1st XV Match Report - Saturday 13th October
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good or something like that; but in the aftermath of “Storm Callum”, the wind that punished both sides equally, also failed to give either team any real advantage. Blowing from side to side, with perhaps a slight favour towards “Hellfire Corner” (Nearest the Clubhouse for the uninitiated), the wind gifted the long pass, when used correctly, but didn’t do much for territorial kicking.
Before a sizeable crowd of sponsors, guests, dog walkers, inured and unselected players, disgruntled Football fans, other members and well-wishers, as well as opportunist rain dodgers, the bright and breezy conditions sparked some life and energy into the Ripon squad, apparent in dribs and drabs in previous games, but not as consistently as in this match. Whether it was the demise of Bath in their “H Cup” game on the TV, or the unseasonal warmth and sunshine, or the prospect of an exciting live game, the touchline presence was much appreciated.
On the pitch, admittedly the set piece let Ripon down repeatedly as far as providing a stable platform was concerned, but the Blues did compensate effectively, with strong and repeated phases of attacking and defensive play. Areas of weakness, such as the scrum and restart do need to be worked on however, as they are such a critical way to regain, or retain possession. Basic communications will help, as will togetherness gained from playing alongside the same team mates week on week. The line out this week was a particular aberration with much of the first half possession being squandered through poor concentration. Ripon did however pull it together for the second half and whilst the scrum still creaked somewhat, the attacking opportunities were there to be taken and a three try to one second half spoke volumes for Ripon’s resilience and “bouncebackability”.
Ringing the changes yet again, a total of ten name changes to the squad were made, making continuity and communications an issue, but relatively easily overcome as it’s usually a case of perm any 18 from 25 available players each week. A further two positional changes saw Butler drop back into the pack at Hooker and Payne accommodating him by keeping the bench warm. Back into the fray came “Iron Man” Jason Bell, for his annual outing against Yarnbury, youthful Ollie Williams to the Wing and less youthful Ollie Davies to beef up the Centres with Tom Graham. James Audsley-Beck returned to the starting line up as did Jamie Slator at Prop. Back on the bench appeared utility back Sykes and the evergreen Wolloms, both of whom would play influential parts later in the game.
On a day when the ball could quite literally have gone anywhere and players on both sides were ever mindful of the constant barrage of flying debris from the tree line, both sides handled very well and used the conditions with the ball in hand to great advantage. Kicking however, was a challenge, with many high balls hanging expectantly and long balls being over cooked. Weather aside, luck also played a dramatic role in this game. Appreciating that the harder one practices, the luckier one gets; this day however, saw every bounce of the ball turn towards the opposition and most of their dropped balls going backwards. It’s these little aspects of the game that impact on morale and attacking positioning, but can only be overcome positively through making the most of what you can influence. Fortunately for Ripon, these little things, whilst frustrating, didn’t impact on the overall result. Some luck in the next outing would be appreciated, as well of course, as the total commitment of the squad to go on to be the best they can.
Yarnbury kicked off to allow Ripon an opportunity to attack. That soon broke down within a couple of passes to give the visitors a turnover and an attacking chance. Given a penalty advantage for a visitor’s indiscretion, Ripon hoped for a decent recovery, but following an attacking knock on, which looked deliberate, the referee called the scrum rather than the penalty. Ripon faced up to their first scrum put in and whilst being nudged backwards slightly, the hosts realised that this was going to be a critical area of the game to maintain possession. From the play, Ripon were adjudged off side and so a penalty was offered to the visitors. Into the wind, the kick hung and gave Bell the perfect opportunity to run the ball back into the heart of the opposition. Thus after four minutes of play, the Blues finally entered the visitors’ half and effective chasing of Bell’s attack resulted in a penalty to the hosts for holding on. The touch kick from Seal moved things on nicely, but the ensuing line out was a dog’s dinner and allowed the opposition to break clear. Moving the ball quickly, Yarnbury made progress back towards the half way line before being halted by a forward pass, which the referee thankfully noticed.
During the next ten minutes Yarnbury played the conditions and the referee well enough to incrementally creep back towards the home line. A further Ripon line out was ineffective and gave the visitors a free play. In attacking the home line at pace, perhaps the referee was poorly placed to note another forward pass in this movement, but after twelve minutes played, Yarnbury crossed the line to score a converted try, much to the amazement of everyone. 0 - 7
The rest of the first half was played out without further score on either part. Ripon looked to attack through hands at every opportunity, with Butler and Findlay clocking up most yards in the pack and Graham and Davies doing plenty of wet work in the Centre. Occasional flashes of open space saw Williams and Audsley-Beck tearing up-field and Bell was always on hand to mop up.
The second quarter saw Ripon press well and look to exploit lack of support in the visitors’ attacks to gain turnovers and counter-attacks. Some lively breaks by Seal saw further forays towards the opposition line, but nothing like a score was forthcoming. That said, Ripon held resolute in defence and shut out any threats effectively.
The second half saw the introduction of Sykes to bring impact to the back line and Wolloms to bring guile and wisdom to the pack.
Despite effectively chasing the second half restart kick, Ripon messed up the reception and left the ball to the visitors. The defensive clearance saw an uncharacteristic error by Yarnbury, which gifted Dom Butler the opportunity to sack and dispossess their Scrum Half. Shifting the ball on to Wolloms, the breakdown was recycled quickly to Findlay who burst through three tackles to make 50 metres up the middle. Passing perhaps for the first time in his life, Euan noted Ollie Williams to his left and gifted the youngster with the final run in to score for Ripon. Williams with the wind against him, narrowly missed the conversion to take the score to 5 – 7 with only three minutes of the half played.
A further restart error gave the visitors possession again however and made Ripon realise how fragile possession could be and how it could be nurtured better. Not learning quickly enough though, Ripon succumbed to intensive pressure and despite threatening a rock solid defence for the rest of the game, a penalty was conceded for not releasing in the tackle and Yarnbury opted for the touch kick. Geared up for the predictable catch and drive, Ripon were caught wrong footed when the ball was shipped out wide early, resulting in Yarnbury’s second converted try. With the score at 5 – 14, the hosts looked like they had a mountain to climb. However, with sheer determination and the stepping up of the likes of the diminutive Mainey, more than making up for his stature with incisive breaks, on point delivery and brave tackling; plus the continued efforts of the big ball carriers; Plant, Pritchard and Barker to bash out the hard yards, Ripon muscled their way back into the game.
After some 15 minutes of the half, a typically gutsy and skilful break out was engineered by Butler, who with Sykes handled twice each in the move, to be cruelly cut short of success. Carrying on in the same vein, a sustained attack through numerous hands saw Will Smith break clear to outstrip the defence with pace and strength, to score Ripon’s second try. Williams had the measure of the wind with the conversion to take the score to 12 – 14. Game on!
Entering the final quarter, Ripon established control of the backpedalling scrum by moving Smith to Number Eight and aiming to clear the ball quickly. Using Findlay and Taylor as secondary runners from the base, the hosts established a good stream of go forward ball from the scrum and started to put the visitors under all sorts of pressure. At the 70 minute mark, Smith attacked from a scrum and from the breakdown, the ball was shipped quickly to Davies, who made a sufficient gap in the defence to release James Audsley-Beck for Ripon’s third try and the lead in the game for the first time. Williams unfortunately fell foul of the wind again with his conversion attempt, to keep the score at 17 – 14.
Ripon held their composure from the next restart, but a passionate effort from Yarnbury saw them challenging strongly for the last few minutes. A succession of penalties late on gave the visitors ample opportunities to attack, but Ripon’s defence held firm. The last play of the game saw a last ditch attack by the visitors’ Left Wing bundled into touch by Audsley-Beck. Relief all round at the final whistle and a first league win for Ripon.
A creditable display by Yarnbury, perhaps not at their best, but a massive win for Ripon to gain much needed league points and demonstrate the benefits of team work and consistently training together. There are many things to work on still, but confidence is running high in regard to team work and the next player stepping up. The club continues to field the best players available and make the most of each game as it comes. There are clearly issues with strength in depth and the inconsistency of commitment to second team fixtures can’t help stability, but the club values its league status and seeks the support of every capable playing member to make themselves as available as possible to maintain our playing strength.
Next week Ripon continue the Yorkshire Division Two action and travel to Doncaster, looking forward to facing unknown quantity Wheatley Hills, aiming for a continuation of the winning run. Kick off remains at 3.00pm, though the nights are drawing in and all travelling supporters welcome to get behind Ripon and cheer them on.