Another busy weekend for Northallerton RUFC had both men’s teams, the ladies’ first XV and the juniors in action. A full clubhouse assembled for the sponsor’s lunch to watch the men’s first XV host Skipton RUFC whilst the second XV travelled away for the first time this season to play
Hartlepool RUFC third XV. The ladies were played away against Houghton RUFC for the first time, the juniors played a joint festival at Thirsk where everyone enjoyed themselves and the men’s first XV took to the field against Skipton in a contest that from the outset looked like being a difficult challenge for a usually dominant side this season.
Skipton took an early advantage, scoring inside the first two minutes as North struggled to clear their lines from the kick off. North were quick to reply though and set about winning the ball back from the restart, working their way through the phases of hard carries to accommodate for the wet conditions before Phil Swall shoved his way over the try line near the touch line. Skipton were unable to gain any ascendancy in the
scrum or lineout and so looked to spread the ball across their powerful and fleet footed back line. Unfortunately for the visitors the weather conditions were not conducive to an expansive game and several balls would go to floor, disrupting their flow. However, persistence is key and Skipton’s willingness to test the wide defence yielded some success as a try was scored after some quick feet and hands put the full back into space from which he finished near the posts. The conversion was added. Another try followed for the away side without too much delay. Despite several dropped passes in previous phases they continued to find space out wide and, having made many metres through these carries it was their forward pack who got the ball over the line for a try that the conversion was again kicked. North kept to their game plan of using their forward’s dominance to take territory and when number 8 Phil Swall set up a maul close to the Skipton try line it allowed the forwards to drive the ball over for try line to lift the spirits of the damp spectators. In the last play of the first half, a period of sustained pressure from the hosts offered fly half Ollie Walters the chance to exploit an over eager defence, showing the ball outside before darting back in field and diving over the try line to bring North back into the game.
Going into half time behind on the score board at home was a first for North this season and it was a testament to the character of these players that heads didn’t drop and they came out fired up to make amends. Fresh legs in the forwards enabled the scrum dominance to continue and a move for winger Josh Barrett into the centres brought him into the game in explosive style. Several line breaking runs from Barrett took North to the Skipton 22-metre area. Despite a smart turnover from the visitors the ball was knocked on in the process. From the resulting scrum and rucks that followed, Jonny Baker found his way to the try line and squeezed over to put North in front for the first time in the game. At this point Skipton increased the frequency and ambition of their passing, looking to find more space out wide. An adventurous cross field kick in front of their own posts set the Skipton winger into space and he showed great pace and agility to beat three defenders and get over the try line for what would have been the highlight score of the game. Unfortunately, the try was disallowed after a North chaser was adjudged to have been pulled back when attempting to tackle. Continuing to pressure the visitors in their half of the field, North turned defence into attack when second row Alex Hugill intercepted a loose pass and left defenders in his wake as he ran in a try from forty metres out, showing the sort of pace that gets the crowds cheering. From this point on it was defensive duties to the fore as Skipton pushed the gamble button at every turn providing some truly entertaining rugby. North put their bodies on the line continuously and despite spending the last ten minutes of the game camped on their own try line, the home side were able to force the turnover and win the game with a final score of Northallerton 25 – Skipton 19. A terrific result that all the many spectators enjoyed watching. A big thank you to Skipton for travelling in great numbers, to the referee who officiated very well and to all the volunteers who made the day happen. Thank you to Severfield for the men's new training tops!
The men’s second XV fielded a very mixed squad of age and experience away at Hartlepool RUFC as has been the case for much of this season so far. Versatile player Connah Richmond swapped the front row for the fly half shirt as he displayed some more of the strings of his bow this week, are there no limits to this man’s talents? North kicked off and put the home side under pressure straight away with some good attacking play with Connah distributing the ball to his backs and the first try coming out wide from Reece Brammah, converted by Ben Gray. Following the restart, the ball reached Brammah again who danced his way through the Hartlepool back line and scored under the posts. Once again, the conversion was kicked by Gray. North continued to keep the pressure on the home team with club veteran loose head prop Paul “Dicko” Dixon picking the ball up from the back of a ruck and crossing the try line. Next over the line was utility player Connah who crashed his way
through to score. The conversion was again kicked by Gray. With the half time whistle looming, North worked on the attack getting down to the host’s five metre line and were awarded a penalty. Captain Dave Baker called for a tap and go and supported by John Logan, set a platform to allow Trev to pick the ball out of the ruck and cross the line. A conversion by Gray meant the half time score was 0-33 to North.
In the second half, the home team put pressure on the visitors and scored two quick tries. North then held their defence to keep the home team out of the game until the 61st minute when the game was unfortunately abandoned to due a Hartlepool player’s injury. All Northallerton players and supporters wish the player a speedy recovery. Final score was Hartlepool 12 – Northallerton 33.
This week the ladies played Houghton Hornets for the first time. Travelling with a lighter squad than usual, the team had been forced into a reshuffle due to absences and injuries. Not knowing what to expect from new opposition, North came out of the blocks fast, getting the ball into the hands of Ali O’Brien who weaved her way around the Houghton backs and over for a very quick opening try which she then converted. This seemed to wake the Hornets up and lead to a long period of play where both teams had plenty of possession. North carried hard but were unable to prevent Houghton turning the ball over several times at the breakdown. Good pressure from North in defence forced handling errors from the home side which kept the flow ebbing back and forth. Both teams were able to score during this spell, Houghton scoring their response before captain Nat Gardiner secured a try for the visitors in the far corner of the pitch. Keen to build off this, North
carried on as they were, slowly pushing the home side back into their half but ill discipline at the rucks and several handling errors allowed Houghton to break free and relieve the pressure. North finally did get their deserved try and scored the away side’s third of the game, O’Brien again was the scorer and converted her own try to end the half 7-17.
Large chunks of the second half were played with relentless attack from whichever side had the ball. Both teams still very much in the game and looking for the win. Eventually the deadlock was broken with only twelve minutes remaining when O’Brien found a gap and ran from deep inside her own half to get over underneath the posts and secure a hat-trick of tries for herself before converting her own try again. North managed to keep the momentum rolling and some excellent work for the experienced backs gave Emily McCormack the final try for Northallerton. Houghton knew the game was beyond them at this point with the referee stating there were only a few minutes left, but
mounted a final charge on North’s tiring defence. After several well worked phases of play the got over the whitewash to end the game with a final score Houghton Hornets 12 – Northallerton 29. It was a hard fought win for North with everyone working together as a team and all substitutes made a big impact. The player of the match was given jointly to Nat Gardiner and Issy Andrews. A big thank you to Houghton for the hospitality and to the referee for officiating the game.
For any readers who want to play rugby in Northallerton, the men train on Tuesday and Thursday 7pm, the ladies train on Wednesday 7pm and the juniors play on Saturday 10am. All ages and abilities welcome.