The Boxing Day Bout
Rockcliff RFC 22 v Percy Park RFC 38
Rockcliff RFC Colts 12 v Percy Park Colts 51
‘Percy Park gather en-masse to storm the Red fortress’
On a bright and sunny Boxing Day afternoon Rockcliff’s Hillheads ground was awash with partisan colour as the cousins met to decide who would be ‘wearing the crown’ for another year. With resplendent facilities, Rockcliff are on the up and the mood around their camp was buoyant; believing that this year was going to be their year. The pre match banter was boisterous and as the Park gladiators entered the arena in determined mood, the volume swelled and the anticipation intensified. First up into the coliseums heat strode the Park Colts side led on the day by Coach Al McDonald and Coach Mark ’Paul’ Jackson.
Park looked big and mean and from the kick off showed real intent by making deep incursions into the Rockcliff half. They had power and pace that saw wing Will Robinson score twice in quick succession. One conversion from Dan Jackson was sublime with the player notching from far out wide on the touchline. Park looked good and the score line ticked over, yet they also frustrated the supporter as overlaps and opportunities to score were wasted by players preferring the contact or playing with their head down to the artificial grass. One charge down and score by Thomas Moore reflected Parks superiority on the day as Rockcliff creaked under the pressure. However Rockcliff are not without their stars….their loose head prop and open side are really good players and although it was back to the wall stuff they had their moments pressing Park and scoring two tries of their own. Despite the score it was a great contest that had that ‘old Boxing Day thrill’ where emotions bubbled to the surface reflecting the players desire not to lose out to their ‘cousin from just around the corner’.
Next up the big event.
With former players on either side (to the neutral reader this fixture really is a family affair) team sheets were eagerly read and the merits of individual contests discussed. With supporters from each team suggesting to the other that they had ‘5 or 6’ out, just to save face in case they lost, Jonny ‘Maximus’ Dubois led his team out to a clamorous cauldron of noise and a background of air punching emitting from the now lubricated and excited Hillheads crowd. (This Boxing Day fixture really is brilliant!!). From the off ‘The Rockcliff big guns’ in the guise of Hamilton and Bowman quickly made inroads into the Percy Park defence before being met by the might of Cook and Philips, which had the two rock-ing backwards. It became apparent that Park were far superior in the loose so Rockcliff went to the tight and immediately received a dividend. As Park stayed high Rockcliff rolled, before distributing the ball to their fly half who put in an audacious cross kick, sending the ball high over the head of Kieran Sutherland and with a fortuitous bounce the ball found its way to the hands of Rockcliff right wing Jamie Fenwick who scored against his old team. With the conversion missed 5-0 to the ‘claret and gold’.
Park were straight back at their nearest and dearest with a flowing move that did not stick to the hand, ensuring that the opportunity was wasted. Yet Park were in the Rock half and ensured that the stranglehold remained in place retaining the ball as they pounded the line. Rockcliff kept them out by attempting to clear the ball long up the pitch and in doing so only succeeded in finding Michael Grove at full back who ran the ball back with real pace. Ash Smith was pulling the strings and Liam Blackburn was adjudged to have had a foot in touch as he travelled over the Rockcliff try line. The pressure was building. One ‘up and under’ from Smith was superbly taken by Sutherland. As Park recycled the ball they would have scored if a well-positioned Rockcliff rump hadn’t interfered with play. From the restart Josh Hedley dropped the ball but it didn’t matter as patient play put Austin Phillips over the line. With the try converted 7-5 Park.
Percy Park were throwing the ball around with some aplomb but for all their efforts little headway was being made. Passes dropped or put behind the man squandered good opportunity. Rockcliff were determined to get the ball back to the tight. When they ran it they moved into a black and white wall. Yet it was here that the referee adjudged Park to have offended. There was some debate around the decision yet the author was too far away to see, unlike many around me who could see perfectly (??). Anyway the decision, right or wrong, gave Rhys Johnstone a strike just over the half way line. A penalty kick he did not miss with a fine kick that sailed between the posts. 8-7 the score.
A line out to Park, on the Rockcliff 22, saw the ball moved left and right before Maximus slid in on the angle to score a Captains try in between the posts. With try converted. 14-8 Park. A similar move put Dubois in again for another and at the half Park were ahead by 21 points to 8.
At the half Park rang the changes and Rockcliff started the stronger with a catch and drive that took them over the line. In the tight Rockcliff are good and would be a match for many sides. Try converted 15-21. And Park down to 14 as Michael Grove received a yellow.
Park’s ‘class in the backs’ was obvious and when they got the ball they ripped through the Rockcliff defence. It really was a game of two styles. That gulf was shown when Park playing on their 22 gave a ball to Jamie Wrigley. With a slight shimmy space was won and he was off with electric pace that nobody could match. Try under the posts and Rockcliff heads were down.
Park were in the ascendency and then for some reason upset the referee. Park found themselves being marched back ten and marginal calls going against them. If you want an explanation of what was happening I’m not sure but I am sure ‘Dubois in the bar’ will help you out on that one! Yet cream comes to the top and it was a classy loop move and crash orchestrated by Ash Smith that had Park back on the scoresheet with Jamie Wrigley hitting the line. Somehow the conversion was missed. 15-33 to Park.
Rockcliff are no slouches and are playing a thoughtful game. If you can’t match them in the loose go tight again. And so they did. Keeping the ball in their forwards they took the fight to the trenches. In days reminiscent of Bloomfield, Ashbridge, Fletcher and Atkinson they kept ball before Park ran out of numbers and they were over to score under the posts. I think they used to call it ‘stick it up the jumper’, but score they did. With the try converted 22-33.
But Park still had another in the locker…well they had three …scored one and butchered two. The try came from a fine flying pass from the ‘up and coming’ Andrew Walker, allowing Ash Smith to score on the round. The first of the Park efforts looked good to me, with the pacey Jamie Wrigley putting in Seb Reece to score, however the man in the middle decided it was forward and as his is the only opinion that counts the try was disallowed. The final effort came from Michael Grove who was having a fine game. He received a long kick and returning the same with gusto put the ball in the Rockcliff 22. Michael is fast and like a dart he was on the bouncing ball and in on the corner. With two players on his inside he elected to pass as the line spoke to him. The passed ball went to the floor with nobody there and the chance went begging. Many cheers from the claret support as all knew it should have been a score. As the game petered out the final score was Rockcliff 22 Percy Park 38.
For the Preston Avenue faithful we should have won by more, for the Lovaine Avenue crowd the score reflected Rockcliff’s efforts and further points might have been an injustice for the effort and commitment they put in. It was a good game, better than many in recent times. With the Colts playing for the first time in over 20 years the future of the fixture is assured…now then people… who fancies a game that includes those missing ‘5 or 6’ players????
Many thanks to Ritchie Bloomfield, Scott Carruthers and Andy Partis for hosting the Percy Park grandees….we look forward to reciprocating next year.
For the faithful…. Percy Park’s next fixture is away to West Leeds on 05/01/2019…yep 2019…where does the time go...and on that note Percy Park would like to wish players ,supporters and readers of ‘Hackinsons fairy tales’ a very merry and healthy New Year.