NLD Pennant League
3rd XV 6pts
Ripley Rhinos 2nd XV 5pts
DESPITE the low scoring in the game this was a match full of passion and commitment from both sides and a credit to rugby.
It could have gone either way but Casuals did have the territory to back up their narrow win.
Late cry-offs left stand-in skipper Ben Smith scratching around for a side for this league match at Beeston.
Smith called in younger namesake Ben for an impressive debut on the flank and welcomed coach Carl Whitley back from a mostly healed spiral fracture of the finger but even so, was still one man short. Casuals were very generous and leant them Richard Mawson at outside centre who put in a strong display against his own team.
Ripley were still trying to organise themselves at kick off and Casuals took advantage of this and the slope in their favour to push the sky blues back into their 22.
Ripley defended hard; good work from second row Roy Reeve and full back Richard Keeling but they conceded a kickable penalty that Casuals knocked over to take the lead after ten minutes.
The Rhino scrum had the ascendency for the first hour, with prop Dave Arrowsmith very strong and the lineout unit worked effectively with 60 year old Ben Heanue jumping like some a third his age.
Scrum half Mitch Wilmott was at the forefront of the Ripley attacking looking for gaps and making yards and several times in the fairly even first half Ripley had chances with breaks upfield but the ball not going to hand or support not following up closely enough.
Inside Centre Anton Brown was a powerful runner and captain Smith was also willing to run it given any chance.
Casuals had pace in their backline and a desire to spread it wide but Ripley’s scramble defence just about kept them out to half time as the sides turned around with the score still at 3-0.
Ripley began the second half strongly with a mazy run from fly-half Dave Trubee feeding captain Ben Smith. When he was pulled down just short of the line, the pack didn’t panic and set up four more phases before Brown drove on and over the line. Keeling’s conversion attempt wasn’t his finest but Rhinos didn’t mind as they took a 5-3 lead.
Casuals kept their attacking instincts and turned the screw with possession and territory, looking for the score that would take them back ahead.
Wilmott’s defence was exemplary and his efforts raised his teammates to hold out the hosts as they threw the ball around at pace.
Eventually pressure told and Casuals won another kickable penalty from the excellent referee and they slotted it over to take the lead at 6-5.
Ripley tried hard but tired and it was Casuals who closed the game out on the attack, though they couldn’t breach the Rhino line again.
Ripley battled hard and scrum half Mitch Wilmott took their BAB Plumbing and Heating man of the match award.
This weekend sees Rhinos hoping to host two matches depending on the weather. The 2nds have Belper 3rds at Mill Hill on Saturday (2.15pm); The Ladies hope to play Doncaster Demons on Sunday; again 2.15pm kick off at Mill Hill.