NLD Pennant League
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 40pts
3rd XV 40pts
WITH playing resources stretched Rhinos looked upon the visit of West Bridgford thirds with a little trepidation but it transpired that the resources of their visitors were even more stretched - arriving with 11 players.
Rhinos loaned players to the away team, ensuring a meaningful contest could go ahead.
Ripley kicked off hoping to enjoy the run-out and to put some points on the board. Sadly, their depleted visitors started comfortably the stronger and quickly put the home side under severe pressure.
Whilst Ripley were talking a good game about what was required, their opponents were putting it into practice and were quickly putting points on the board themselves.
Two converted tries put Ripley 14 points behind before they had woken up.
The shock appeared to shake Ripley from their collective lethargy as their excellent set-piece possession began to set up a platform for their backs to exploit the open spaces.
rom scrummage possession Rhinos ran in the first of their tries from distance through inside-centre Anton Brown, skipper Will Evans adding the conversion to reduce the deficit.
With the front row of Gareth Davies, Carl Whitley and Richard Cleaver dominating the tight play, the maroons continued to press on and looked to have scored two further tries through flanker Dave Kemp and full back Paul Buzzard, only to be called back by the officials on both occasions.
However, it was their opponents that broke away to extend their lead once more before Rhinos did score a valid touchdown through outside-centre Adam Langley, chasing his own kick to dot down by the posts, with Evans converting.
Half time arrived with Rhinos seven points adrift at 21-14 and continuing to talk strongly about returning to basics and working
ard individually and collectively to win the game. The game plan was simple; drive upfield and set up positions from which to spread the ball wide and score points.
However, despite the strong words the second half continued in the same fashion as the first, with Ripley struggling to concentrate for long enough periods of time to press home their territorial advantage.
Points did arrive for Rhinos at regular intervals, but they also came too regularly for West Bridgford.
Further Rhinos tries came from Evans and Brown - Evans converting both - but tries for their opponents left Ripley facing the last ten minutes needing two converted tries to tie the game.
The clarity of the position seemed to focus the Rhino thoughts and they set about restoring the balance.
The type of continuity and pressure that they hadn’t produced throughout the game was suddenly in evidence and it was not long before Brown found the space to cross out wide and complete his hat-trick.
Evans converted to ensure a converted try would square things up, with five minutes left to find it.
Finally finding confidence and space Rhinos pressed until the very end when full back Paul Buzzard scored under the posts making the conversion straightforward for Evans.
A small amount of confusion over both remaining time and scores ensued before the referee whistled for full time and declared the game a 40-40 draw.
Ultimately, Rhinos were pleased to come away with a draw but frustrated that they had not played to their potential for longer periods of the game.
When they concentrated and played simple rugby they demonstrated their clear ability to score points but too often they gave their opponents time and space to play.
Inside-centre Anton Brown took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors Man of the Match Award not just for his hat-trick of tries, but also for his outstanding defensive effort throughout the match.
Pennant league action continues this Saturday with both Ripley teams in action.
The firsts face another challenging home fixture against Derby 4ths and the seconds travel to Tupton 2nds in an equally tough match, both 3pm kick offs.
The Ladies are due to host Derby Vipers Ladies in a 2.30pm kick off at Mill Hill on Sunday.