Hardest possible start for Rhinos

NLD Pennant League, Group 4

HMP Ranby 85pts

Ripley Rhinos 1st XV 0pts

RHINOS had the hardest start possible for 2012; a visit to league leaders HMP Ranby.

Illness, injury and other unavailabilites left stand-in skipper Carl Whitley with a bare bones squa.

Ranby were the best drilled and fittest team Ripley have faced all season and they quickly exploited any weaknesses in the Rhino defence.

Rhinos looked solid from the start with scrum half Mitch Wilmott gaining meaningful territory at the base of the ruck with an astute box-kick but it all came to nought.

Ranby then set their standard for the game; gaining quick turnover and spreading the ball wide. Quick possession allowing them to use a couple of powerful runners and the half-backs getting their wide game into play.

Rhinos managed a series of decent possessions when they weren’t defending with support from Wilmott, fly-half Jamie Banks and the ever-present flanker Steve Lowe but too far out to do damage.

Despite great tackling work from Wilmott, second row Roy Reeve and wing Martin Seccombe trying to stem the tide, the home team regularly ran in scores as Rhino colleagues often went too high in their attempt to bring the runners down.

The superior fitness saw Ripley doing well to defend three of four phases but they ran out of cover after that despite full back Rich Keeling tackling anything coming at him; Ranby always had support on hand to score.

The pack, with a borrowed prop, held their own in the set piece, with prop Whitley and hooker Craig Culshaw doing well, and flanker Ben Smith beginning to find his feet in his new role and stealing or disrupting ball in the middle of the lineout, and when they won possession for the team, the centre pairing of Anton Brown and Danny Rymell looked potent but the effort of defending for so long left Ripley struggling to get the attacking support in place to turn these breaks into scoring chances, and too often the ball was turned over.

Half-time saw Ripley 52-0 behind and looking likely to ship 100 points.

Whitley and pack leader Keith Buzzard accentuated the positives on a tough afternoon and the side took to the second half refocused. Immediate benefits were found with Lowe doing as he had all game and setting the example by launching himself at the larger and fitter guys running at him and refusing to let go until they were downed.

No. 8 Adam Parr certainly had a lot of practice on his drop-kick restarts and they were always challenging, often to the opposition, and he followed them up with powerful work in defence and attack and interlinked well with Wilmott and Banks throughout the game.

Ranby opened their scoring in the second half with their best try of game as they worked through several clean phases, however, Rhinos defence and breakdown discipline was improved from the first half.

Rhinos’ best scoring opportunity came from inside-centre Brown who made a trademark bullocking run in midfield, but was hauled down before the line. Ranby scored their last try of the afternoon on full time, wrapping the scores up at 85-0.

Despite the heavy defeat, the passion didn’t diminish in the Ripley side and they can be proud to have put together a team knowing that they were going to play a team who have only lost one game all season.

The Abex Window Cleaning Contractors man of the match award went to Mitch Wilmott for his tireless tackling.

Ripley firsts face Newark 4ths at home this Saturday in the Pennant; kick off 2.15pm at Mill Hill. The 2nds hope to travel to Belper 3rds for a friendly.