Rugby Union friendly
Rolls-Royce 1st XV 15pts
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 17pts
RHINOS started their season with a friendly trip to Rolls Royce.
Both teams were slightly cagey with their selections and used rolling substitutes; aware that they are due to play each other in the first round of the NLD Vase at the same location in 10 days and not wanting to give too many plans away.
Skipper Will Evans welcomed winger Daz Harrison in for his first game of rugby and he almost started in the best fashion after a powerful run from inside centre Rich Keeling but the final pass didn’t quite go to hand. Ripley did manage to open the scoring when powerful No. 8 Ben Smith crashed over from short range after concerted pressure. Evans added the conversion.
Royce’s were alternating between looking to run with ball in hand and push Rhinos back with deep kicks but full back Adam Parr did well to deal with what came his way though any bounces turned into a lottery on the rock hard pitch. At times the fare looked like the first game of the season - eager players snatching at chances and seeing them go begging on both sides. The Rhino pack held the edge on the set piece though the home side did well with driving mauls off line outs.
Royce’s struck back when the Rhino defence was sucked into a series of rucks and they exploited the overlap to go in under the posts for a converted try. Ben Smith’s powerful runs were driving the team forward and when the home side conceded a penalty just outside the 22, quick witted captain Evans took a tap and spread it wide to replacement scrum half Dave Trubee, he spun it out to outside centre Jamie Banks who took and passed onto winger Adam Insley to skin his marker and go in for the score.
The visitors had some control but a couple of missed tackles and then turning their backs at a penalty allowed Royce’s to score again and gain parity at 12-12. A home side penalty just before half time saw them go into the break three points ahead.
The second half was a follow on from the first as both sides tried hard but had rustiness in their play. Flanker Roy Reeve got through a lot of work for his side and second row Liam Porter looked a natural in his new position. Ripley managed to put themselves under pressure, conceding a number of scrums close to their line but they held Royce’s out and eventually cleared the ball.
The key score came when Royce’s kicked deep again, straight to replacement fullback Stewart Kirkup - he showed what a class act he is by running the ball back at them at pace up the right wing and drawing three tacklers onto him before releasing the supporting Ben Smith to scythe through the drifting defence and crash down near the posts. Evans saw his conversion just miss the uprights and Ripley held the lead by two points.
Neither side had the ascendency from that point and a lot more personnel changes were made. Rhinos got all good time into all 22 players and Royce’s into their larger squad. The home side did press as the gloom gathered but couldn’t find the score to gain the lead and came off narrow losers at the final whistle.
This was a good test of where Rhinos were at for the coming season; plenty of work to do in training but lots of positives to build on.
The game was well refereed and played in good spirit from both teams. Ripley’s star man was No. 8 Ben Smith and he deservedly took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors Man of the Match award from his team mates.
Rhino training continues on Tuesday evenings; all welcome, male and female, more details available by ringing 07816 779018.
The next game sees them back at Moor Lane to face Royce’s in the NLD Vase on Saturday, September 3.