Ripon 2xv Hornblowers
Sat 24 Feb 2024
Ripon Rugby Union Football Club
Ripon 2xv Hornblowers
Selby 2nds
Ripon 2nd vs Selby 2nd - Saturday 24th February 2024

Ripon 2nd vs Selby 2nd - Saturday 24th February 2024

Becky Naylor5 Mar - 09:23
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“It’s a Sell-out…” - MATCH REPORT by BOB CHAMPION

With a rest week for the 1st XV, last Saturday it was an opportunity for the 2nd XV to take centre stage and benefit from the break in the weather, disinterest in the Six Nations debacle that England are going through and a sizeable crowd of well-wishers, with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon.

The weather was mercifully kind and milder than of late, though the after effect of weeks of rain was still telling on the heavy pitch, which at glance looked impossible to do anything other than mud wrestling on. How differently the game turned out however, compared to expectations and how disgruntled were the visitors from Selby, with the thrashing that was meted out to them? Selby, a club on an upward trajectory towards National League status and with a massive playing infrastructure, looked quite ordinary and their performance fell well-short of expectations considering how well they do in merit league games against Ripon.

Not exactly a capitulation from the visitors, more an at times breathtaking display of teamwork and skill from The Blues, buoyed by their recent commitment to training and the influence of five new members courtesy of HM Armed Forces. With Ripon scoring eight Tries to Selby’s four, this was not all one-way traffic by any means, but with the hosts dominating most of the set piece action, the visitors were pretty much resigned to living off scraps from the “master’s table”. Had Ripon not chosen to throw caution to the wind on so many occasions, then the errors may not have occurred and the opposition wouldn’t have had a sniff of the goal line. In all, a welcome opportunity to play a friendly fixture in the middle of what is such an intense and at times oppressive season and a great chance for new and old – they know who they are – to play together and try new tricks, as well as use some tried and tested methods to entertain each other as well as the crowd.

Without a 1st XV fixture, the selection challenge was always going to be around making sure the squad was representative of the playing strength below regular first team. This they did, though inevitably with gaps in certain key positions, the odd experienced first teamer made it through the cut to take to the field. That said and this has to be testament to the club’s retention strategy as well as the longevity and durability of certain senior players, of the 25-man squad, some 15 laid claim to having played in the top flight at some time or other. Thus any claims that the side selected was loaded with 1st teamers, was to an extent correct. Ironic then, that most of the Selby side were still “wannabee” instead of “been there and done it”.

Without delving too deeply into the gory details of the squad selection, there was again an exiting mix of old and fresh, home grown and newly introduced and experienced and less so. Under the leadership of Keith Anderson, the side looked as good as any had graced Mallorie Park and showed a good mix of experience and youthful exuberance, as well as a strong international feel, with no less that five of our South Sea Islander cousins, making a significant and hopefully sustainable impact.

The pack had a small but perfectly formed air, with Anderson, McCree and Koroiyadi opening up in the front row, with the mighty Mark Sadler prowling the touchline like a caged animal, biding his time to come on and destroy the opposition’s scrum. Looking forward to joining him and injecting some pace on the ball was new signing Mosese Waqa. The Middlemiss brothers enjoyed a rare harmonious family outing and Quinn and Drane Jnr provided the “Ying and Yang” in the back row, ably assisted by the interminable Hooley Snr. Boosting the average age towards Veteran territory was a welcome appearance from Newcombe, who whilst definitely not defying gravity in the line out, did some sterling work at scrum time and carried in possession like a spring chicken.

In the backs, again we saw a great mix of experience, with the likes of Bell and Whitaker scoffing at rumours of impending retirement and young hopefuls like Senior and Mountford, looking every inch the seasoned campaigners.

As one would expect from a friendly, the game was played in good spirit from the outset and after a momentary hiccough from the kickough, The Blues took the lead with just two minutes played. From a line out win by Middlemiss Minor (the big one) in midfield, Binks and Cooper took the attack to the right. Komi injected pace and aggression to progress before slipping the inside pass to Lai to score the first try. Cooper added the conversion for 7 – 0.

Some lively exchanges saw sevens style handling in the swamp like conditions, so no wonder that many enterprising attempts ended in dropped catches or spills in contact. Cooper broke the deadlock on 17 minutes with a penalty goal for 10 – 0.

Next up, Perhaps one of the best moves of the day saw Komi handle twice in the build up to link with Newcombe who rampaged up the middle to feed Mountford, who made some hard yards up the wing. Brought down just short of the Selby line. Mountford timed the offload to perfection for Tom Senior to touch down. Cooper’s conversion made it 17 – 0 and Selby looking just about all in. Adding insult to injury Anderson scored the perfect captain’s try, with some solid follow up from a break by Goddard and continued by Cooper. With the conversion just out of Cooper’s range the score remained at 22 – 0.

The final few minutes of the half saw the visitors catch their breath and take advantage of The Blues’ early substitutions, scoring two converted tries in quick succession. With the opposition in the driving seat, the half time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Ripon and the score at the break of 22 – 14 meant that Ripon needed to “ex-digitate” rapidly and get themselves back in front.

The second half started well for Ripon, with the solid set piece providing the perfect launchpad for many strike moves. Cooper distributed well and Komi made a real nuisance of himself carrying hard and offloading with style. Fellow Flying Fijians found further fun, as Vere and Roko joined the party in the backs and Waqa beefed up the scrum, to show confidence with ball in hand, energy and pace, as well as creativity. Such was the influence of the Fijians that soon enough, everyone was trying it, with back handed offloads, over the head “no look” passes and more sidesteps than you could shake a stick at. Fortunately the spear tackling didn’t catch on and the competition at the breakdown started going all Ripon’s way.

First to score in the second period was Jason Bell, in characteristic route one mode on 7 minutes. The conversion attempt by Komi just went wide, but 27 – 15 was looking better for Ripon. There followed a momentary lapse of concentration after the restart which let Selby in for another converted try to narrow the gap to 27 – 21, which livened the hosts up no end. Will Mountford nudged The Blues further ahead with another top-drawer offering initiated by Binks. Finding no way through to counter from a deep kick by Selby, Binks chipped the defence and followed through to collect his own kick at pace. Making enough progress to reduce the defence’s options, Binks drew the last man and fed inside to Mountford to finish. Komi added the conversion for 34 – 21 and at last a comfortable gap emerging again.

As the game entered the final quarter, Matt Crowther showed his value as a pacy Wing and consistent finisher, with a brace of tries just three minutes apart. Yes, that was two tries to Matt Crowther in quick succession. The first was a routine run in after some straight hands with Komi, Newcombe and Middlemiss involved. The next was more joyful, with input from Bell, Anderson, Newby and Middlemiss again. With Cooper’s conversions talking the score to 48 – 21, it looked like Ripon were well and truly out of sight. With less than 10 minutes left, Binks and Komi combined again to unleash Vere to score Ripon’s eighth and final try. Cooper added the conversion for 55 – 21 and surely the end in sight.

Selby clearly got into a “never say die” mode and the final few minutes on the clock were filled with their passionate onslaughts and a string of Ripon penalties for breakdown infringements. At 76 minutes, something had to give at to Ripon’s shame, it was Bell’s dismissal for an alleged high tackle. Unfortunately for Ripon, the extra man advantage worked in the opposition’s favour and their pressure resulted in a well-deserved injury time unconverted try to reduce the deficit to 55 – 26. Fortunately for Ripon, on review, the red card received by Bell was rescinded and no further action taken.

For Selby, a sad case of too little too late in both halves and whilst not a side to be discounted, could have stayed with the game better if they’d tried. For Ripon, definitely a case of the best is yet to come. With experienced senior players staying in the mix, youngsters coming through and our “forces favourites” committing to playing regularly, performances like this should become a regular event and the club will continue with it’s current playing strength. UTR.

Match details

Match date

Sat 24 Feb 2024


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