NLD Pennant League
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 5pts
Newark 4th XV 32pts
After two pitch inspections, the sunshine eventually saw the Mill Hill pitch passed playable for this Pennant league encounter.
Ripley were keen to put last week’s heavy defeat behind them but knew Newark would be a tough proposition.
Newark kicked off and quickly showed they had the fitter side. Skill wise, there was little to choose between the teams but Newark always had the numbers at the breakdown to force turnovers and a solid defence that saw Rhinos working hard for any yards they could gain.
With Ripley having to also work very hard at the scrum to produce possession, they were indebted to decent tackling from scrum half Mitch Wilmott and second row Sam Smith for keeping Newark at bay.
Despite the early pressure it was Ripley pressing for a score when Newark capitalised on lost ball and powered into the 22.
A short range scrum was forced and they worked a simple overlap to open the scoring.
The maroons struck back and some powerful running from inside-centre Anton Brown set them an attacking chance on the 22 but another turnover saw Newark hack on and out pace the cover to move into a 12-0 lead.
Rhinos had opportunities, and a crossfield kick to winger Danny Rymell just eluded him with the line try line wide open but Newark scored next as their fly half slotted a drop goal.
Ripley had the chance to score on the half-time whistle as they won a series of short-range penalties but despite powerful carries from Wilmott, prop Dave Arrowsmith and second row Keith Buzzard, the chance to spread it wide and score on the overlap was spurned and they went into the interval 15-0 behind.
Stand-in skipper Dave Trubee’s half-time team talk revolved around the need to improve their support around the phases in order to gain anything from the game in the second half, and a better defensive effort.
They managed both to a degree but also tiredness began to tell as the effort to cover the Newark attacking to its toll.
The visitors pack drove on, Ripley initially stood firm with the likes of Smith, Wilmott and Rymell to the fore but the maroon’s lack of fitness began to allow Newark to make extra yards on each attack and a third try followed.
Another drop goal then extended the lead to 25-0 before Rhinos had their attacking highlight with a chip and chase from Trubee forcing a five-metre scrum and a series of forward drives saw the home side awarded a five-metre penalty; Brown charged over to score what turned out to be his team’s only points.
Any hopes Ripley had of a comeback in the last quarter were dashed as Newark ran in a fourth try to ease out deserved 32-5 winners.
The game was played in good spirit and well refereed but Ripley know that if they want to compete with teams like this, and there is no reason that they cannot, then they need to improve their fitness and first-up defence.
Second row Sam Smith had an extremely effective game and won the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award from his team mates.
Ripley firsts travel to Derby fourths this Saturday in the Pennant; kick off 2.15pm at Mill Hill. The seconds will be hoping to find a fixture from the pool.