Territory and defence give Sheffield the winning edge.
Without their captain and not training as a full squad midweek, the pre match routine centred more around organising than rehearsing. Sheffield needed to pull together quickly to beat a fired up Hemsworth outfit. Following their performance last week, Sheffield played hard in the first few minutes and the initial feeling on the pitch was that a win was possible if the team could click early on. The Sheffield pack set about disrupting the Hemsworth attacks with excellent tackling from Dave Allenson and Scott Bellamy early on and No 10 Adam Bryron ensured that Sheffield played all of the rugby on Hemsworth’s try line. Initially Sheffield struggled to string phases together and the rugby became frantic and lacked pattern. Playing the rugby in Hemsworth’s 22 allowed Sheffield the time to gel without the fear of losing points and after 5 mins or so, Sheffield definitely looked the more dominant. A turnover sensibly driven in by the pack on halfway did the job of sucking in the Hemsworth forwards allowing scrumhalf John Briston to deliver the ball to the backs on the front foot. 2 Passes away from the remaining defenders gave winger George Leach half a yard around the last man and he finished beautifully from 30m outpacing the covering fullback. Sheffield were off the score sheet. The game became very open with both sides enjoying running the ball and tackling hard. Possession continued to swap hands at the tackle area and neither team’s line out was able to function efficiently, meaning any further scores had to be created through hard graft and handling ability. No 10 Bryron continued to put pressure on Hemsworth by kicking them deep into their own half backing the pack’s physical dominance and the back’s defence. The tactic paid off as a pressurised clearance kick gave Sheffield a line out on Hem’s 22. Another training park line out, led by Pat Scotton, put No 8 Phil Tomlinson on the charge around the back of the line out into the Hem’s back line. Quick clearing out again gave the backs a chance. A floated pass into the gap between the centres was hit at pace by centre Andy Logan who powered over the line again on the 20th minute.
The game then began to break down as Sheffield’s enthusiasm at the tackle gave away countless penalties and for the first time, Sheffield were under pressure in their own half. Hem’s continued the pressure with some hard running winning again more penalties which eventually resulted in a try through a, by now, confused and disorganised defensive line.
Sheffield kicked off and put on a good chase putting pressure on The Hems attack. Again the game became sloppy, knock ons, lost scrummages, missed line outs and lack of direction. Sheffield’s No 10 again had the head to take control and, as in the first few minutes, used the howling wind to play Sheffield into Hem’s half. Sheffield made the most of the opportunities and had the handling edge. Brett Rhodes ran in another try from messy Hemsworth play on 35 minutes. Disaster happened again 4 minutes later as Phil Tomlinson was shown a dubious yellow card after turning over ball at a 1 on 1 tackle. The accumulation of penalties at the tackle would mean Sheffield started the second half with 14.
The second half was played with much more direction from both teams. The wind dropped and set piece play functioned more consistently meaning now both teams kept the ball for longer periods. Sheffield hammered away at the Hem’s line. The forwards ran well off 9, with damaging runs from Dave Allenson, Scott Belamy, Peter Walker and Max Singleton linking several phases together to test the defence. The backs, now linking well further wide, produced some excellently timed passes to cruise past the defence and Adam Byron crossed the white wash on 50 minutes. Sheffield were definitely in control. Hems couldn’t cope with being kicked back into their 22 and didn’t have the power to play themselves back up the field. Sheffield continued to tighten up the play, stringing more and more phases together from the direction of new scrum half Luke Fillingham. John Briston, now playing in the backline, ran in another try on 65 mins. The Sheffield scrum was now consistently turning over a weakened Hems outfit. Any pressure from the Shef defensive line resulted in a turnover. Finally the nail was securely hammered in. A turnover scrum allowed Phil Tomlinson to attack blind on the Hem’s 10m line. A wide inside pass hit Peter Walker, who ran outside the Hem’s 10 creating an inside gap for Shef No10 Bryron. Bryron hit the gap with pace but was brought down inches short of the line. Some excellent tracking work from prop Simon Tomlison finished the job with a pick and go under the posts. Sheffield had the final say.
Despite a heavy win, Sheffield were not happy with the overall performance. A lesson in how to win a game by playing territory first has given a lot of food for thought come next Saturday’s clash with Sheffield Medics.