Rugby Union friendly
3rd XV 25pts
Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 21pts
RHINOS firsts got back to action, after a break imposed by opponents pulling out of fixtures, with a trip to Beeston to take on Nottingham Casuals thirds in a friendly match.
The depth of the Ripley squad was tested to the full and left skipper Sam Musgrove taking a bare 15.
The opening exchanges gave a good insight into the way the game would progress for the full 80 minutes with both sides looking to run at their opponents and both sides missing some tackles.
The set-piece was eagerly contested, with both sides showing the ability to push their opponents around.
When a strong base was produced Ripley made good ground with forwards Keith Buzzard and Rich Keeling working well, allied to strong running by inside centre Adam Youd.
Positive play eventually brought reward for Ripley. When a penalty kick was knocked into the corner, instead of looking for three points, the line out was taking by Musgrove and given immediately back to the thrower, Dave Arrowsmith.
He crashed over in the corner to open the scoring. Outside centre Will Evans landed an excellent conversion to extend the lead to 7-0.
The positive approach continued from the kick off with Keeling taking the ball and running at the heart of the opposition. With would-be-tacklers falling off him in all directions he was quickly into opposition territory.
Rhinos quickly supported and when the ball was passed to back row Ben Smith he appeared to have clear run to the posts, but the referee had spotted the forward pass from fly half Matt Upton to Evans.
The let-off gave Casuals a fillip as the maroons took their feet off the pedal.
The home team started to exert pressure on the visitors with their own direct running and support play. Ripley began to miss tackles and, more importantly, incurred the wrath of the referee. A succession of penalties pushed Ripley back into their own 22-metre line and led the referee to repeated warnings of yellow cards.
The penalties made it impossible for Ripley to escape their own half and helped their hosts to register two tries, one was converted.
Rhinos gathered themselves and took back some of the front foot initiativse.
A break by Matt Upton followed by a well-timed off-load put Rich Keeling under the posts - due reward for his efforts and effective ball carrying. Evans converted to re-establish a short-lived lead.
As the half drew to a close penalties hurt Ripley again, with a simple opportunity being kicked by Casuals to leave them leading 15-14.
Half time discussions centred around the need to establish a better relationship with the referee and to concentrate on playing the effective brand of rugby that had worked well for early on.
The pattern of the match established in the first half continued early in the second with both teams looking capable of causing damage to their opponents.
However, the tide turned against Ripley when Evans became the Ripley player that was eventually shown a yellow card by the referee.
As his opposite number kicked along the floor Evans stood his ground and was penalised by the referee for not using his arms in the tackle - a decision that surprised many.
Reduced to 14 men for ten minutes Ripley’s defence was tested and their third try came from a neat cross-field kick, well taken by the winger to dot down in the corner, but the fourth was more controversial.
With the ball being worked through hands to the opposite corner the Rhinos defence worked well to get across and make a tackle on the would-be-scorer. With the touch judges arm raised to indicate the tackle had been successful the referee decided otherwise, despite being significantly further from the action. Both conversions were missed, leaving Rhinos a glimmer of a chance.
With 15 minutes to play and back to full strength Ripley set about attacking and righting the perceived wrongs. Camping in the home 22 they won some penalties themselves.
Eschewing the opportunity to kick for goal they took scrums and tap penalties to set up opportunities to attack. Good recycling of possessions eventually saw winger Roy Reeve stopped just short of the line. Ben Smith was on hand to pick up and crash over the line.
The conversion by Evans left Rhinos four points behind with five minutes to play.
Despite pressing hard Ripley were unable to find the break they needed to secure victory.
Mitch Wilmott took the Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award from his team mates for strong defence and good distribution from scrum half throughout.