NLD Pennant League
1st XV 3pts
Belper 2nd XV 0pts
RHINOS skipper Sam Musgrove’s team pipped a strong Belper second XV in a first home game of 2011 for the maroons last Saturday.
The hosts lost the toss and played up the slope in the first half.
Belper hit their stride quickly and put the maroons under immediate pressure with their short running.
Ripley’s defence was resolute; Adam Youd returning to the back row and rolling back the years with a sterling display of tireless tackling all afternoon and prop Ben Smith leading the tackle count.
During the first half, the game was finely balanced with both teams looking to score from broken play.
Belper having the lion’s share of possession but not managing to breakdown the solid defence of Musgrove’s men.
When Rhinos did get the chance to attack, Belper defended stoutly and the hosts couldn’t quite manage to unlock their defence.
As the break arrived with the teams turning around scoreless, the scene was set for a tense second half, both teams knowing that the first team to score would in all probability walk off as winners.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, with Belper attacking for the majority and Rhinos defending.
Centres Tim Moll and Tim Smith came to the fore and winger Adam Njie putting in a crunching tackle and saving an almost certain try.
Fly half Will Evans controlled the play and steadily worked the maroons upfield to set up an attempt at goal which drifted agonisingly wide.
The clock ticked down as both teams tensed but it was to be Ripley who would have the final chance as Belper infringed with four minutes left.
Evans stepped up and with nerves of steel, slotted the kick to give his team the vital late lead.
Rhinos knew that they simply needed to grind out the remaining minutes and this they did, with replacement scrum-half Mitch Wilmott kicking the ball out of play to secure the 3-0 victory.
Ripley can hold their heads high as they had a stern defensive test which they passed, with hardly any tackles being missed.
Ben Smith took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award for leading the way with his defensive efforts.
The tough defence of this week will be sorely tested on Saturday when Ripley firsts hosts Long Eaton firsts in a NLD Vase quarter final (pitch permitting); match kicking off at 2pm.
The seconds are due to travel to Belper thirds in a friendly.
The Ladies travel up the M18 to Scunthorpe Ladies on Sunday for a league game.