NLD Pennant League
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 10
Ashfield 3rds 33
THE rain was welcomed to Mill Hill for this Pennant league encounter against Ashfield 2nds, though this did lead to both sides struggling to control the slippery ball.
Skipper Will Evans again had many changes in his side due to injuries, illness and unavailabilites, with continuity suffering throughout as a result.
Ashfield’s plans were clear from the off – an experienced pack would win ball for their eager if slightly less experienced backs to run at Ripley and it served them well all game.
The visitors had the advantage of the slope in the first half and put the maroon pack under pressure in the scrum from the off. Ripley needed to be sharp in their tackling and though flanker Liam Murcott again led the way, there weren’t enough tackles that took the ball carrier down first time.
Ashfield opened the scoring on the quarter hour when they drove forward and recycled through several phases before slack marking at the ruck allowed them to power straight over the middle and through to score, the conversion giving them a 7-0 lead.
Ripley hadn’t threatened the Ashfield half at all to this point but they finally got some headway and scrum half Mitch Wilmott did well to break up the blindside from a retreating scrummage and burst through tacklers before offloading to No. 8 Zeique Robinson to crash through and score.
Rhino tackling still wasn’t good, despite Murcott’s efforts and Ashfield could get a lot of momentum with a straightforward but powerful driving game from their pack.
This pulled Ripley in and eventually Ashfield spun the ball out to score a second try and move 12-5 ahead on the half hour.
Ripley were working but not really gelling into a cohesive force and conceded a crucial try on the stroke of half time when they conceded a penalty on the edge of their 22 and then turned their backs as the visitors tapped and went and burst through to score.
Skipper Evans rallied his team at the interval, with the knowledge that they had the slope at their advantage in the second half and were not out of the game despite being outplayed in the first half.
They were grateful for the display that replacement winger Danny Rymell put in on his debut which bodes well for the future.
Ripley weren’t listening to what the referee wanted from them and he lost patience in the end and sin-binned Robinson for repeated team offences. Worse followed as winger Gareth Roebuck followed him in four minutes later after a shoulder barge.
Ashfield threw all they could at the Ripley line but the team dug deep and defended for their lives and eventually won the penalty to relieve the pressure.
The home team were still under the cosh, and unable to put Ashfield under sustained pressure.
The visitors scored their bonus point try and ensured their victory after 67 minutes when they finally realised they had a two-man overlap and used it to score another converted try.
Ripley kept chasing and as they got their players back from the bin, looked their most potent in the game. A break from winger Jamie Banks, supported by Wilmott eventually saw hooker Dave Kemp held short of the line and the chance disappeared.
With eight minutes remaining, a Ripley pass didn’t go to hand and Ashfield hacked on, and again, to eventually score near the posts ands move 33-5 ahead.
Ripley had the final say though when Evans took a clearance kick near his own 10-metre line and ran it back before feeding full back Paul Buzzard who ghosted through the gaps in the visitor defence to score a consolation try.
In the time remaining, Ripley lost replacement prop Dave Arrowsmith to another yellow card but no more scores came, seeing Ashfield run out clear 33-10 winners.
Ripley were disappointed to be outplayed by Ashfield but it was all the home side’s doing. They got nowhere near competing in a game they felt they could have won. Flanker Liam Murcott took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award for his strong demonstration of abrasive defensive work throughout the game.
Fortunately Rhinos have the immediate chance to put all this right with a trip on Wednesday evening to Stonegravels to take on Chesterfield Panthers 1sts in the first round of the Derbyshire Cup; kick off 7.30pm.
The following weekend sees the squad not having a game as they recover from their midweek efforts.