RI lose at home to Halifax Vandals RUFC
A last minute penalty sinks RI in a game were they came to rue missed opportunities.
York RI RUFC lost a tight encounter at New Lane to a determined Halifax Vandals RUFC side that have become somewhat of a bogey team for RI. The hosts named a strong side with a minor reshuffling in the pack seeing Ben Hartop move from second row to blind-side, covering for the absent Rob Cuthbertson, Captain Frazer Land returning at hooker and coach Dan Coates starting at number 8. Andy Brentnall and Tim Lewis switched positions, the latter moving to wing, in an otherwise unchanged backline.
From the outset it was clear the weather conditions were going to play a major part in the game, with the strong wind blowing against the home side. Vandals’ kick off didn’t go the requisite ten metres and the resulting scrum gave RI the platform from which a period of territorial dominance was established. The ball was kept tight in the forwards, with strong carries from Coates, Land and Ward continually gaining ground. A penalty resulted from the pressure, and kicking to the corner RI took the lineout cleanly and set up a superb maul, with a massive forward drive seeing prop Darren Lonsdale force his way over the whitewash.
The remainder of the opening period saw good attacking play from both sides, Vandals using the wind to gain field position before moving the ball and RI doggedly working back up field to gain ground before opening up. A dangerous break was shut down by a fine tackle from right wing Tom Greaves with visitor’s fly-half five metres from going over, which should have been a score had the support been able to keep up. For RI quick hands through the backs saw a break from Brentnall but rather than look for the pass he ignored the support and took the tackle, spurning an excellent scoring opportunity.
Playing into the wind Vandals upped their game in the second half and used the forwards to go effect, picking and driving close to the breakdown and making good yards. RI defended stoutly, with back row Franck Rossi stripping the ball on numerous occasions, but rather than use the ball a kicking game was adopted. This gave Vandals the ball they needed to manufacture a score and even it up a 5 – 5. This was followed by the ever-improving Andy Brentnall going on a silky run in the midfield to leave the Vandals defence clutching at thin air, then his blistering pace saw him score in the corner. Baptiste Briu missed his second touchline conversion but RI led 10 – 5.
Petulance was beginning to creep into the visitor’s game and resulted in a yellow for the ever-threatening fly-half, and a second for a cynical trip by the replacement centre. RI couldn’t capitalise however, and some poor decision making and imprecision meant there were no changes to the scoreboard during a period when the game should have been put to bed. One potentially costly decision was made by the referee, who after awarding a try to Captain Land, then rescinded the score following protests by the visitors over an injured player. When Vandals were restored to fifteen men, the game oscillated between tight one-out rugby, and loose ambitious running but neither team could crack the other’s defence. A period of sustained pressure from the visitors saw a line-out taken and a well-formed maul yielding a try for the hard-carrying number 8. The conversion missed but the scores tied at ten-a-piece going into the last five minutes.
The closing stages were tense but it was Vandals that first conceded a penalty just inside their half. Having turned down numerous shots at goal, it seemed a strange choice to go for such a long range effort rather than field position. The kick was missed and the visitors countered up the field winning their own penalty. Kicking into the wind it fell short and when RI attempted to run the ball back it was turned over, and worse a penalty ceded under the posts, for a jubilant Vandals to kick and snatch the game 13 – 10. Commitment from the home side cannot be questioned, but imprecision and poor decision making ultimately cost a match that, having a period with a two man advantage, should have been put to bed. Francky Rossi put in an excellent shift deservedly winning the man of the match award.