Wheatley Hills RUFC 5 - 16 Selby RUFC
In Arctic conditions Selby dig deep to record their first ever League win at Wheatley and give added impetus to their quest to retain Yorkshire 1 status.
Wheatley Hills RUFC 5 v 16 Selby RUFC
Report by Ian Marlow
In a bottom-of-the-league dogfight in arctic conditions at the rugby wasteland of Wheatley Hills gallant Selby battled back magnificently from the verge of defeat to not only record their first league win here since 1987 but in doing so creep out of the Yorkshire One relegation positions for the first time in recorded memory.
This fixture fell victim to the ‘Beast from the East’ two weeks ago and the weather gods had another go here as they sent its baby brother along to make as unwelcome an appearance as Jimmy Savile at a Girl Guides convention just as the teams were warming up - meaning the match was played in freezing conditions that became even more atrocious the longer it went on. Indeed, with hypothermia becoming the main ‘injury’ worry, not just for the players but for the Captain Oats impersonating band of hardy spectators, there was a real prospect of the referee abandoning proceedings mid match – only he was probably too frozen himself to blow his whistle.
Wheatley chose to play into the blizzard first half and made a pretty decent fist of it dominating possession and territory through their massive pack who pinched Selby’s ball and simply wouldn’t give it back to them – imagine a group of ‘old school’ bouncers in a bad mood and you get the picture. Selby for their part didn’t help themselves by trying to play a more expansive game which only led to lost possessions as numbed fingers couldn’t cope. A couple of bruising runs from Liam Hogan and (the pre refrigerated) Martin Protheroe were similarly wasted before, at least and at last, fly half Scott Hunt slotted a penalty for a scant half time lead of 0-3.
The second half continued as for the first with Hills dominating, particularly at scrum time, leading to a surfeit of possession on the Selby line which, despite some resolute defending, eventually led to a pushover try for a 5-3 Hills lead. With Selby staring into the abyss, and with their Yorkshire One survival chances looking as bleak as the weather, something rather wonderful then happened as Selby’s players climbed up off the canvas, girded their loins, and battled themselves back into the match to warm the hearts, if not the extremities, of their wonderfully faithful supporters.
With the combative Hogan, switched from centre to back row by coach Steve Cruise, and substitute prop Millar McCoy to the fore, Selby’s forwards started to dish out a taste of their own medicine to Wheatley’s big boys, fighting their way upfield to earn a lead-regaining penalty, well converted by replacement fly half Will Edwards. Better was to follow as another powerful run by Hogan opened up the space for Selby’s backs to release winger Ash Dallimore to escape up the left wing to overcome both his man and the mud for a great team try and a 5-11 lead.
With only a six point lead Selby were always in danger of succumbing to a Hills converted try so another score was crucial and the chance came after another penalty kick was won in midfield and, after initial brain-frozen and lovely optimism from coach Cruise that young Edwards could convert it from forty yards into the blizzard (before realising that he wasn’t actually the Six Million Dollar Man and didn’t have a bionic leg), the kick to the corner and line out catch was ordered instead. The pack then duly delivered as, with the cheers of their supporters urging them on, they expertly drove closer and closer, recycling through numerous phases, until the ball was switched blind by scrum half Danny Wilkinson to the charging McCoy who blasted over in the corner for a superb and well deserved try to confirm victory.
So, Selby are out of the relegation zone but only just and their position remains precarious - but if they can show the same fighting spirit over the remaining four fixtures, beginning away at Middlesbrough on Saturday, they will give themselves every chance of avoiding the drop.