Chester 34 v Huddersfield 20
28th October 2017
This was a well-earned Chester win against a recently promoted and well supported Huddersfield side. At the hour mark the match was very much in the balance, with the home side under pressure and defending a narrow two point lead, but their greater fitness and composure enabled them to pull away for what was, at the final whistle, clear bonus point win.
The visitors began energetically, moving the ball wide to their left and taking play deep into the Chester 22. It was already clear that Huddersfield had a big, heavy pack and they were able to drive the home off their ball at a 5 metre scrum to set up one of their own. They used the resulting quick ball to attack to their right where outside centre Tom Owen found a sizeable hole in a somewhat brittle home defence. He stepped off his right foot into the gap and crossed for a try converted by flyhalf Jonny West. A few minutes later Owen managed another clean break, but a dangerous attack petered out with a home penalty.
Huddersfield’s defence was putting in some heavy tackles when Chester moved the ball wide, but were consistently punished when they coughed up penalties. These enabled the home side to use the wind to set up attacking positions.
From a lineout close to the Huddersfield line a well set up maul allowed the Chester pack to drive the ball infield and then over the try line for an unconverted try after 15 minutes. Five minutes later Kyle Joseph won quick lineout ball, which was moved left and right to stretch the visitors’ defence. When the ball was moved right from a ruck a few metres from the Huddersfield line their wing forward Lewis Bradley deliberately knocked on to stop a near certain try. He was binned and Chester were awarded a into penalty try to move a 12-7 lead.
In the second quarter each side managed a penalty and it seemed that Chester would finish the half with a five point lead, which might or might not be enough with which to face the wind in the second period. However, on the point of half time, flyhalf Liam McGovern harnessed the gusting wind to produce a well judged clearing kick that utterly bamboozled Huddersfield wing Sam Nunn to set up a lineout on the Huddersfield 22. Ross White stole the ball at the ensuing lineout and when the ball was moved right Tom Foden appeared from the left wing to make a clean break deep into the visitors’22. From two quick rucks the ball was moved right and overstretched the Huddersfield to set up a converted try in the right hand corner.
Both sides created opportunities early in the second half without troubling the scoreboard. However, Huddersfield put a real squeeze on the home defence just after the 50th minute. There were five successive scrums close to the home line, with the visitors’ pack dominant. From the last of these inside centre Will Milner found space to score a converted try. Five minutes later another attacking scrum allowed Huddersfield to set up a penalty which Jonny West duly kicked to make the score 22-20 with the final quarter to go.
With the wind behind them, it would have been no great surprise had Huddersfield kicked on for an away win. They had been dominating possession, denying Chester any opportunity to put points on the board. As it was, Chester dug deep and the visitors faded. Sean Green and Tom Foden ran back a loose Huddersfield kick. Despite a loose pass, the home side continued to make progress through some strong rucking and pick and goes. The ball was moved from side to side stretching the visitors’ defence to breaking point and allowing captain Guy Ford to benefit from an overlap and cross in the corner to put Chester seven in front. By now Huddersfield were visibly tiring to the point where Chester were gaining ascendancy in the scrums. Scrumhalf Harry Craven had been supplying a stream of quick ball from the breakdown all afternoon but, faced by heavy legged defenders, now he was finding space to probe close to rucks.
Huddersfield were now chasing the game and making errors. A quickly taken penalty was knocked on. Chester then won penalties at successive scrums, in a way that would have seemed improbable thirty minutes earlier. These enabled them to set up camp in the visitors 22. They then pushed Huddersfield off their own scrum ball and stole a Huddersfield lineout. In the last minute, a Chester 5 metre lineout was thrown to Kyle Joseph at the back. This allowed his pack to maul first infield and then back towards the touchline for a try well converted by Liam McGovern.
Chester’s greater fitness played a part in enabling them to score tries in the last minte of each half. In addition, superior game management and ability to take opportunities had secured them a good win in circumstances less comfortable than the final score, 34-20, might suggest. For their part Huddersfield had scored well worked tries and contributed their full share to an exciting match for spectators to enjoy.