Rhinos leave themselves just too much to catch up

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NLD Vase, quarter final

Ripley Rhinos

1st XV 19pts

Long Eaton 1st XV 26pts

Rhinos hosted Long Eaton in a rearranged NLD Vase quarter final originally scheduled to have been played two weeks previously.

On that occasion, Ripley were comfortably beaten by Long Eaton in a friendly match, providing great motivation for the maroons.

Although injury and illness caused significant changes to the Ripley line-up, notably in the front row, the hosts were talking a good game during the warm up.

Sadly, their visitors, unbeaten all season, had not read the script and put Ripley under pressure from the kick off. With the changes in the pack, the Rhino scrummage was struggling to hold the Long Eaton eight, with studs sliding backwards on the muddy surface.

Despite the pressure Ripley’s defence, led by skipper Sam Musgrove and propping partner Ben Smith, kept Long Eaton at bay throughout the opening quarter of the match. When the pressure finally told it was former Rhino Kim Burden who beat the defence to score under the posts.

With their defence breached Ripley’s organisation and communication suffered allowing the confidence to flood into their opponents. Two more quick tries left Ripley 19-0 behind and facing an uphill task to contain Long Eaton, let alone to think about winning the game.

Gradually though, the maroons gained a foothold in the game and began to see the strong running of second row Keith Buzzard and inside centre Tim Moll gain territory, with recycled possession finally being secured regularly. Camping in the Long Eaton 22, Ripley started to exert some pressure, which eventually paid dividends with winger Mitch Wilmott being fed on the short side by scrum half Matt Upton to crash over in the corner.

Although the conversion came back off the cross bar, Ripley felt they were into the game at last.

Sadly, such confidence was short-lived as Rhinos failed to deal effectively with the re-start and allowed Long Eaton to regain possession and score a fourth try. The conversion saw half time arrive with Ripley 26-5 down.

The half time talk was of the need to play with confidence, a message Rhinos took to heart and with which they took to the task of resurrecting their hopes of victory.

With greater aggression and purpose the Ripley forwards began to dent the away side around the fringes, enabling the Ripley backs to take the ball moving forwards and to attack their opposite numbers.

From one flowing move outside centre Tim Smith was halted in a dash for the corner by a high tackle. As both sides prepared to address the ensuing penalty it became evident that Burden had suffered a serious injury in making the tackle.

All at Ripley wish him a speedy recovery from the fracture dislocation of his ankle.

When the game resumed Ripley continued the attack, recycling possession in the shadow of the post. After several phases Wilmott crashed over again in a carbon copy of his first try. This time fly half Will Evans slotted the conversion to reduce the deficit further.

With time running down Ripley knew they had to continue to attack and to move the ball. When replacement full back Paul Buzzard attack the short side and linked with his brother Keith, Ripley were onto their opponents’ 22 metre line. The quick recycling of possession enabled Evans and Moll to draw their opposite numbers and feed Tim Smith to dash 20 metres to score his first try for the club. Evans put the conversion over to leave the score 26-19 with eight minutes to play.

Despite giving all they could to secure possession and territory Rhinos were unable to manufacture one more opportunity to level the scores.

he full time whistle saw Long Eaton advance to the semi final but a tired Rhinos far from deflated by their efforts.

Outside centre Tim Smith took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award from his team mates, who will all look forward to sharing the spoils from his first club try.

Collectively, Rhinos showed what they are capable of against a team who will beat many more established teams this year, but had left themselves too much to do before they woke up to the task, and to their abilities.

With injuries among the squad, Rhinos only have one match on Saturday with the seconds hosting Keyworth seconds in the Pennant, kick off 2.30pm at Mill Hill.

The Ladies host Scunthorpe Ladies on Sunday; again 2.30pm kick off at Mill Hill.

Both games are pitch permitting.