NLD Pennant League Group 6
Ripley Rhinos 2nd XV 17
Keyworth 2nd XV 31
The first team had an afternoon off so attention turned to the second team, hosting a strong Keyworth 2nds in the Pennant at an extremely muddy Mill Hill.
Ben Smith returned to lead his side again and there was an impressive full debut for second row Simon Owens and a welcome first game of 2011 for veteran back row Ben Heanue.
Keyworth played down the slope in the first half but put the kick-off straight to number eight Smith, who powered it back into their territory, breaking tackles, to set an early marker for the sort of game he’d be having.
Rhinos opened the scoring on four minutes when they won a scrum against the head and some good interchanging allowed scrum-half Matt Upton to pirouette over the line to score. Fly-half Paul Buzzard slotted over an excellent conversion.
Keyworth soon had their scrummage sorted and put Rhinos under pressure for the rest of the game, though tighthead prop Keith Buzzard battled manfully on his debut in the front row.
The visitors weren’t firing too well in the lineout and flanker Steve Lowe was having a fair bit of joy in winning their ball, as well as his own, but a pivotal moment came when an overthrown ball landed in the hands of their second row and he powered off up the pitch, brushing aside some weak Rhino tackling to score an unconverted try.
Ripley then put more pressure on with Smith again leading by example and extended their lead when Keyworth’s ill-discipline gave them a penalty that Paul Buzzard kicked through the posts.
Keyworth took a lead into the break, however, when they forced a five-metre scrum and drove Ripley back over the line to score, the conversion putting them 12-10 ahead.
Rhinos had the advantage of the slope in the second half though the mud pretty much negated this but knew they were under pressure in the scrum.
Keyworth created a second pushover try after five minutes to extend their lead but Ripley hit back when Upton’s break from a lineout found Smith and he powered through to score. Buzzard’s conversion evened the scores at 17-17.
Ripley did have some opportunities to attack their visitors – through strong running from outside centre Mitch Wilmott and wing Roy Reeve – but it was Keyworth who struck next from a midfield break that again saw them break away to score a converted try.
They cranked through the gears and created the key score with just under ten minutes to go when they took a scrum against the head and drove it back towards the Ripley line, Rhinos came round offside to disrupt and the referee awarded the penalty try.
Ripley couldn’t create another opportunity as the mud took its toll and they came off at the end as 31-17 losers.
Keyworth’s greater experience and edge in the scrum won them this game. If they put out a side as strong as this every week they should have no trouble in winning the league. Ripley worked hard and were personified by skipper Ben Smith, who took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award from his teammates.
Rhinos have a busy coming weekend with the 1sts hosting Pennant league leaders Ashbourne 3rds on Saturday at Mill Hill (pitch permitting) while the 2nds travel to Ashfield 3rds. The ladies travel to Doncaster Ladies on Sunday for another league game. All matches kick off at 2.30pm.