Hemsworth 27 v Harrogate Pythons 29
Pythons stay top after a scare at Hemsworth
Harrogate Pythons went 3 points clear at the top of the Yorkshire 3 league after a rollercoaster win away at Hemsworth. The home side had the benefit of the slope and a stiff breeze in the first half, and showed from the kick off that they knew how to use the elements to apply sustained pressure on the team seven places above them in the league.
Hemsworth spent most of the opening ten minutes camped in the Pythons half and even when they were awarded a penalty that should have relieved the onslaught, touch was missed and Hemsworth came charging back. Hemsworth looked as if they would open the scoring after six minutes only to knock on, but this just delayed the inevitable and after multiple phases of pick and drives, the home side finally crashed over for the first try. 7-0.
Pythons finally managed to get some pattern to their game and a penalty resulted in a line out 5m from the Hemsworth line, but the ball was knocked on and the opportunity lost. Hemsworth continued with their tactic of pinning Pythons back with long clearance kicks but were not able to turn the territorial advantage into points. Instead after 20 minutes, another attempted clearance by Hemsworth was charged down and after some well constructed phases, Ned Rutty picked a great line to burst through the midfield defence and score under the posts to level the score. 7-7
Pythons continued to run the ball at every opportunity, but when they tried to break down the blindside in their own 22, an interception nearly put Hemsworth ahead again. Good scrambling defence stopped the initial burst and after some close drives, Jed Carr managed to steal the ball to relieve the pressure.
Learning from this scare, Tom Breakwell went for a long clearance kick, and with three Pythons chasing down it seemed they would create a good opportunity. However the Hemsworth full back did well to keep possession and when the ball was spread wide, the Pythons back line was completely absent and although the cover finally arrived, Hemsworth managed to recycle the ball and once again crashed over from short range. 14-7
The next score demonstrated the topsy turvy nature of the game after a Pythons knock on deep in their own half seemed to have handed the initiative to Hemsworth. However the league leaders managed to win the ball back at the breakdown and quick hands created space out wide. Jed Carr put in a delicate quick which he collected himself before passing to John Pickard on the wing. Pickard drew the final defender and passed back inside to Joe Bentham who went over for the try. Tom Breakwell slotted an excellent conversion to once again level the score. 14-14.
With two minutes left of the half the Pythons were now getting into their stride and almost immediately after the restart the ball was once again spread wide to John Pickard, and with Joe Bentham in close support the desperate defenders were unable to stop the flying winger going in at the corner after a 50 metre burst. The conversion fell just short to make the score 14-19 at half time.
Immediately following the restart, a long clearance by Liam Kernoghan was collected by Ned Rutty who was stopped with a high tackle, resulting in a yellow card for the Hemsworth winger. The initial penalty advantage was lost with a knock on at the line out, but Hemsworth’s opportunity was stopped by their own knock on. From the resulting scrum, Hugh Tatlow picked up at Number 8, creating an overlap out wide. “Tubes” Fallenstein charged through the gap in the defence and had too much pace for the full back, going over under the posts. Breakwell converted to open up a twelve point gap. 14-26.
As the huge Hemsworth forwards looked to be tiring it appeared this had made the game safe for the Pythons, but the home side were in no mood to throw in the towel. Fresh legs from the bench led to more strong runs and the Pythons defenders were struggling to contain the pressure. A penalty to the home side after 64 minutes led to a strong surge through the centres and once again the home side camped deep in Pythons territory before charging over in the corner. The long conversion was missed, 19-26.
Pythons continued to test out the Hemsworth defence and a clever kick from Liam Kernoghan looked to have put in Matt Halpin, but the ball just ran into touch. Two minutes later another kick through again threatened the home sides cover, but once again the ball was recovered and from the counter attack, Joe Bentham was adjudged to have killed the ball, and the resulting yellow card meant the Pythons were down to fourteen for the rest of the contest.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Hemsworth broke from a line out and the ball was spread wide for a fourth try. The conversion again fell short and they Pythons were ahead by just two points. 24-26.
The Pythons were now under real pressure and it took some big carries from Lennox, Leach and Ismail to keep the home side at bay. Then just as it seemed Pythons were going to hold out when a Hemsworth attack broke down just short of the line, the referee signalled a penalty to the home side in front of the posts following an offside. The Hemsworth full back duly slotted the kick and Pythons were suddenly 27-26 behind with only seconds remaining.
The long restart kick pinned Hemsworth back once again and an attempted clearance clipped a Pythons hand allowing Halpin to set up a final attack. The move broke down in midfield, but a Hemsworth transgression was penalised, and Pythons had a lifeline if Breakwell could keep his nerve with the 35 yard penalty. Tom’s view is that his kicked sailed through the middle of the uprights although some maintain it was a bit tighter than that! But the flags were raised and Pythons had somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Final score 29-27.
All good teams need the ability to “win ugly” on occasions, and this was a good example. Pythons were a long way from their best, but still came away with the bonus point win to extend their unbeaten run to six games.