Huddersfield vs Chester 19-10
Saturday 17th February
This was a very good away win indeed, and was all the better for being hard fought. Huddersfield had been two places above Chester in the league prior to kick off, and so would fairly have been considered favourites. Chester's three tries to one victory was built fundamentally on a well structured and relentless defence and superior fitness. These enabled them to hold out against what at times seemed overwhelming Huddersfield pressure in the first half, and then to build an impregnable lead in the second half as the home side ran out of stamina. The performance was notable for the strong contributions made by some of the newer members of the side, like back row Sam Farrar, who was Chester's man of the match. In addition, the away support from the travelling VPs was, as ever, voluble but fair-minded.
The first half began ominously with the home side dominating possession and driving over for a converted try from a 5 metre lineout after only four minutes. Chester then managed a 5 metre lineout of their own, only to be driven into touch. Huddersfield were showing considerable patience in possession, largely carrying the ball through their forwards, but the visitors' defence held - winning penalties and forcing turnovers as multi-phase attacks ran out of steam. When Chester did manage to get some attacking ball, they threatened dangerously. Sean Green made a long break deep into the home 22, and there followed a series of penalties and scrums that looked likely to yield some points. However, the Chester scrum was under severe pressure and was struggling to produce good ball. Then, at the third time of asking, the ball was moved away quickly left to Freeman Payne. Freeman bulldozed his way through the midfield defence before the ball was offloaded to Peter Rees, coming off his wing. Pete crossed for the try which was converted by Josh Morris to make the score 7-7 after 27 minutes.
The remainder of the half saw Chester mostly defending against dominant Huddersfield scrummaging and territorial pressure. Nevertheless, in anticipation of things to come, it was Chester who came closest to scoring, being held up twice more over the home try line before the break.
The second half began with some strong carries by the Chester forwards, notably Guy Ford and Jonny Charmely. The visitors were beginning to win a lot more ball and gain a territorial advantage, but could not make it count on the scoreboard. In fact it was Huddersfield who broke the deadlock with a long-range penalty in the 55th minute. However, this was the home side's swansong. The remaining 25 minutes were dominated by the Chester side. The pack was winning some good lineout ball, notably from Jonny Charmely, and was clearly winning the collisions. When the ball was moved wider, the backs were making their own dents in midfield - notably from Macca van Sertima - and gaps were beginning to appear as the home defence tired.
Chester were held up over the home tryline yet again, before their pressure finally came good in the 65th minute. The resulting 5 metre scrum was driven backwards by Huddersfield, but the Chester forwards managed to hold onto the ball. A series of pick and goes made space for Guy Ford to crash over for a try converted by James Preston. By now the Huddersfield attack looked to have run out of steam and ideas. Unable to make progress through the hands, they kicked loosely, allowing the visitors to regain possession and run the ball back at them. From one counter attack Sam Farrar managed a 40 metre break, being hauled down by the Huddersfield cover just short of the try line.
Sam conceded a penalty for holding on, but the home side were unable to exit successfully and lift the Chester pressure. James Preston was wide with a long-range penalty attempt, but the Huddersfield dropout only led to another Chester attacking lineout. This was first driven on and then the forwards, notably Rhodri Rhys, carried strongly before the ball was held up yet again over the Huddersfield line. Guy picked up from the resulting scrum and passed to scrum half George Baxter who crossed for a converted try.
This was a well deserved away win that moved Chester to 6th in the league, up two place, while Huddersfield dropped a place to 7th.