Some 4 months after the dust had settled on the now legendary “great escape” pulled off by the Shmeds, they found themselves preparing for yet another season in the illustrious Yorkshire division 2. After a promising if brief pre-season overseen by exciting new appointment and Tinder extraordinaire Nicola Mazzucato, a familiar squad largely unchanged from last season met to make the trek up the A1 to Ripon for their first competitive outing.
The game began in “bloody good” conditions, as described by Christopher Hilton who earned a turnover following an early scrum which allowed the Medics pack, led by captains old and new in Treebeard and Jindoe, to push into Ripon’s half and apply early pressure. Incisive runs from Nams champion Judas, Chris Curtis with partner Currie and Knighty helped gain ground until Ripon conceded a penalty just before their 22, which was calmly slotted by WiFi. 3-0, the crowds go wild.
Whilst the medics were able to consistently pose a threat through well supported direct running and a strong lineout, they were unable to convert, several chances in the opposition’s 22 being butchered by poor hands. Ripon were able to strike back through a scrum which dominated rookie hooker George Madley, an exciting prospect who is still finding his feet, but were unable to gain significant territory until a 5 metre intercept was seized allowing the winger to run half the pitch before being caught by the ever predatory Chilton.Quick ball was played through to the centres and a break looked certain until WiFi brought down their player. Unfortunately the referee, whose hands had been twitchy for a while, decided WiFi had not rolled away quickly enough and sent him to the bin, Ripon
converting the penalty to make it 3-3, a score which carried through to the end of a well fought half.
Subs: Tommy D for Rambo.
From the kick off Medics started strongly, showing off their phase play and tightened defence. Ripon had to cope with expansive backs play and strong carries from forwards, notably trucker T who sat down their full back in a show of strength many were sure would shatter what bones remain in his body. Elsewhere good link up play between Treebeard and Wardy threatened Ripon’s try line but again hands, much to Nico’s dismay, let them down. The try finally came after a sustained period of play in Ripon’s 22 allowed Wardy to pick out Currie in space who shipped it to people’s 1s captain Rhys Ward who put it over to score the first of no doubt many for the season. 10-3, after a tricky conversion. Minutes later Currie was involved again, pressing well to intercept a pass across the back three and running unopposed to make it 15-3, soon to be 17-3 when Wiff slotted the kick. In the words of Martin Tyler it was the old one-two, so quick one after the other.
The familiar call of “next job” echoed around the Medic’s line as Ripon’s heads would surely be going down, surely the game was safe now? As ever though, the medics like to keep things interesting. Ripon’s scrum continued to dominate thanks to a very effective loose head prop murdering Sheffield’s front row despite Whitehead’s resistance, causing several penalties to be awarded and ground to be conceded. The penalty count rose further still around the break down until the ref succumbed to his building yellow fever and pinged Knighty for not rolling away. On the back foot and struggling to regain control of the game, Sheffield still fought for a turnover around the breakdown. As Ripon pushed themselves to the 5 metre line a messy pile up of bodies “trapped” Max Slayton at the bottom of a ruck. The referee, unable to contain his excitement, brandished a card for a third time and suddenly Medics were facing the last 8 minutes with 13 men.
Ripon continued to use their effective scrum and strong runners to commit Sheffield players, leaving space out wide which they exploited easily to reduce deficit to 9. A crucial yet undoubtedly difficult conversion was missed leaving Ripon needing two scores in the remaining 5 minutes to secure the game. A break looked inevitable down the wing despite good defence from winger Henry Warne, Sheffield eventually being saved by a very fair call from Ripon’s linesman. The lineout, a solid option all game despite Ripon ingenuously working out where all the throws would be, was won and in their frustration Ripon conceded a penalty. Knighty slapped the ball out to end a very successful and enjoyable first game of the season for Jindoe’s men. Thanks go to Ripon for hosting us and for putting on a tough 80 minute game.