High-flying Underbank stormed to their tenth straight win in the National Conference League III as they dug deep to defeat local rivals Bramley Buffaloes 12-34 in a tough encounter at the Arthur Miller Stadium.
With Bank unable to repeat the ruthless attacking display they ran against Nottingham just six days previous, it was their determined defensive capabilities that took the plaudits this week.
With the Holmfirth-based side giving 18 penalties away – more than twice what they received – Bramley were able to pressurise Bank’s try-line on numerous occasions.
But apart from two crossings, the stubborn Rangers defence oozed togetherness as they kept out most of what their counterparts could throw.
And in their fourth game in 13 days, Bank still found the legs to punish Bramley on six occasions as Will Midgley and the in-form Adam Ryder both crossed twice after Nick Briggs and Jordan Williams got the scores rolling.
Buffaloes’ man of the match Andrew Staniland and utility forward Graham Nash ensured Bramley were in touching distance at the break but the home side failed strike again.
Both sides looked to threaten in the opening minutes but it was Bank that broke the deadlock in the 12th. James usher released Briggs who exploited a gap in the home defence before rounding the full back to score.
Soon enough Rangers had their second after Williams capped off a 100 metre set as he crashed under the sticks on the final tackle. Neil Barrett made it two out of two with the kick.
Bank had a firm grip on the game but an individual error brought Bramley back in contention. Courtney Allette failed to collect Steve Suddards’ high kick to the corner and Staniland was on hand to pick up the scraps and dive over.
Underbank pulled further ahead as Richard Knight finely finished off a swift cross-field move as he swept out a 20 metre pass to the unmarked Midgley who raced over before Bramley struck again. Nash caught Sam Coyne unaware as he dived over from a quick play-the-ball by the posts.
After the interval, the arrival of Lee St Hilaire had an immediate impact as he broke clear on Bank’s first set of the second half and raced 50 meters. The shell-shocked Bramley were unable to regroup and Barrett quickly found Ryder who shrugged off three defenders to go over.
It became anybody’s guess who was to score next as both sides held firm for 20 minutes.
But some high-rate Bank defence forced Bramley to turn the ball over in their own half with Ryder once again taking advantage as he powered through more ineffective tackling to bag his second try on the hour.
Buffaloes again responded well, and a series of penalties provided them with a sustained period of pressure as they looked to take advantage when Rangers’ Allette and Sam Dalby were sin binned successively for dissent and foul play.
But Underbank defended like warriors on their own line and it was they who had the last say in injury time. Knight’s pin-point kick over they Bramley defence was picked up by Midgley who once again raced in. Barrett hit his fifth conversion to seal a hard-fought victory.
Player-coach Knight was proud of his players’ performance and said: “For us to come to Bramley when we have had so many games in such a short period of time, give away 18 penalties and only receive eight, have two men sin binned in the second half and still not concede a try, and then win by the margin we did just shows what desire our boys have.
“We have had a tough game today and that will set us up nicely for Hemel. We know it is the big game of the season, and today will stand us in good stead for that one.”