1st XV Match Report - Saturday 27th October
By Becky Naylor
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
In perhaps the most spectacular surroundings this division can offer and in glorious sunshine, Ripon travelled to Settle with an expectation of some league points. A win would have been good and had another 5 minutes been available on the referee’s watch, that might have been feasible. The Blues however, turned in another solid performance to run out a close second in this encounter, but increased their league standing by a further two bonus points. No disgrace by any means and with a continuously changing squad, the chances of established patterns of play, were limited.
Further changes in all areas were testament to the club’s strength in depth and the ability of all registered players to step up and give their all, this led to a truly gritty performance by the Blues and a result that many pundits saw as unachievable.
The gradual return from injury of some players and general unavailability of others, saw further movements in the starting line-up. In came utility back Sam Pillar for his season’s debut at Outside Centre, new signing Alex Oliver started at Lock and made a major impact; Connor Eddleston started in the back row; Archie Hassall brought his creative skills to the pack and Mark Sadler created a bench of his own to take to the field when necessary.
A decent turn out of the travelling Ripon supporters made for an engaging afternoon of cheer for the visitors.
Opting to kick with the wind in the first half, the hosts had a dream start with a dropped reception attempt. The advantage saw play on go to the hosts and a hastily re-shuffling Ripon defence gave away a soft penalty for not rolling away. At two minutes into the game, the hosts kicked a penalty goal and gave Ripon a mighty reminder that the game starts from the opening whistle, 3 – 0 in less than three minutes.
Pressing from the restart, much in the mould of last week’s performance; Tom Graham harried the catcher into dispossession and Callum Findlay exploited his speed to snap up the ball to make a 20 metre break. Unselfishly, Callum offloaded to James Audsley-Beck to run in for Ripon’s first try at the four minute mark. Williams narrowly missed the conversion to leave the score at 3 – 5. Ripon awake.
The next ten minutes saw evenly distributed possession, with both sides pressing to play out wide, but with Ripon in particular, looking to use the big boys to effect. Plant and Slator were instrumental in making ground, as were Taylor and Euan Findlay in carrying to good effect. Again, in a match in which every player stepped up to do their duty, it is difficult to single out particular team members from others. However, defensively, Plant and Eddleston had huge games in the pack and Slator excelled in attack, injecting pace and looking to maintain momentum with well timed offloads.
In the back division, the mastery at half back from Audsley-Beck and Seal, proved another winning partnership, with effective distribution from the set piece, as well as lively interventions in open play. Elsewhere in the backs, Leeming and Callum Findlay worked absolutely tirelessly to stifle the host’s attacks and create attacking options. Not many games spring to mind in which two Wings have worked as hard in both attack and defence, but the overall effort has contributed to the score-line.
At this point in the game, it is fair to say that if Ripon had a fully functioning line out and scrum, then the result could have been very different. That said, living off scraps in both set piece phases limited Ripon’s attacking options, but prompted displays of creativity, courage and sheer determination for the rest of the game.
After 12 minutes, the hosts positioned themselves strongly to contest the lead and after pressing to the Ripon line, following a successful 5 metre scrum, the hosts took the lead with a converted try to take the score to 10 – 5. Within two minutes a Ripon indiscretion gave the hosts a further advantage with a penalty goal to take the score to 13 – 5 and an air of concern shrouded the visitors’ camp.
Ripon fought hard in the second quarter to create some comprehensive attacking options. Most attacks involved several players and resulted in phases approaching double figures. Stout defence by the hosts, silly errors by Ripon and sheer unlucky bounces were the order of the day however. So, despite a strong showing from Ripon in all departments, the visitors succumbed to a late rally by the hosts to end the first half with a bigger deficit than expected.
With less than five minutes to go of the half, the hosts were awarded a penalty that they opted to kick to touch. Euan gathered the loose ball at the tail of the home line out to counter strongly. At the next breakdown, the Blues were adjudged to have offended and the following penalty resulted in a touch kick. The line out catch and drive was inevitable and this time unstoppable and resulted in an unconverted try to take the score to 18 – 5 with half time calling.
The second half saw Ripon kicking off with the wind in their favour and the descending sun potentially causing visibility problems for the hosts.
Try as they might to get back into the game, the efforts, luck and bounces all went the way of the hosts and within 12 minutes of the restart a converted try took the hosts up to a lead of 25 – 5. Adding insult to injury, at the end of the third quarter, Prop Slator was sin binned for a high tackle and taking advantage of the disruption to the Ripon scrum, the hosts pressed further to score a another converted try to take the score to a seemingly unreachable 32 – 5.
Ripon may have been down, but they certainly weren’t out and so began a rapid resurgence to credibility, through a massive commitment to individual and team resilience. On the 70 minute mark, a home attack was stifled by an aggressive turnover from Tom Graham. Slator took the attack on to offload to Ollie Williams, who trusted his pace and durability to run in some 60 metres to score and convert his try to take Ripon to 32 – 12.
Next up was a supreme effort by Ripon’s pack, bolstered by Sadler; to create sufficient attacking chances from the base; one of which saw Tom Graham bash his way through a wall of defenders to score Ripon’s third try, converted by Williams to take the score to 32 - 19.
Into injury time and seemingly unstoppable, Ripon attacked again and through the insightful handling of Callum Findlay and Williams, Tom Leeming, after a sterling performance all round, was given the chance to outstrip the defence to score Ripon’s fourth and bonus point winning try. Williams was on point with the conversion attempt to close the final points difference to less than seven and thus the second bonus point. The final score was testament to Ripon’s renewed energy and vigour and commitment to play entertaining Rugby. Finishing at 32 – 26 was a great boost to Ripon with two bonus points, as well as a confidence booster, that absorbing opposition pressure and responding positively can yield decent results.
Next Saturday Ripon continue the Yorkshire Division Two action and entertain old friends and rivals Roundhegians. The visitors will clearly be looking forward to a change in their recent fortunes and Ripon will undoubtedly be seeking advancement up the league table. An entertaining match in prospect and all support is very welcome. Winter kick off time of 2.15pm applies now until the end of February, so don’t be late.