North One East
Percy Park RFC 50 v Bradford and Bingley RUFC 35
'Park up to 5th in try fest'.
Percy Park produced a sparkling display of first half rugby that had many of the faithful clapping their hands in anticipation of more to come only for the old mental frailties to reappear in the opening 8 minutes of the second half that saw Bradford score 3 unanswered tries. An achievement that had the faithful wringing those same hands in a nervous, nearing hysteria led melt down. Many had seen it before…remember the last time we played Bradford at home and that second half capitulation…and were holding their heads in their hands. Not again was the cry…..as the team regrouped behind their posts, players returned to the game with undaunted determination and the faithful took a deep breath. The next score belonged to Park and in the doing the measure of how far this team has developed and progressed was evident for all to see….so how did this game pan out and how in earth did Josh Hedley manage that sidestep?
Bradford arrived late at the hallowed turf of Preston Avenue following an accident on the A1. With Park making several changes to their line up due to unavailability and a midnight elope to Australia, many supporters expected a slow start as both teams settled into their rhythm. What they got was a try within two minutes and a Hedley sidestep that had everybody looking at each other in confirmation that they had actually witnessed the big man leave the Bradford full back sitting unhappily on his rear haunches. With Smith converting, Park were 7 to the good.
Bees were stung and made significant inroads into Park territory aided by some defensive indiscipline, as the home side were caught off-side on more than one occasion. Only a fine run from full back Ollie Stephenson relieved the pressure. The game was fast and furious with both sides committed to the break down and the referee managing the pace of the game well. It was good to watch. Albeit a little too fast for prop Aiden Phillips, whose body decided to protest, as he was left holding his back and unable to continue. All at Percy Park wish him well and hope that his injury does not prevent him from re-joining the ‘black and whites’ in the very near future.
As Park probed, Bradford crept up and were caught offside, allowing fly half Ash Smith a free shot at goal. With points taken 10 nil to ‘The Park’.
With both teams eager to impress and two scrum halves that could whip a ball away, the game stretched from left to right. With penalties (usually for offside) taken quickly it was loose running rugby, interspersed with some great one on to one tackles. Percy Park’s full back Stevenson taking the eye in his fearless approach to that side of the contest. It was heady stuff.
It was not until the 25th minute that Park managed to break the resolute Bradford defence once more. A high tackle out wide on the stand side, and just on the Bradford 22, gave Smith the opportunity to kick for the corner. In truth the line out was a bit of a mess with the ball cannoning off Josh Hedley’s expansive chest and the referees shoulder. How the ball came to be in Captain Jonny Dubois hands is a matter for ‘Fortuna’, but with ball passed to Smith and the Bradford defence disorganised, the Park player coach danced his way over the line to score. With conversion taken; 17 nil.
High balls, quick passes, and straight hard lines produced an entertaining and punishing game. Bradford Bees are a side that love to move and pass the ball. A muscle bound grind is not their style and as a consequence Park were made to work hard for their lead. A style of play dictated by their New Zealand fly half Lance ‘don’t call me Australian’ Taylor. Supporters were getting full value for their entrance fee.
On 33 minutes Bradford managed to get on the scoreboard. With Lance Taylor darting through several missed tackles, Park were under pressure. Caught offside Bradford choose to go to the corner. And to prove a point that they can muscle when they want to, took a short line out and despite looking wrapped up, rolled the ball to the inside and over for the score. Try converted 17-7.
Percy Park responded with a little bit of muscle of their own. A Seb Reece ‘kick through and chase’ turned defence into attack and as Bradford cleared, a quick throw in to the middle saw Josh Hedley shove Austin Phillips through the line, before chasing up to receive the offload. A short gallop to the line and he was over. A very good response from the home side. Try converted 24-7 the score.
With their ‘foot on the pedal’, Park enjoyed a purple patch scoring two very quick tries. From the restart Leo Caulfield gathered and moved the ball to his left. The marauding Hedley got his mitts on the ball and set off like a hare at Easter before offloading to Ethan Wilson. Finding himself in space, and a covering defence, Wilson looked for support. That duly arrived in the presence of centre Ali Blair, who shrugged off a despairing challenge to score a converted try.
The restart saw Bradford held up and the scrum awarded to the home side. With Wilson picking up at 8 a game of skittles ensued before Seb Reece intervened and took Park deep into the Bees ground with a mazy run. A quick pass from Rory Meharg had the referee lying on his back as he attempted to get out of the balls trajectory. Enter Mattie Boustead who continued the fleet of foot and when taken to floor Meharg was there again to deliver a sublime pass to Ash Smith to power over for the score. Super stuff and 36-7 at the turn.
With the home support full of confidence and the Bradford President looking forward to the games end so he could take his bucket and spade onto the beach, the game restarted. And what a restart it was. And it was all about Bradford. Clearly irked and frustrated, Bradford came out as if they were storming Tynemouth Castle. Three tries in 8 ferocious minutes had Park reeling and having to gather their thoughts behind the posts; and it was in that moment that ‘the faithful’ saw our team mature and grow. They did not fold, they dug in, adjusted, shored up and ensured the next score was theirs. A response last season they would not have produced.
Park started well but lost possession of the ball to a ‘knock on’ at the back of the scrum. Park defended well but Bradford had upped the tempo and went from one breakdown to the other, at pace, and without over committing numbers. A missed tackle saw Lance Taylor slice through the defence shrugging off the attempts of Mattie Boustead to stop him. Try converted. The second try was not long in the coming, Smith was caught in two minds and the resulting tackle produced the knock on. Instead of waiting for the whistle, Bradford picked up and got the ball to their left wing. The winger rounded his opposite number and ran from inside of his own half to score under Parks posts. The third try came from a Park misdemeanour and a scrum half ‘tap and go’ into space. As the cover came across he booted the ball to the left wing. Now the ball looked to have gone dead but the Bradford wing flicked the ball back inside falling nicely into the path of a supporting player. Park gathered at the ruck and the resulting long pass from left to right saw a lack of defensive numbers out wide. With numerical advantage Bradford were over to score. Although ‘fine margins’ could be mooted in the tale, we had gone from 36-7 to 36-28 in the ‘blink of an eye’. The question now was how would Park respond?
Bradford’s game plan was to ‘kick, turn and chase’. Park dropped numbers back and ran the ball deep into the Bradford half and in doing kept it. Having slowed the play, Park went wide and taking the same strategy kicked to the corner. The game swung. Even Josh Hedley got in on the act punting a ball to the corner. And it was Hedley who took the game beyond the reach of the opposition. An intercepted pass put Smith into space. Throwing a ‘flat’ pass, the ball was off loaded to Ethan Wilson who struck out for the Bradford line. A ‘pick and go’ brought momentum before sharp passes found Hedley loitering on the wing to score in the bottom left hand corner. A fine conversion from Smith. The score at 43-28.
The ‘bite’ went out of Bradford and they were further disheartened when a yellow card was brandished for ‘killing the ball’ as Park looked to ‘pick’ and go over the line for a score.
Percy Park’s back row were having a major influence in the game. Their mobility carried Park into advantageous positions and onto the front foot and it was one such movement ‘down field’ that allowed Austin Phillips to ‘hang out’ for the crash ball. With ball popped into his hands Philips crashed through the tackle and over for the try. A try converted by Smith. 50 points to 28.
The final try of the match was a consolation effort from a Bradford side who showed great- spirit throughout and a willingness to play some open fast attacking rugby. With Park always looking to attack, the game was a pleasure to watch for both partisan and neutral supporter.
Final score. Percy Park 50 Bradford and Bingley 35. A score that takes Park up to 5th in the league and in confident mood for their Northumberland Cup encounter on Tuesday night, at home, against Alnwick. With our Puma side narrowly beaten in their cup competition, at our dearest rivals Rockcliff, it’s up to the 1st XV to carry the boys forward. With a 7: 30 pm kick off your support is keenly awaited….Come on Park!!
To end on a real positive note; big congratulations to ‘our’ Ethan Clarke for his selection to the North of England U20 squad. Well done Ethan!