Doesn't get much tighter
Bonus point defeat as resolute defence rules the day
An extremely tight game with no tries to either side saw Halifax Vandals pip Skipton by two penalty goals to one at a packed Sandylands in the last rays of the autumn sunshine.
A charged down clearance kick from Skipton by the Vandals from the off set the tone, with the visitors being sharper at the breakdown but Skipton resolute in defence.
Two early knock-ons gave Vandals the scrum advantage. Despite a good push by Skipton, a high tackle in the loose gave the Vandals a penalty. A tap and run saw them held up just short. A knock-on gave Skipton the scrum but the visitors gained a penalty for Skipton crossing, which they converted to take an early lead.
From the re-start, an excellent break by winger Ciaran Bartlett (Pure Travel/WBW) gave Skipton a penalty for a high tackle. The home side opted for the scrum. A knock-on spoiled quick hands from the scrum but skipper Hamish Munro (RN Wooler) turned the ball over for Skipton at the ruck. Vandals won it back at the next ruck and cleared down field.
Skipton fought back, gaining hard yards down field. A penalty for Vandals crossing and a Munro interception gave the home side good field position. A Skipton penalty for another Vandals high tackle was converted by Munro to bring the sides level. The ball did not go 10 metres from the re-start giving Skipton the scrum. Great work by scrum-half Jack McLeod (Drake and Macefield) and No. 8 Mark Davison (Seddon and Davison) came to nothing as the Vandals put the ball down field and applied pressure on Skipton's line. A penalty to Skipton two metres out for illegal play at the ruck ended the half with the sides level at 3 all.
An excellent tackle from the re-start by winger Jamie Carroll (JD Construct) gave Skipton good field position on the Vandals 22 and, from a free-kick for Vandals feeding at the scrum, Skipton tapped and ran. A dropped ball ended the move and the home side had to endure wave after wave of pressure from the visitors with an interception by back-row Jordan Wilson (WBW) finally giving the Reds some respite. Skipton Coach Craig Bartlett (Pure Travel/WBW) then brought Ben Ross (RJG Sourcing) on to replace Mike McLachlan (Woodhouse Tiling) in the back line and Shaun Barraclough (DS Electrical) took over from new signing Kris Baker (sponsorship available) in the forwards.
Skipton gained a penalty for a Vandals off-side but the kick went wide and the chance to take the lead was lost. The Reds then began to pin the Vandals back, with good work from Joe Gill (JBL Gill & Sons) in the centre and Mark Davison at No. 8, but conceded a penalty within kickable range for not releasing. The attempt at goal was successful and the Vandals regained the lead.
Skipton came straight back from the re-start with a great break from McLeod putting Carroll clear but he was brought down 10 metres out. A Skipton penalty for a Vandals infringement at the breakdown was compounded by the visitors not retreating 10 metres and Skipton put the ball into the corner. A good move from the line-out ended with a knock-on but Vandals put the kick from the scrum out on the full and Skipton were back down in the corner again. Coach Bartlett made some late changes, bringing Jonny Kulik (SIPS@Clays) on at scrum-half and Andrew Baron (sponsorship available) on to replace stalwart Chris Wright (SHC) at prop, but time had run out for the Reds and they had to settle for just a losing bonus point from a very even encounter.