Baildon's Great Train Robbery
By Mark Purvis
Baildon's mission: a smash and grab raid for maximum league points at Hemsworth
I know every team believes their ground is the best in the league. In Baildon's case, of course, it is true. Our pitch, reflecting many years of wise investment by our committee, is lush, well drained and green. We see some shockers on our travels. I remember getting changed in "the plague chapel" miles from the pitch at Stocksbridge, the "swamp" at Burley Road, the Ripon pitch that bore not a single blade of grass and having to access the pitch by balancing across a sewage pipe over a muddy river at Wath. There are, of course, many clubs with fine facilities, but often these lack charm. A nearby club with fine "international standard" facilities was once described to me as having "all the charm of a provincial airport."
Hemsworth are a nice bunch of players, Hemsworth is a nice place...but on arrival and at first glance the Moxon Fields facilities might be said to resemble a 1970s young offenders institution. It is not entirely clear if the razor wire is there to keep trespassers out or the Hemsworth players in. So much for first impressions. In fact the welcome, of course, is warm and the pitch is good - almost as wide as it is long and flanked along one side by the East Coast main line between Leeds and London Kings Cross. A kick to touch may well end up on the 3 o'clock intercity to the capital. In a former career, before I took up creative writing...I mean factual match reporting on our first XV's exploits, I would always look out for the Hemsworth pitches on my way back from the capital, knowing I was in proper Yorkshire and nearly home when the pitches flashed past the GNER/Virgin Trains/LNER window.
Enough of my travels. Baildon's mission was to overturn a home defeat against Hemsworth earlier in the season and return with maximum points to secure league survival. This would need to be a "smash and grab" exploit on a par with the infamous Great Train Robbery.
Our referee cut a lonely and forlorn figure at designated kick off time, with both teams apparently reluctant to leave the changing rooms. Perhaps they had been locked in or was that locked out? Perhaps our Brazilian ex pat player needed both teams to pull him away from the changing room's mirror? In any event, a breakout was secured and both teams eventually took the field.
Playing into a strengthening wind Baildon looked to draw first blood. Jake Duxbury, Tom Parnell and Adam Hewitt all made yards, the latter like a runaway freight train that had strayed off the nearby tracks. Matty Robinson ran through on a kick and looked to have dotted the ball down for the try, only for the move to be called back for an earlier knock on.
It seemed as though Baildon were too eager, passes were forced and good work was undone by silly penalties, especially at the breakdown where patience was called for.
Hemsworh took advantage of Baildon indiscipline with successive penalty kicks, (3-0) (6-0).
Hemsworth ran strongly, but were met by equally strong tackling. The most impressive was Matthew Wilson taking down a player many times his own size.
Baildon continued to rely on direct running into the wind. Andy Magee, Adam Hewitt and Josh Strauss all carried well. Luke Strauss pinned back his ears and went for the corner, only to be taken out with a no arms tackle. Baildon were confident enough to forego the shot at goal and kick to the corner for an attacking line out. Adam Hewitt was held up and Baildon were given an attacking scrum. Dan Cookson then Jake Duxbury both tried to burst through the defence. This time when Baildon were awarded a penalty, Jake Duxbury took the points. (6-3)
At the restart Matthew Wilson found himself running in broken play, turning defenders and spotting space, kicking. Luke Strauss collected the well placed kick to score in the corner. (6-8)
Baildon were dominant in the loose. Harrison Strauss, Paul MacNamara, and Luke Strauss all winning turnovers and stealing opposition ball like great robbers. When Danny Pollard burgled Hemsworth line out ball Baildon pounced. Matty Robinson moved the ball left and was involved again as the play was switched back right. Robinson released Luke Strauss to get his second try. (6-13)
Baildon should have had more before half time as Josh Strauss broke from a maul and cantered up the pitch, but the move petered out. (6-13 HT)
Baildon might have scored early in the second half when Matthew Wilson had a half chance from the boot of Jake Duxbury, but Wilson was harshly penalised when in fact it looked like a Hemsworth defender had attempted to play the ball when still off his feet.
It was now Hemsworth indiscipline that yielded field position through successive Baildon penalties. Harrison Strauss and Will "Caveman" Tomlinson were prominent. Jake Duxbury scored with a fine run, bursting would be tackles. Duxbury converted his own try. (6-20)
A Hemsworth high tackle gave Baildon another penalty kick. From the attacking line out, our Boy from Brazil and king of lists, Danny Pollard, caught and drove over the line. I have had many texts from Danny giving me lists of statistics that relate to the crucial bonus point try. I shall not, dear reader, delight you with Danny's fun factoids in this report. Instead I promise to try and work these statistics up as the basis for a quiz for that period between Christmas and New Year that can otherwise be quite dull. Jake Duxbury converted for the extras. (6-27)
Having secured the try bonus point, Baildon now cut loose. Dan Cookson, Ollie Williams and Luke Strauss were involved in fluent play before the ball once more was transferred to our hero; the blond haired, blue-eyed, Boy from Brazil, none other than Danny Pollard. Pollard outrageously goose stepped through the Hemsworth defensive line like a North Korean soldier on speed and dotted down to frenzied cheers and adulation from the Baildon support. Even Hemsworth players could be seen lining up for Pollard's autograph; some perhaps hoping for a mention in one of Danny's (many) lists. Duxbury added the extras. (6-34)
Adam "Going Loco Down in Acapulco" Hewitt was back on and once more impersonating an express train with his strong carries.
Hemsworth, inspired no doubt by their new found hero Danny Pollard, now showed that they could run strongly too. They hit back with a try. (13-34)
From the restart Matty "Ronnie Biggs" Robinson chased the kick, mugged the kick receiver and turned over the ball, feeding Jake Duxbury who ran the long way round on a beautiful arc to score. (13-39). Six tries. SIX! That's more than you can count on the fingers of one hand, unless you're from Halifa... no I am not going to write that for fear of causing offence. Six tries, that's as many tries as items on a Danny Pollard list of five things you didn't know about Danny Pollard.
With the match won, a bonus point secured and with barely five minutes to go Baildon switched off. Where they had been "The Great Train Robbers" they now resembled "The St Trinians Train Robbery" as high tackling allowed not one, but two consolation Hemsworth tries. (20-39) (27-39 FT)
Great job! The five points meant that unless Aireborough secured maximum points at Vandals and Vandals secured a bonus point, Baildon could not be caught by the bottom two clubs and would be safe in Yorkshire Three. This was a great job, but not job done. We need to carry this performance into our final fixture to set the standard for next season.
Many thanks to Hemsworth, a great set of lads and to the club for your hospitality. Thanks to our referee, match officials, players, coaches and supporters.
Congratulations to our second XV who turned out despite an opposition who didn't show.