RI in Stalemate at Halifax
York RI RUFC and Halifax RUFC fight out a draw in tough conditions.
Jekyll & Hyde team York RI RUFC turned in a strong performance at Halifax RUFC with both teams fighting hard for a draw at Ovenden Park. The result highlights how close the top half of the league is with Halifax favourites to clinch second and promotion only a handful of points above fifth placed RI. It was a pleasing return to form for RI following some disappointing results in recent weeks, but also highlights what might have been had performances been more consistent throughout the season.
In the absence of regular skipper Frazer Land and a number of other RI stalwarts, Dan Coates named a slightly different looking team. Experienced props Darren Lonsdale and Andy McCarthy were joined in the front row by young hooker Alex De’lay with regulars Ben Hartop and Yohan Barthelemy in the second row. Captain Martyn Ward started in the back row with openside Francky Rossi and No. 8 Dave Skaith. Behind the scrum, regular half-backs Brendan Aherne and Stu Watson started inside centres Tim Lewis and Andy Brentnall. Danny Spencer joined Tom Greaves and Baptiste Briu to constitute the back three.
From the kick off it was clear Halifax were a well organised side looking to win matches by firstly dominating a kicking game. Kicking options at standoff, centre and full back pinned RI in their own half for much of the opening 10 minutes, but it was sensibly dealt with by the back three, Briu and Greaves returning kicks to the safety of touch. With some attacking field position Fax sought to probe around the fringes but their big runners were ably dealt with by the outstanding RI pack, and centres Lewis and Brentnall marshalled the opposition backs well in the midfield. Set-piece dominance, particularly in the scrum, enabled RI to gain territory and launch attacks of their own. A combination of excellent defence from the home side and a slight lack of cohesion prevented RI scoring a try, but the pressure told and Briu slotted a penalty.
The territorial battle continued with both sides looking to pin the other back, and it was in this aspect of play that Fax had the edge. With ball in hand RI looked slightly more dangerous, with Tim Lewis and Danny Spencer running well but there were no further scores before the interval, the visitors leading 3 – 0.
After the break RI seemed pretty much in control and looking to run more ball only for a suicidal pass to be intercepted, moved wide through the Fax backline with the winger scoring a converted try out wide. Seemingly given confidence, the home side began utilising their backs more rather than rely on the kicking game and although the RI defence for the most part held firm, they were fortunate that a couple of passes went forward when the defence was stretched. Being a close game, every advantage was sought and the physicality at the breakdown was impressive from both teams. However, after repeated infringements both sides were instructed to tidy it up and it was York RI who fell afoul of the referee and lock Barthelemy was sent to the bin.
The home side looked to press on with a man advantage but RI’s defence remained well organised and the set-piece in the ascendency so no further scores were ceded. A break from their own half saw Fax build through the phases and come close to scoring their second, only to be held up over the line. Restored to 15, RI scrummaged strongly under their posts looking for the turnover. Seeing his pack under pressure and no other option the Fax 10 dropped back into the pocket to drop a goal in an excellent piece of play all round.
RI dug deep from the next kick off with 10 minutes to play and battered the home side’s line, retaining the ball well. Creating space, it was RI’s turn to be inaccurate with the final pass, either knocking on or passing forwards. However, the pressure resulted in penalties and a kick to touch saw a perfectly executed lineout move, Barthelemy crashing over to redeem his earlier indiscretions. Baptiste Briu nailed a tricky conversion to tie the scores at 10 all and RI’s confidence was high. From the Fax kick off RI built through the phases and worked into the opposition 22 before knocking on. Given the scrum pressure and intensity from RI Fax seemed content with draw and looked to kick the ball dead in the last play, only for the kick to be sliced and just about dealt with by the home side’s winger.
Both sides had a mixture of relief and disappointment at the result, but in truth a draw well reflected an even game with periods of dominance for each team and neither ought to be disheartened. Huge praise must be given for RI’s pack, grafting hard throughout and showing what a force they are when on-song. Many thanks to Halifax RUFC for their after match hospitality and good luck in your push for promotion
Finally, thanks again to the supporters that made their way across, as always it is much appreciated. Next week York RI RUFC 1st XV host Leeds Corinthians and the 2nd XV travel to Wensleydale so please show your support and players make an effort to get to training on Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm.