North One East
Huddersfield YMCA 24 v Percy Park RFC 45
“There’s no need to be unhappy at the YMCA”
On the high Huddersfield moors, Percy Park started this game suffering from a dose of altitude sickness. ‘Too Tall’ was having trouble catching his breath as Huddersfield danced to a 12-0 lead, before a tactical change in the front row brought breathing space and game parity. Once Park ‘got a handle’ on this game they were far too good for YMCA. Huddersfield started the game with the desire of gaining 5 points, overtaking their dearest at Morley and in the doing, ensuring that not one side managed to do the ‘double’ over them. The jovial bar talk was all about the interception try that cost Huddersfield the game at Preston Avenue and how revenge would be a ‘tasty dish’. Around the table the Park boys kept quiet, ate their apple crumble and smiled a knowing smile. The pitch was flat, wide and dry. Conditions were good for running rugby. Park are quick and the weather gods favoured the fast. The omens were good for a hat full of tries. We had the feeling it would be our day…..and so it transpired; Park scored seven and it could have been more………
Pre-game Percy Park threw in a selection surprise by opting to play the returning Andy Dunn at scrum half and giving Ali Blair the responsibility of running the bench. Neither disappointed, with Andy Dunn arguably producing a ‘man of the match’ performance (despite one really dodgy pass!!) and Ali Blair barking astute instructions from his technical area. Yet it all started slowly with the Huddersfield 9 and 10 both scoring tries; as Park forgot to defend the ruck area and made hard work of the scrummage. Racing to a 12-0 lead the Huddersfield crowd started the give ‘Too Tall’ some stick and in the doing, and unknowingly, started the players transformation from gentle giant to….I would like to say ‘The incredible Hulk’ however we would be exaggerating with a bit more colour than usual….so Shrek will have to do…..and provoked a rampaging run that broke the defensive line and created the first score for the away side.
Michael Grove gathered the ball, and at pace side stepped his way up field, before delivering the ball to Josh Hedley who powerfully broke the defensive line. With gaps to romp in, Andy Dunn spread the ball left and left again before reversing the play, enabling the athletic Ethan Clarke to score out wide. The conversion was difficult and missed.
Great play from Andrew Walker and Ethan Wilson had the Park support on their feet. As the move came to a halt, Austin Phillips ripped the ball away before passing to Ollie Stephenson. Stephenson flew into the Huddersfield team. With a hand off and a deft ‘dummy pass’ the ball went left finding Michael Grove in space with nobody at home. Try scored. Conversion missed. 12-10 the score and the fight back was on.
It was all Park until one ropy throw in gave the ball away, resulting in a Huddersfield scrum. And this was the one area where YMCA were dominant and causing problems. A ‘pick up and go’ from the back saw YMCA to the line. Despite attempts to defend, Huddersfield had momentum and were over to score. With conversion made safe, Coach Blair produced (what turned out to be) a match winning decision by ‘changing up’ the front row. Michael Birkett came off the bench, returning to his customary position at loose head. His impact was immediate and decisive. Parity then dominance as Park warmed to the task. No longer did YMCA have a platform to play off. Advantage Park.
With growing confidence Park began to move the ball at real pace. One move saw Ash Smith crash through the Huddersfield line before giving the ball to Ethan Wilson. With Wilson on the charge he is difficult to stop. Several ‘hand offs’ and a bat away saw all attempts to stop him fail. Over the line he dotted down, giving an easy conversion. Kick taken 19-17.
From the next play Park were ‘at it’ again. On this occasion Mattie Boustead glided through the Huddersfield defence. Causing havoc and mayhem a ‘no hands’ tackle took him to the floor. Andy Dunn was quick to follow and a spin put the advancing Smith in the clear. A chip kick, over a hastily reorganised defence, produced a chase that the YMCA 15 appeared to have won. At the ruck Park turned the ball over and Hedley danced a jig before scoring. In his excitement ‘Too Tall’ gestured to the author to ensure that he was credited with the score. Duly noted by both the scribe and the now hushed home crowd. Conversion taken 19 24 at the half way point.
Percy Park started the second half with real intent as Austin Phillips went close. The resulting scrum went against the head and Park kept the ball in tight. Several forays at the line sucked in the defence before the ball went wide to Ash Smith. Nimble feet and a little bit of Y..M..C..A had the player over the line and in between in the posts. Great score and a great team effort. Duly converted 19-31.
Coach Blair ran his bench. Ethan Wilson being replaced by the eager and prowling Leo Caulfield. A yellow card for Michael Grove for ‘interfering with the pass’ gave possession away. That followed by some really poor tackling, and a failure to clear from the line out, let the home side in. The score saw Howard Stock enter the fray on the wing.
Huddersfield continued to press, trying to take advantage of numbers. In their attempts to force the play they dropped the ball. Quick as a flash Ethan Clarke punished the poor collect. Clarke picked up and he was off toward the Huddersfield line like an antelope being chased by a pride of Lions. The 15 came across and it was a race that Clarke won. With the try converted Park were comfortable at 24-38.
With numbers restored Percy Park threw the ball around with real pace and intent. Some of the moves were roundly applauded by the home crowd. Park just need that little extra to turn chances into points and that duly arrived from the capable hands of Ash Smith.
Park’s back row really upped the ante and were providing real territorial value to the away side. A flurry of offloads and passes had Park deep into the Huddersfield half. With Andy Dunn following, the ball was whipped out to the backs who had an interchange of clever passes that put Ash Smith ‘one on one’ with the full back. With his dancing shoes firmly on his feet he went right then cut back left, leaving the full back clutching air as he accelerated past to score under the posts. A try that brought a very sporting reaction from the crowd and the YMCA bench. Converting his own try, Smith took the score to 24-45.
Park continued to play good rugby. With a little more patience they might have scored more. At the whistle, Percy Park ran out the victors in a well-deserved win, scoring seven try’s to the home sides four.
As the players congratulated the win, player coach Ash Smith was seen with rapidly expanding bruise under his right eye. An injury sustained by colleague Charlie Greswold, who in his last game for Park (before starting a new job in Manchester), decided to go out with a bang! Charlie has provided many great memories for the Park faithful and he will be missed… although I am not so sure what Ash Smith’s right eye might feel about that attestation!
And so we moved on to the post game frivolity and the excitement of getting dressed up!!
As the final game is played we reflect on what might have been if our pre Xmas form had been more consistent away from home. And having been said a very welcome thought immediately springs to mind. We are now very competitive; last season’s poor form is in abate, and in the doing, we can all look forward to the next. And that is a much better place to be when compared with this time last year. Found optimism allows us another question…… Can we better 5th and challenge for that top spot?...we look forward to it already. I know I do.
Many thanks to all who read this composition and offer their support and ideas. To my critics I leave a cheeky last word to former club Captain, and keen supporter of the travelling ‘black and whites’, Kev Bottomly. See you all next season it’s been fun!!