1st XV Match Report - Saturday 3rd November
MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION
Defying their recent form, Ripon failed to make any significant impact on this game and fell to a crushing defeat at the hands of an un-fancied Roundhegians on Saturday. Credit must go to the Mallorie Park faithful spectators for hanging on until the bitter end, despite the more attractive prospect of international Rugby on the TV in the warmth of the clubhouse. They do however seek entertainment and Ripon will have to do better than this in future if they are to maintain current levels of support. What played out on the pitch was a less than optimal performance, which saw as decent as any Ripon side fielded recently, systematically outplayed for 80 minutes.
Ringing the changes once again, The Blues fielded a different side from last week, but at no detriment to calibre and quality, on paper. The five changes in personnel included: Butler returning to the Centres; Rob Nicholson returning at Hooker; and Will Smith returning to the Back Row, with Newcombe and Buckley returning as “Finishers” on the bench, accompanied by Payne as a positional change. Despite the changes to the pack, the scrum functioned better than of late and apart from a period in the second half when reduced to seven men, largely competed evenly.
The other set piece that Ripon have come to rely on heavily, the line out; did relatively well, but didn’t give the hosts the type of go forward possession to make an impression on the opposition. Individual efforts throughout the team went quite well, but the squad as a whole lacked cohesion and urgency, thus giving the opposition far too much room to manoeuvre. Critically, Ripon failed to play with pace and intensity from breakdowns and too often relied on slow ball to try and penetrate. Defensively the visitors were resolute and restricted the hosts to two tries and two penalties; whilst capitalising on their pace and creativity to score five tries, four of which were converted and two penalties. Not their worst defeat of the season for the Blues by any means, but certainly one that belies recent gains in performance and needs to be put behind them quickly.
In reasonable conditions for the time of year, Ripon opted to receive the kick off and immediately regretted the decision. An area that Ripon have yet to excel at failed again as uncertainty as to who was the catcher, led to a knock on and gifted Roundhegians with a scrum put in within the first minute. The Number 8 pick and go was predictable, yet went unpunished and resulted in a penalty to the visitors for a Ripon tackler not rolling away. The penalty goal set the scene for the rest of the game with Ripon going 0 – 3 down with two minutes played.
Some hope came Ripon’s way from the restart, which was received similarly by the visitors and resulted in a knock on. With a player adjudged to be off side at the offence, Ripon were offered a penalty in front of the posts and through Ollie Williams, levelled the score at 3 – 3 after four minutes.
Roundhegians then pressured the next restart to force the hosts on to the back foot and surrender possession. The visitors drove on through phases to take play into the Ripon 22 before a hastily cleared kick by Williams saved the moment. The line out saw the visitors shift the ball quickly out to the left and after two breakdowns; let them in for the first of their five tries. The conversion from in front of the posts was a formality, taking the score to 3 – 10.
Ripon gamefully attempted to get back into the match, with some impressive ground covered by Tom Graham and Callum Findlay, but the defence held firm. On the turn of the second quarter, Ripon’s patience paid off and a penalty was forced in front of the visitors’ posts, which Williams slotted over to take the score to 6 – 10.
Much of the second quarter was taken up with the visitors pounding away through phases and Ripon holding firm, but not gaining any traction in attack. The light came to the end of the tunnel in the last play of the half. From a Ripon penalty line out, the mini drive released Euan Findlay on a characteristic charge, before a well time pass out to Butler. Butler took the attack on before feeding Leeming who made some hard yards up the touchline. At the tackle, James Audsley-Beck was on hand to snap up the offload and quickly pass on to Adam Newcombe to touch down in the corner. Williams was just short of the conversion attempt, but gave Ripon the edge at the break, leading 11 – 10.
In a repeat of the opening kick-off, it was Roundhegians turn to mess up the reception and knock on the catch. Any advantage from that was lost as the break from the ensuing scrum faltered and the visitors cleared their lines. Adding insult to injury, the Ripon line out throw as judged not straight and so the visitors gained the ball again. Playing with some urgency, the visitors upped the pace and intensity and took play back to the home 22 where they narrowly missed a further penalty goal attempt. Williams recovered the loose ball to put in a mighty clearance back to half way. Again, any territorial advantage was short lived as Roundhegians won their line out and attacked first to the left then back again, for their pacey Wing to score their second and only unconverted try to nudge the scoreboard back in their favour to 11 – 15.
After a further five minutes Ripon attempted to string more phases together in attack, but got turned over at the breakdown. The visitors made no mistake of the opportunity to recycle to the left and score a further converted try to take the score to a seemingly impenetrable 11 – 22. Closely after this, a further attempt by Ripon to break out was quashed when a line out infringement led to a visitors’ scrum from which they launched another attack. Again, through close support play and ineffective tackling a further try was scored to gain the bonus point and with the conversion, took the score to 11 – 29.
The second half was marred by the untimely exit of Matty Taylor with a dislocated shoulder. His influence on the field will be sorely missed and we wish him well.
As the game entered the last ten minutes, Ripon’s fortunes declined further with the sin-binning of Slator for a tackle offence. From here on, the Ripon scrum got into all sorts of bother and the final hope of competing in this department was dashed. From an advancing scrum with eight minutes to go, Roundhegians attacked again and again through poor tackling the visitors romped in for their final converted try to take the score to 11 – 36.
Down but not out, Ripon dragged themselves back into the game for the last few minutes and pressed from a quickly taken penalty. Through brute force, Tom Graham bustled his way over twenty metres to score under the posts. Conscious of time left, Williams drop kicked the conversion to take the score to 18 – 36. With seemingly seconds left to go, the final nail in Ripon’s coffin was a penalty goal to the visitors to close the score at 18 – 39. A result that lifted Roundhegians off the bottom of the table and moved Ripon a little closer to the relegation zone.
Next Saturday Ripon return to Yorkshire Silver trophy action with an away game at Wetherby. An entertaining match in prospect and all support is very welcome, kick off 2.15pm.