1st XV Match Report - Saturday 22nd September
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
The memories of times gone by, some good some bad and some very ugly, were reincarnated at Mallorie Park this weekend, both on and off the pitch. With unstinting support from match sponsors “The Grumpy Old Ruckers”, there was never going to be any lack of wisdom and advice, pre-match and from the touchline. Post-match critique remains largely unintelligible and unprintable. Credit to the “Old Contemptibles”, their advice, whilst mostly heeded and appreciated, didn’t quite inspire the potential home win that would have put paid to Ripon’s losing streak. It did however add to a warm and supportive atmosphere on the touchline and in the clubhouse, so long may such supportive events continue and long may the elder statesmen continue to support the club in this way.
In good conditions conducive to a decent handling game, Ripon were expecting to hold their own up front with a solid set piece and do some serious damage with an attack focused back division. Starting the evergreen Sadler and Wolloms in the front row, the back row was augmented by the recall of Dom Butler to the pack from his languishing in the Centres; Tom Graham picked to make an impact at Number 8 and birthday boy Rob Nicholson to wreak havoc wherever he went.
As the injury count and other unavailability increased, Ripon saw some solace in the return to the fray for experienced backs Tom Leeming and Ben Buckley after prolonged breaks and the recall of teenager Ollie Williams at Centre. Faith was kept in the half back pairing of Hassall and Mainey and impact players Sykes, Jack Newby and Rick Castle-Ward started on the bench.
Wath started the game with a deliberate ploy to test the Ripon scrum, with a kick off that went out on the full. Unfortunately the ploy worked and Ripon were shunted backwards at a rate of knots, resulting in a penalty against the home front row for standing up. The kick took the visitors deep into home territory and alarm bells were ringing with less than two minutes played.
The Wath line out saw a quickly organised catch and drive make 20 metres towards the home line before skipper Barker miraculously ripped the ball from the driving maul to set Newcombe off on a charge to take Ripon out of their 22 metre area. The break out was bundled into touch and offered Wath a further line out throw in. At just three minutes into the game, Wath caught the throw in well, but some disruptive work in the maul saw Nicholson break free to feed Graham and then Buckley to take the counter attack back into the visitors’ half. Despite a competent and rather chunky number two jumper, Wath’s overall line out control looked poor and perhaps an opportunity for Ripon to exploit chances?
The breakdown from Buckley’s charge saw a knock on from Wath and Ripon’s second scrum put in. Back pedalling again, quick witted Graham caught the bobbling ball at the base and evaded the visitors’ back row to streak some 40 metres up field. Once Graham was tackled, the supporting Blues sought to progress the attack, but the home defence came up too quickly and were adjudged off side. Josh Seal stepped up for the penalty kick, but hit the upright. Speedy Ranson was up on the rebound, but couldn’t collect the ball for the touch down, letting the visitors off the hook.
Wath steadily built up possession from the drop out and at 10 minutes, took a penalty touch kick deep again into Ripon territory. The line out saw a successful catch and drive for some 20 metres, with the ball crossing the line, but no clear touch down sighted. After the 5 metre scrum, the visitors pounded the home line with successive drives before eventually crossing for the first of their four tries. The conversion attempt failed, as did all of the rest of the visitors’ attempts.
Ripon attempted to break out from the restart with a fine run by Leeming, but as was so typical of the home attacking play, the support was too slow and momentum was lost as Leeming was penalised for holding on. An area that Ripon need to consider, is the counter attack and how best to play to support. From set pieces, Ripon played confidently and supported well; but from counters, too often the ball carrier became isolated.
Entering into the second quarter, the Blues put together some good phases of play and retained possession well. The line out started working well, with Ranson the key target and other options being explored to ring the changes. The scrum gained more stability and the visitors seemed to run out of attacking options as the half went on. During this period, the likes of Buckley and Graham made some dangerous yards, as did Nicholson, Newcombe and Barker. Continuity worked well, but clinical finishing was lacking and so no clear scoring chances appeared. The Ripon purple patch was unfortunately cut short with a late resurgence by the visitors, who reined things back considerably in the last 10 minutes. There were no further scores, resulting in a narrow 0 – 5 lead to Wath and Ripon optimistic about pushing for their first league win of the season.
Ripon started the second half with a superb kick from Williams, which Leeming was instrumental in securing. Unfortunately a pass went astray and in a repeat of Ripon’s first half scrum break by Graham, the Wath Number 8 broke unopposed, fed the Wing who kicked on and within a minute of the game restarting, the visitors were 0 – 10 up.
The scene was then set for another half of a game with Ripon trying desperately to be creative and Wath scoring two more unconverted tries. Losing two players to yellow cards didn’t help the home efforts; with Butler for a repeat offence and Newcombe for a harmless misunderstanding, nor did the overall penalty count running up to 14. Discipline and composure are a must, particularly when games are close at first and the loss of players can make a critical difference.
After a further 10 minutes, Wath attacked again and Buckley valiantly closed down the threat into touch. The following visitors’ line out saw a quick ball off the top for a change and the slick passing saw the Right Wing glide in for Wath’s third try 0 - 15.
Retaining possession well from the restart, Wath set their considerable bulk about trundling up the pitch again and soon found themselves in another line out position. The inevitable catch and drive took them on a further 20 metres to crash over for the fourth and bonus point winning try and the score-line to 0 - 20.
The final quarter saw many concerted individual and team efforts from Ripon. Mainey sniped well, Hassall kicked cleverly and Sykes and Graham carried well, usually sucking in two or three defenders at a time. The efforts paid off on the 70 minute mark when Nicholson pounced on a loose ball to feed Williams, who danced through the defence before releasing Graham to cross the line for Ripon’s consolation try. Williams added the conversion to take the score to 7 – 20 and the whole team must have thought how great this would have been at the start of the game rather than nearing the end.
Wath played a steady game from the restart and aimed to both hold on to their lead and deny Ripon any further possession. That they did and with the final whistle, Wath ended worthy winners after a well planned and executed game. Ripon will look to the training field for those still fit to play and the Physio’s bench for the rehabilitation of injury stricken players. Oh and a revisiting of the laws at the breakdown might help too?
Next week Ripon travel to Humberside to challenge promotion chasing Goole. Expect more changes in personnel and even more efforts to return to winning ways. Kick off 3.00pm and all supporters welcome to get behind Ripon and cheer them on.