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OORUFC 1stXV 20 pts vs Wath 14 pts

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For the second time this season a player was injured in the pre-match warm-up which meant flanker James Holland had to move into the centre berth and a last minute backword saw Hugh Gumbs fill a vacancy at lock. ‘Ensians knew they would have their work cut out against a side which had held unbeaten league leaders Roundhegians to a draw the previous week and the early pressure was from Wath. An infringement gave the visitors a penalty chance on three minutes which narrowly missed. Five minutes later, fly half John Ratahi had to leave the field with a leg injury which brought Tim Rushfirth off the bench allowing centre Will Foster move to fly half.

Things began to settle for the home side with the front row of Tony Myers, Rob Lyon and Tom Twist comfortably commanding their own ball in the scrums and Sam Grey and James Duggan producing good line out ball. Centre James Holland was always a threat and winger Richard Goakes had some powerful runs up the touchline. When Wath strayed offside, Will Foster converted the penalty to give the hosts a 3 – 0 lead on 20 minutes. Just when ‘Ensians were beginning to pressure the visitors, fly half Foster suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem and had to leave the field on 30 minutes. Phil Cook came into the pack allowing Gumbs to move to fly half.

Despite these changes, ‘Ensians continued to have the better of the attacking opportunities with locks Sam Gray and Duggan putting in some strong bursts with good support from the back row of Rob Grey, Phil Cook and Ben Smith. From a ruck ten yards out, the ball was moved to Cook who blasted his way over near the posts on 32 minutes with Nick Keinhorst adding the extras to give the home side a 10 – 0 lead. Wath responded at once with a sweeping back move which took play into the home 22 where they attacked the line through forwards and backs. Prop Myers was yellow-carded when deemed to be lying on the ball and suddenly Wath were applying the pressure. After defending resolutely for four minutes, the Wath scrum half nipped through gap to score under the posts on 39 minutes which moved the score to 10 – 7 to the home side at the break.

The second half began with ‘Ensians camped in the Wath 22, but the visitors showed their impressive defensive capabilities. The home forwards battered the line for five minutes with Cook, Gray and Lyon coming close, but there was no way through. Eventually, the ball was moved wide and a slick pass by Gumbs saw centre James Holland slice through under the posts. The conversion by Nick Keinhorst took the score to more comfortable 17 – 7 to the home side on 55 minutes.

Wath responded at once and used their lively threequarters to take play into the ‘Ensians half. When two home backs got caught up in a ruck, quick Wath ball capitalised on the defensive gaps and their backs outpaced the cover to send the speedy winger in under the posts. The conversion meant that the home side was now hanging on to a slender 17 – 14 lead on 63 minutes.

The visitors continued to threaten, but strong defence from scrum half Sam Clewes, Holland, Gumbs and full back Kristian Keinhorst kept them at bay. When play moved into the home 22, Gumbs produced some long relieving kicks to ease the pressure and good following up on one of these by Holland and flanker Ben Smith pinned the visitors in their own 22. Twist, Rob Grey and Lyon then managed to turn the ball over and Kristian Keinhorst dropped the neatest of goals to take the margin to a more comfortable 20 – 14 on 74 minutes.

For the last few minutes both sides continued to attack, but defences held to give the home side a well-earned 20 – 14 victory. In a game marred by injuries and the consequential positional changes, ‘Ensians can take satsfaction for a gutsy performance against a competent and lively Wath side.
 

OLD OTLIENSIANS B 34 - HARROGATE PIRATES 38

Due to shortages in the other two teams and injuries, ‘Ensians just managed to put fifteen players on the field initially by using substitutes from the 1st XV match. Play got off to a lively start with half backs Pete Tempest and Dave Smith soon getting their backs in action. In the centre newcomer Mark Coultas showed his skills when he put winger Liam Copping away on a strong run down the touchline to score wide out on 3 minutes. This was followed by more quick handling across the backs to put Steve Lofthouse over in the corner to give the home side a 12 – 0 on 8 minutes with one conversion by Smith

Setbacks occurred soon after when two ‘Ensians players had to take up their 1st XV bench duties on the adjacent pitch and immediately Harrogate found they had space to get their experienced backs moving. Despite good tackling by Lofthouse, Coultas, Smith and Graham Bentley at full back, Harrogate put together four tries in the remainder of the half and, with three conversions, the score was 26 – 12 in the visitors’ favour on half time.

Due to injuries in the front row, scrums became uncontested in the second period and former 3rd XV skipper Will Haines came on to boost the numbers along with a loaned player from Harrogate’s bench. With the extra players making their presence felt immediately, the home side were soon back on the attack and fly half Dave Smith cut through for a well-deserved try. Full back Bentley was on the end of a further move to go over and then winger Liam Copping showed his pace to score two more tries in the corner to produce his hat-trick. With a conversion by Smith, the lead had switched to put ‘Ensians 29 – 26 in front on 62 minutes

The home pack battled tirelessly with Mark Copping and Derek Mott to the fore, but the pressure began to tell and Harrogate’s lively backs moved the ball well to score twice in five minutes. With one conversion, Harrogate were now back in front at 38 – 29 as the final whistle approached. ‘Ensians summoned up more energy in the final minutes and Tempest and Coultas showed slick hands when they put Smith away for the final try to take the score to 38 – 34 to the visitors.

Despite the disruption caused by changes, this was a fine open game with some excellent flowing rugby from both sides. For their part, Harrogate loaned a player to even up the numbers and both sides showed a lot of spirit to produce a lively and enjoyable match with referee Derek Smith ably playing his part.
 

Next week sees 'Ensians visiting League leaders Roundhegians in a top-of-the-table clash. The 2nd XV are home to Roundhegians A and the 3rd XV are also away to 'Hegians.

 

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