NLD Pennant League
Dronfield 2nd XV 30pts
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 7pts
RHINOS firsts were looking to avenge a defeat suffered at Mill Hill earlier in the season but put in another lack-lustre display and came away from Dronfield well beaten.
The heavy wind drove the rain across the pitch, not really helping either team and with Dronfield’s new pitch still bedding in and a tad sandy, the players were soon sodden but remarkably smooth skinned.
The hosts looked more ready for the game from the off, not helped by an early sin binning of Rhino scrum half Matt Upton and they took the lead after early pressure on the Ripley line gave them a converted try.
Rhinos didn’t click at all; the line-out was a struggle into the wind and against a decent Dronfield front unit, though the scrums were an even contest throughout the match. The back line didn’t really get any decent ball and couldn’t often break the gain line.
The maroons did have some pressure in the Dronfield half but this was then turned over and the hosts broke away to score a second try despite some valiant defending from full back Paul Buzzard.
Dronfield were playing the conditions well - simply moving the ball one carrier out from the breakdown and this wasn’t being stopped behind the gain line by the Ripley defence thus giving the home side momentum.
Few of the Rhino attacks created momentum of their own, though skipper Sam Musgrove’s tireless carrying from the base of the scrum and flanker Ben Smith’s willingness to power the ball on were the few positives the visitors could take from their first half display.
A third Dronfield try followed before half time and Rhinos were staring down the barrel of a large defeat.
It came as somewhat of a surprise when Rhinos scored a try right on the half time whistle when they fielded a kick from Dronfield and centre Dave Trubee’s wiper kick was superbly caught by winger Mitch Wilmott, he and hooker Carl Whitley carried the ball on before Ben Smith was on hand to take the pop ball and power through weak tackling to go in under the posts to score. The conversion from fly half Will Evans saw Ripley go into the break 17-7 behind.
There was a chance that Rhinos could now turn this into a comeback but they knew that they’d need to start the second half well.
Dronfield had other ideas and put the pressure on from the start, eventually forcing a penalty to move further ahead. Scrum half Matt Upton was linking up well with winger Gareth Roebuck but Ripley couldn’t turn territory into points.
Ben Smith was still carrying strongly but Rhinos were too often getting isolated and turned over. Dronfield didn’t deviate from their game plan and didn’t need to.
Two more tries came for them before the final whistle as they gained their bonus point and eased out 30-7 winners.
Rhinos got what they deserved from this game; very little. The players tried but didn’t put together any continuity and too often looked for an excuse rather than knuckling down and getting on with putting it right.
Flanker Ben Smith won the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award from his team mates for another whole hearted display.
Ripley firsts look to take on Long Eaton firsts in the rearranged NLD Vase quarter final this Saturday; kick off 2.15pm at Mill Hill (pitch permitting). The seconds travel to Mellish thirds for a Pennant league game.