. Wetherby also sought to exploit their successful youth policy by including four current or recent Colts in their line-up.
Whilst the weather didn’t cause too much damage to handling options, both sides never really got into a successful groove and apart from a strong scrum, Wetherby didn’t manage to dominate overall. Ripon had a good line out and flashes of brilliance with straight running at times, always threatened, but stout defence by the visitors reduced the scoring options. The final score line of three tries to four, was befitting testament to Wetherby’s determination to get a result, particularly in light of their being reduced to 13 players at one point and suffering the indignity of three yellow cards overall. Ripon’s failure to capitalise on such manpower advantages must be a significant learning point for the future.
Ripon’s attempt to take advantage from the kick off with a sly feint left then kick right, went horribly wrong, with the kick going out on the full. The ensuing scrum from the halfway line saw the Wetherby Number 8 run freely for 30 metres before them playing on a couple of phases to the home 5 metre line. A needless penalty gave the visitors a line out throw in from which successive drives saw them open the scoring at 3 minutes with an unconverted try to take the lead 0 – 5.
A second poor restart kick saw the Blues on the defensive again and despite many opportunities, were denied any form of quality possession for the rest of the first quarter. Instrumental in attempting to gain some go-forward, were Newcombe and Barker, with Butler and McDaniel defending and counter-attacking with passion. Despite best efforts, the penalty count was clocking up against Ripon and at 20 minutes, the visitors extended their lead to 0 – 8 with a well struck penalty goal.
Again the restart didn’t yield any possession for Ripon and again, Wetherby set about attacking through phases. At 29 minutes, the visitors gained territorial advantages through successive penalty kicks and suspecting a weakness in the home scrum, looked for a chance to score again. The 5 metre scrum for Wetherby was beyond doubt and the visitors increased their score again with a converted try to take the score to 0 – 15.
Salvaging some pride and honour, Josh Seal saw home Ripon’s only scoring chance of the half with a penalty goal to make the score at the break 3 - 15.
Stern, but motivating words at half time saw Ripon sprint out of the blocks from the restart to put the visitors under real pressure for the first time in the game. What followed for the rest of the half, was a sterling performance by Ripon that whilst not making the most of territorial and player advantages and suffering somewhat in the scrums; made the most of attacking and counter-attacking chances to win the second session by three tries to two.
Keeping possession well from the kick off reception, Ripon attacked from depth and in a move that saw Jimmy McDaniel (playing out of position at 13) appear twice in a move, which involved Butler running hard over 20 metres, to cross the visitor’s line for Ripon’s first try of the day. Seal slotted the conversion over with room to spare, to take the score to 10 – 15.
Replying strongly, Wetherby fought back into the Ripon half and after 10 minutes started to threaten the line. After a hastily recovered defensive touch down, Wetherby successfully progressed their 5 metre scrum to within inches of the line. In a mad scramble in which the visitors’ Number 8 lost the ball and Mainey touched down, the referee then allowed a Wetherby try. With no advantage of a television match official, the score stood and justice was served by the conversion going wide to take the score to 10 – 20.
Putting the visitors under pressure from the next restart, Ripon swiftly regained possession and set about some good phases of play, with the likes of Nicholson and Payne featuring strongly with their direct running. After a string of passes right then left, Butler appeared in open ground with two men to beat and two supporters either side. Selling the most audacious of dummies, Butler ploughed on through for Ripon’s second try, which Seal duly converted to take the score to a tantalising 17 – 20.
As the game entered the final quarter, Wetherby showed a clear advantage at the scrum and sought to systematically disrupt any attempts to use this as a launch-pad for attacks. From here on in, the Ripon scrum put in was a mere formality before Wetherby shunted them off the ball and progressed their attacks. At 35 minutes, Wetherby secured such possession to launch another attack down the left, that saw a number of missed tackles let in Wetherby’s fourth and bonus point earning try. The conversion attempt narrowly missed to keep the score at 17 – 25.
Ripon bounced back from the setback with encouraging fighting spirit and pressed towards the Wetherby line. From a penalty touch kick, the Ripon line out held firm and quick ball to the right, saw Nicholson make some hard yards before releasing McDaniel for his second try of the game. Seal narrowly missed the conversion to take the final score to 22 – 25.
Despite Ripon’s best efforts to retain possession from the restart and build on their attacking confidence, the injury time last chance attack fizzled out with a simple handling error. From the scrum Wetherby kicked to touch and finally, it was all over. No disgrace for Ripon by any means, but a message perhaps in needing a solid scrum for 80 minutes and in developing an instinct to exploit the advantage of oppositions losing players through yellow cards.
Overall, Ripon have a huge talent pool to draw on and a great reputation to take forward. The difficulty seems however, to maximise the availability of players to choose from. Having sufficient players for one team only, is not sustainable and so “a call to arms” for each and every playing member to commit to making themselves available for selection, is essential.
Next week Ripon travel to newly promoted Old Otliensians, with both sides seeking their first win of the campaign. Kick off 3.00pm and all travelling supporters welcome.