North One East
Percy Park RFC 32 v Huddersfield YMCA RFC 22
Jekyll and Hyde
At the end of this game the faithful would have left Preston Avenue with mixed feelings. In broken play we were deadly, full of quick feet, pace and invention. Exciting to watch. In the tight and at the set piece we were, at times, awful. The scrummage was a mess. I’m not sure what was going on in that front row; the makeup of the three seemed to change at a blink of an eye and it was only toward the end of the game when Michael Langlands stepped in at hooker did we get parity at all. Being shoved backwards over distance and at a decent pace proved too much for many in the North Stand. Yet, yet…..when we move wide, create space, operate behind that gain line we are good, very good. The first 20 minutes of this game was testament to that. Why arm wrestle when there is no need? It was a blistering start with 3 tries to the good….so how did it go downhill from there?
For once Park were the bigger side. Huddersfield looked small. The 1872 bar was full of chat and optimism, with many believing that the day had arrived when our forwards could shine. Providing a solid go forward platform for the ‘black and whites’ to feed off. And from ‘the off’ that optimism appeared well founded. Park collected the ball and moved up field. The play went to a scrum. Park picked and moved from ‘8’ deftly allowing scrum half Ruairi Meharg to create the play wide. And from that moment Park were quick into space, quick to the breakdown and with Ash Smith back at fly half, quick of thought. With a chasm opening up Smith was through. A nimble chip over the advancing full back was gathered. First score to Park and we had only played 90 seconds. With the kick converted 7-0 to the home side.
From the restart we had more of the same. The Huddersfield kick went dead. Park elected to scrum. The ball was picked at 8 and passed on to Meharg. Enter returning full back Mattie Boustead. Picking a great line full of pace he bounced, danced, and shimmied his way over the line to score a fine individual try. Unfortunately Smith missed the conversion.12-0
Park continued to impress, excelling in broken play. Quick lineouts and off loads had Huddersfield grasping for thin air. We came to a scrum and it was here that the first signs of things to come began to show. Huddersfield went down as an eight…nice and flat…Park went back and lost their bind. Still the ball was going our way. On this occasion Seb Reece found a gap and went for it. No slouch himself, he carved his way through before giving the supporting Michael Grove a try scoring pass. A pass that was finished with a swallow dive into the corner. The conversion was difficult and missed. Smith showed his frustration. 17-0 to the home side.
Park started to take the ball in and played into Huddersfield hands. Albeit a small pack they were athletic and as Park found out to their cost, a pretty good unit. A maul, on or about the 22, went to the scrum. Why we created that play there.....begs a question. Huddersfield ‘took us up’ and for the next series of phases the away side dragged us in, before pooping a ball out for their centre to cross the line near to the posts. Conversion taken 17-7…and the danger signs were there to see.
Park kept moving and Huddersfield struggled and infringed. Offside in front. Smith duly took the points.20-7. Smith needed the kick to create confidence as he had spurned one earlier.
A dropped pass put Park on the back foot and the scrummage creaked, groaned and squealed. Huddersfield took the ‘black and whites’ to a series of set pieces as Park infringed time and time again. They kept the ball tight taking the home side to the arm wrestle. Percy Park were giving ground and deep in the red zone. You could see the belief in the Huddersfield side grow. They knew they had us. Changes were made in the front row to no avail. Huddersfield pounded and Park held. Our defensive work was impressive but you had that feeling we couldn’t hold. Finally the referee lost patience. He went to the yellow, with Andrew Steiners taking a walk for ‘dropping the shoulder and turning in’. We needed the whistle and that arrived with expert timing as we went to the half. 20 to 7 at the turn. Park were still a man down and needed to regroup.
The game re started with a big hit from second row Josh Hedley…mightily impressive aim…yet the opponent bounced out and Josh took the knee. Huddersfield pressed, they still had the extra man and they kept it tight and kept the ball. They were playing well. Jake Smith entered the fray and the noise levels went up!! Ethan Wilson was putting himself around. Park held and restored to the 15 the tension amongst the faithful abated.
For some unknown reason Park’s kicking game went to pot…line missed, ball rolling dead etc. etc.…all that seemed to do was to spur Huddersfield on. And it was Huddersfield who struck next.
From the scrum Park went backwards…a pattern was setting in…and Huddersfield went wide with their 15 making a strong run from deep. Unable to make the tackle in the midfield the player scorched through our line to score. Although the conversion was missed Huddersfield were back in the game at 20-12.
Further misery was inflicted as Park offended in the scrum area. A poor restart had the ball back in the middle and ,with ball secure, ignominy reigned as the YM scrum half encouraged his pack to keep walking the ball in the direction of the Park try line. With advantage, Huddersfield elected to take a penalty kick in front and when dispatched made the score 20-15.
Percy Park desperately needed to play in ‘chaos’…they had lost the wrestle…that moment arrived through Ash Smith, smarting from a missed penalty, crashed into the line dragging in three. Park went wide. Ollie Stephenson took a good line and broke the gain mark with support on his shoulder. As the tackler came across, Stephenson scooped the ball to Captain Seb Reece, who finished with some panache. The conversion was missed.25-15.
Percy Park needed distance. Huddersfield were dangerous and more than capable of causing an upset on the hallowed turf. Park ran the changes, swopping personnel around, trying to find the magic formula. With Andy Dunn throwing in Park went to the back and wide, attracting the YM scrum half to give away advantage by grabbing Ruairi Meharg’s boot at the ruck. It was a stupid and costly mistake as Park, with free ball, made best use by utilizing the chirpy Jake Smith in the line. Breaking the tackle Smith went over for that score. A try that gave some daylight to the home side. With Toby Davison taking over kicking duties the conversion was made. 32-15 to the home side.
Park were doing well at the line out with James Ponton at the fore (that is when Andy Dunn remembered he had to throw in!!!) yet the scrum remained a mess. A mess Huddersfield were keen to exploit. Michael Langlands dropped into the hooker berth and for once we didn’t go backwards…yet we still offended. Not a team to lie down Huddersfield YM went for it, aided by Andy Dunn being yellow carded for slowing the game down as YM motored down the pitch.
Park down to 14 battled away and were unlucky not to score as Michael Grove slipped at that moment of offload. If the supporting player had received the ball he would have been home and dry. Huddersfield kept hitting the line and Park dropped off the tackle. With time ebbing to the whistle, the YM full back broke through to score between the posts. With watch checked the conversion became the last play of the day. 32-22 at the ‘stop of the clock’…five much needed points for the home side, yet for the neutral Huddersfield deserved more…much more.
Our 2nd XV had reasonably good game away to Middlesbrough. Park had an awful start going down 7- 0 in the blink of an eye. Failing to react to the kick off proved costly. Park steadied the ship and started to play phases, with Aiden Phillips going over and Andrew Walker converting. 7- 7 the score.
Failing to take advantage of momentum the Lions went to sleep for 15 minutes and ‘Boro’ reaped the benefit by running in three tries. All of a sudden a very even game had ‘Boro’ 26- 7 up
Captain Karl Thompson rallied his side. Park went ‘back to basics’ playing phases. Mark Barry scored a great try breaking 3 tackles. 26 -12 at the break.
Coach Tim Walker found himself at ‘a loss’ to explain the second Half. Park had 90 % of the possession and 90 % of the territory but butchered chance after chance. Dan Jackson gave hope by scoring a good try. 26-17 game on .In the next 25 minutes, despite being battered, Middlesbrough managed two breakaway tries. 40 17.
Percy Park rallied and despite further ‘white line fever’ we finished on a high with ‘Man of the match’ Michael Birkett going over for a deserved score.
Overall the Lions put in a spirited, enthusiastic performance, where it could be argued the better team lost on the day .40 points to 24.
Next week the 1st XV are on their travels to Moortown RUFC in Leeds. For those who are unable to get ‘on their bike’ down the A1, the Lions are at home to Alnwick…and that will be a good game! Kick off remains at 3pm.
It was great to see many of our ‘Young Lions’ representing the club as mascots and ball boys. I know the honour created great excitement, as I was fortunate to share a ‘lift in’ with one of our Under 12 team and his Dad….the conversion was all about the club and his coach Andy Dun. With Michael Langlands U6’s (affectionately known as ‘Langas Little Lions’) as mascots the well-worn path from player to Junior coach and onto committee member shows no sign of coming to an end. Once black and white, always black and white!