U15 - Ribb 17 v 24 Fleetwood
By Simon Drew
A good performance with limited numbers in poor weather.
Match Report Sunday 10 March 2019
North Ribblesdale RUFC U15s vs Fleetwood RUFC U15s
Played at Melbourne Ave, Fleetwood
With a stingingly cold wind (and, at times, hail accompaniment) blowing in fresh from the Irish Sea, Fleetwood kicked off to an eager looking Matty Garth who barrelled in, turned and set the first ruck of the game. Given the conditions, ball firmly in grasp (or up jumper) and taken into contact was a good option. Leo Walkden dug out and passed to Sherief El-Defrawi to repeat. Next Harry Mathew, then Ollie Drew did the same. So far, so good. On the next phase, Leo found Freddie Spensley with a pass. He then found Nelson Delailomaloma and then Joey Pratt, in a more familiar backs berth this week. His wingward scamper was ended with a drag-down tackle. The next pass, from the base of the short-lived ruck, was against a howling wind that caught and lofted it over Freddie and away from any intended direction. Ollie had to scurry back to collect. Ribb, however, remained on the front foot. This took effort and the combined effect of solid tackling by Fleetwood on any isolated Ribb runner, and the wind blowing any Fleetwood toe-poke ten or twenty metres towards the Ribb try line meant possession had to be nurtured. That it took over 90 seconds for the first knock on of the game was surprising. Fleetwood won their scrum and, maybe using local knowledge of the filthy weather conditions, elected to have the number eight pick up and bomb forward. Leo put the man down and close attention from Nelson, Matty and Max Sutcliffe forced a Fleetwood knock on. Will Clay hooked well, and a pop to Freddie, who passed back inside to Joey, sought to exploit the blind side. The home tackling was firm and the attack ended, again, with a knock on. Ribb’s natural instinct to keep the ball alive was working against them as the wind gusting across the pitch was turning the act of passing the ball into a lottery. After 5 minutes an advanced Fleetwood defender found himself between Harris Dinsdale and a pass to Liam Knights. In cutting out the pass, he knocked it forwards before picking it up and running in (unconverted) to score, despite the defensive efforts of Liam and Sherief who were probably, like the rest of us, awaiting the whistle for the obvious knock on. 5-0 to Fleetwood after 6 minutes.
At this point Freddie left the field injured. Joey assumed kicking responsibilities for the 14 players of Ribb, and put one into the wind that just fell short of carrying the necessary 10m before blowing back and being taken by Liam. Fleetwood chose to scrum on half way. Nelson well and truly exerted his physical superiority on the Fleetwood runner, twice, and Ribb won back possession. Joey charged up the left wing and Fleetwood had to resort to hands in the ruck to stop going backwards. Penalty Ribb. In Freddie’s absence, Matty kicked to touch. Gus Ogden’s throw was marvellous, especially given the conditions, and the driving maul from Ribb gained 5m before Leo fed Nelson. On being tackled Leo fed Ollie, who gained an admirer (around the neck) for which play was eventually brought back (after Harry and Matty had each battered into contact with earth-shuddering effect). Harry took the penalty into contact, somewhat gingerly, before a clever Joey chip almost paid off, the Fleetwood defence eventually mopping up effectively. The knock on count continued to tick over and from the next scrum Ribb attacked blind. Whilst Nelson drew the defence, Joey progressed with the ball up the left wing. When Joey was eventually stopped, Nelson was first there to gate the ruck. The ball went quickly from Leo to Gus, and then Harry into contact. The next phase was fed to Adam Dunwell, who drew and passed to Nelson. Nelson committed two tacklers and popped to Harris. Harris darted between four defenders for a well worked try (unconverted) to make the score 5-5 after 14 minutes.
The home restart was blown out of play by the wind for a Ribb lineout. Another good chuck from Gus was confidently slung through Ollie, Leo, Nelson, and Joey, to Harris. The Fleetwood defence drifted across, and the move ran out of space. As Ribb tried to fashion a gap, the ball squirmed out of control and as Fleetwood assumed possession Nelson had to cover across with pace to avert a try scoring opportunity. From the lineout, the Ribb backs rolled the dice, but to little effect. The game was finely balanced with a lot of attrition play in the middle of the park. Ribb were taking more risks, and were having the better of the attacking play, but also suffering the consequences of their invention and desire to keep the ball alive when possession was lost. On 20 minutes, Harry decided he couldn’t play on. From a lineout Fleetwood used their considerable mass to barge over the line (converted) in three instalments. 12-5 after 24 minutes.
Joey’s restart was high, to the left, and well fielded by Fleetwood. Both teams were trading surges. Fleetwood were dependent on their forwards taking the ball into rucks. Ribb were keen to involve the backs. Too often, though, the final pass was short or distorted by the wind, and the attack petered out. On 27 minutes, despite a backpedalling scrum and the opposition scrum half having gone way past the mid-line of the tunnel, Leo was able to ship the ball to Liam who beat his man, before going to ground by the next. The ball skittered back to Max, who seized control and ran powerfully through the middle of the pitch. The ball was then recycled to Joey, and then Will Garnet who made good ground on the left. The wind continued to thwart Ribb’s passing style, but when the ball was lost, Adam, Sherief, Nelson, and Matty could be counted on to try and win it back. There was a high ball turnover rate and as the half drew to a close Ribb had Joey, Harris (who received a boot to the face) Max, and Ollie to thank for some truly terrific try-saving tackles.
Joey got the second half under way with a high floating kick that promised much from the wind assistance Ribb would have for this half. The Ribb attack wasn’t up at the same speed, though, and the Fleetwood catcher had time to first compose himself and then wind up a run at Ribb. A stray Ribb pass was intercepted deep in the Fleetwood half but rather than stand hands on hips and await the conversion, Liam and Max ran as men possessed to catch the thief. A Liam ankle tap was followed up by a Max diving tackle, and Sherief sacked the supporting Fleetwood player to avoid conceding a try in a most entertaining way. Ribb had a scrum for the Fleetwood knock on from which Ollie dashed 20m up the wing before being caught. This was a good (and effective) tactic. However, despite Nelson and Joey biting well in midfield, a bit of Ribb doziness let a Fleetwood forward lump pass unnoticed into the left corner (unconverted) after 6 minutes of the second half. 17-5
Joey’s restart was caught and returned well by Fleetwood. Max was tackling very well, and Ribb were profiting from the punt up field, when they remembered to do so. Nelson continued to entertain (from a spectator’s point of view) with his strength in the tackle and Adam was tackling intelligently to win the ball back. Despite the opposition being able to rotate through subs and stay fresher, the Ribb scrum was more than a match for Fleetwood. On 11 minutes, Harris tackled a Fleetwood runner who’d burst through a gap in the Ribb backs line in much the same way as you expect a baseball bat might tackle a watermelon. Bless the Fleetwood player for trying to get up again, but his legs wouldn’t work (oddly reminiscent of Bambi) and he passed to a team mate who wisely fumbled and avoided the attentions of the loitering Nelson. The game entertainment value remained high but the frequency of mistakes, from both sides, was really hindering the quality. That said, on 21 minutes, Ribb had a scrum, from which Ollie picked up from number 8, and sprinted forward. Arms outstretched, he delayed his pass to the supporting Nelson beautifully, permitting a richly deserved try for the effervescent Nelson (converted) between the posts. 17-12
Fleetwood’s restart was now into a hail storm, and knocked on. Nobody was particularly enjoying exfoliation by ice. On 26 minutes, Ollie tried to repeat the number 8 pick up to runner trick, but using Joey as the foil. As Joey sliced through the Fleetwood defence, another of those amazing last-ditch tackles that this game should rightly be remembered for came in, as the Fleetwood player tapped his ankle, and Joey nosedived to the turf, agonizingly close to a score. As Ribb tried to pick up the pieces, Fleetwood stole the ball. Back and forth possession passed, punctuated by the scrums that were being awarded for the frequent knock ons. Then cruelly for Ribb, in the 29th minute, Fleetwood probed the left flank again, and again slipped a tackle to trot in (converted). 24-12
The referee was nothing if not generous (having played over 5 minutes of extra time in the first half). Either that or he was a masochist. Either way, there was still time to save something. Maybe? Joey’s kick off skittered over the try line and was tapped down for a 22 drop. Drop kicking into this wind from your own 22m line was not a pleasant prospect. And so Fleetwood kicked it tamely to Sherief, who fed Nelson. Nelson battered, set, and WillG got it to Matty. Matty did the same, but an unexpected turnover seemed to take nobody by surprise as much as the Fleetwood fly-half, who knocked on and gave Ribb a scrum 15m from the line. Number 8 firecracker Ollie zoomed in from another pick up from the back of the scrum for a terrific try (unconverted). 24-17 after 33 minutes.
As the Fleetwood restart went straight to electric Nelson, the script was almost writing itself. He dashed past two, surged through the middle of two, but then was felled. The ball came back, but Ribb seemed wearier than their opponents, and couldn’t keep the momentum going forwards. Still Ollie rampaged. WillG danced up the right wing but ran out of options. Always with his brain on, Ollie took a quick penalty and scampered up the wing of his previous success. But as Liam arrived to support, he was barged to touch, and the ball trickled harmlessly out of play in the final act of a pulsating, if error strewn, game. Final score 24-17 to Fleetwood. Man of the match, Ollie Drew.