Midfield masterclass as Moff takes centre stage
An outstanding individual display from centre Kieran Moffat helped Elthamians to an entertaining six-try victory at College Meadow.
Old Elthamians 42 Hull Ionians 26
Elthamians bounced back from the disappointment of their comprehensive defeat at Coventry a fortnight ago with a performance against Hull Ionians that neatly summed up their season so far.
For 60 minutes, they were excellent. With Joe Carlisle pulling the strings at fly-half and centre Kieran Moffat a dominant figure in midfield, they shut down the Hull attack with a smothering defence and looked lively and full of running with the ball in hand out wide.
Moffat (pictured), on his return to the side after missing the last three matches following a return to New Zealand, was simply outstanding. At the heart of the majority of Elthamians’ best work with, and without, the ball, his industry in defence and tackle count alone was enough to earn him the man of the match award. He capped a fine display with a wonderful individual score in the first half and his clever runs in midfield were a thorn in the side of the Hull defence all afternoon.
Leading 42-0 and in complete control on the hour, Elthamians had the game wrapped up. Except, like Rosslyn Park did against them at the end of February, Ionians promptly dominated the final quarter, scoring 26 unanswered points, including a three-try burst in the final 10 minutes with OEs down to 14 men following a yellow card for replacement Tom White, to claim a deserved losing bonus point.
The home side will rightly point out that the damage had already been done and they had taken their foot off the pedal with the game already in the bag. But that would be doing a disservice to a battling Hull side who despite enduring the worst possible preparations for this important National One clash, finished in the ascendancy. Indeed, the relative ease with which they opened up the Elthamians defence in the final quarter, should give the OEs coaching team plenty of food for thought as the campaign enters the home straight.
Hull will also wonder what might have been had they not been delayed by major traffic problems en route to College Meadow which meant they did not arrive at the ground until just 15 minutes before the already delayed kick-off time.
Despite having barely enough time to get their hands warm let alone warm up properly, they made a decent fist of things in the early exchanges. But once Dom Lespierre intercepted a loose pass midway inside the visitors’ half and streaked away to open the scoring on 12 minutes, Elthamians dominated proceedings for the remainder of the half.
Just two minutes later, Hull made a hash of dealing with Ollie Claxton’s box kick which enabled Renford Bennett to hack the ball towards the goal line and keep his cool to win the race to touch down.
Leading 14-0 and growing in confidence, the home side added a third converted try on 21 minutes as Moffat now took centre stage. Receiving quick ball off the top of a lineout just outside the Hull 22, the OEs centre cut back on an angle towards his pack and then jinked his way through the defence before outpacing the last tackler to dive over in the corner.
It was a wonderful score and OEs were quick to capitalise on their advantage to secure the bonus point for a fourth try before the half hour mark. Another Claxton box kick, this time in his own 22, was again dropped by the Hull defence, and OEs No.8 Ben King recovered and released Lespierre with a clever off-load. The winger sprinted away down the touchline, going two thirds of the length of the pitch to score by the posts.
Elthamians were good value for their 28-0 interval lead and continued in the second half the way they finished the first. Carlisle added a fifth score after intercepting a pass down the narrow side of a ruck on 51 minutes and when No.8 Harry Ledger crashed over five minutes later after collecting a cheeky reverse overhead pass from prop Alex Rogers, the home side looked to be heading for their biggest win of the season.
But then came a sudden, and thoroughly unexpected, swing in momentum. It began on 64 minutes when Hull replacement Charlie Capps broke a tackle in the OEs 22 after good work from his pack, and finally got the visitors on the scoreboard.
Buoyed by the score, the Ionians forwards began to make serious in-roads, once again forcing play into the OEs 22. A series of forward drives were halted just short of the try-line, referee Gareth Holsgrove adjudged they were halted illegally and ran between the posts to award the penalty try before showing a yellow card to Tom White.
Down to 14, the Elthamians defence was split wide open just three minutes later by Hull winger Sam Wilson, who exploited a yawning gap in the middle of the field, and just kept on going as the OEs defence parted like the Red Sea, for an excellent individual score.
And in the final minute, Hull secured the four-try bonus point when replacement James Tincknell latched on to a grubber kick and was able to dive on the ball first as it bounced over the try-line.
For the visitors some measure of consolation on a difficult afternoon. For Elthamians, an anti-climactic ending but a much needed victory in their quest for a top six finish in their first season in National One.
Tries: Lespierre x 2 (12,27), Bennett 14, Moffat 21, Carlisle 51, Ledger 56
Cons: Carlisle x 6 (13, 15, 22, 28, 52, 57)
Tries: Capps 62, Penalty Try 70, Wilson 73, Tincknell 78
Cons: Lound x 2 (74,79)
Old Elthamians: Surman, Lespierre, Emmerson, Moffat, Bennett, Carlisle, Claxton, L Brown, Morris, Rogers, Preocanin, King, Messum, Barton, Ledger. Replacements: North, Rudland-Thomas, Denbee, White, Parker.
Hull Ionians: Slingsby, Wilson, Minikin, Allott, Humberstone, Lound, Fox, Laverick, Thomson, Dennis, Makin, Falkingham, Torkington, Sanderson, Priestley-Nangle. Replacements: Stephenson, Capps, Stout, Green, Tincknell.
Referee: Gareth Holsgrove
Half-time: Old Elthamians 28 Hull Ionians 0
Star man: Kieran Moffat (Old Elthamians)