Selby RUFC 23 - 21 Pontefract RUFC
By Karen Ratcliffe
Selby pull off a late and dramatic win over local rivals Pontefract in a fierce and pulsating match which was a credit to both teams.
Selby RUFC 23 – 21 Pontefract RUFC
Report by Ian Marlow (Posted by Stephen Ward)
Selby eased their relegation fears by pulling a rugby rabbit out of the hat with a dramatic, and very late, winning penalty against local rivals Pontefract in a pulsating and fierce encounter that was fantastic to watch and a credit to both teams.
In front of a very large Sandhill Lane crowd, bolstered by the tweed resplendent sponsoring local farmers and a sizeable, and vocal, contingent from Pontefract (both of whom knew their way to the bar), the atmosphere was suitably ramped up beforehand - and the players themselves did not disappoint the derby occasion as they purposefully and enthusiastically set about each other from the opening whistle. Pontefract were the first to strike as they expertly recycled possession for their powerful Charles Bronson lookalike number 8 (the criminal, not the actor!) to bludgeon his way through a couple of Selby screws for a 0-7 lead, before Selby responded with good work of their own to earn a three-pointer from the boot of Josh Cruise.
With Pontefract’s ‘Bronson’ and Selby’s own version of brooding menace, Liam Hogan, clashing in a series of near-the-knuckle encounters in midfield, the crowd were indeed being gladatorially entertained – that is until Mr Referee spoiled everyone’s fun (not least the two combatants) as he binned Hogan for ten minutes for a slight over-exuberance in proceedings, and not adhering to strict Marquess of Queensbury rules. This didn’t appear to affect Selby though as they started to produce some fine 14 man rugby, led by some fabulous distribution from young scrum half Harry Clarke and fly half Cruise who combined beautifully to find gap after gap for supporting runners. Pontefract defended fiercely, until two excellent breaks from the Leetham boys, Matt and Adam, gave room for Cruise to chip for the corner where Scott Hunt claimed the catch and the try for an 8-7 lead after twenty minutes. And that’s how it stayed until half time as Selby failed to capitalise on their superior play by failing to finish off a number of clean breaks - and late match-ending injuries to both Clarke and Cruise were an ominous portend for the second half.
With Selby now looking a bit makeshift in the backs, the character of the game suddenly changed to one of Pontefract dominance - and after the Swans had spurned a glorious chance to extend their lead after a searing break from Charlie Cicero, the Pontefract pack took full control. A series of undisciplined Selby infringements gave Pontefract every opportunity to kick for the corners - and from two of these in quick succession the Pontefract juggernaut steamrollered over for a seemingly game-winning lead of 8-21. And when the Pontefract pack found themselves in a similar position rumbling towards the Selby line with ten minutes to go, the coup-de-grace for Selby seemed imminent – but then, rather mysteriously, they surprised everyone by spinning the ball wide and losing possession. Selby needed no further invitation to punish Pontefract’s ‘extravagance’ as they broke up field where Duncan Hardy finished off some great team play to crash over reducing the deficit to 13-21.
Entering injury time, and with Selby down to fourteen men with Harry Cruise binned, it was still looking odds on for a ‘no bonus point loss’ for Selby - but in a last ditch effort the Swans put together a marvellous sequence of play to work their way up to the Pontefract line, where James Robinson found the gap to score under the sticks for a bonus point earning 20-21 scoreline. But Selby were not content with just the single point as, wonderfully and straight from the kick off, they again strung together some dazzling team play to batter the Pontefract defence until, right at the death, they won a penalty in front of the posts for Hunt to slot over the winning penalty to complete a remarkable Selby turnaround – and send the massed hordes back to the bar to toast the commitment of both sets of players; and indeed, in one instance, to re-enact their very own version of the Bronson-Hogan match up!
Selby are now away at relegation strugglers Old Rishworthians this Saturday, where any sort of positive result for the Swans will surely see them seal their place in Yorkshire One for the following season.