Amateur RU: Cup holders float into semi-finals
Hudds RU 29 Bradford/Bingley 19
(Yorkshire Cup, Quarter-final)
HOLDERS Huddersfield survived a battling Bradford & Bingley’ effort as well as ‘near drowning’ before booking a place in the semi-finals of the Centurion Yorkshire Cup.
Midway through the second half, there was little to choose between the river at the back of the stand or the pitch at the front of it, such was the extent of the rain which made any attempts to play fluent rugby impossible.
To both teams’ credit, they did try, but handling, kicking, and even standing upright became a test of skill.
To be fair, Yorkshire referee Simon Lazenby was probably unsure whether to continue or not, which just about reflected his judgement on a number of other issues during the game when no fewer than 26 penalties were awarded, and a penalty try for the visitors!
That came midway through the first half, when the referee decided the first collapsed scrum 10 yards out was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the ‘Bees’ pack and he promptly marched to the middle of the posts.
Tom Bills’ conversion levelled the game after Huddersfield had taken a 13th-minute lead after a scrappy start.
Flanker Ben Hoyle – who was a massive presence all game – was involved in the build-up before centre Mike Clark picked up a loose ball and charged close to Bradford’s line, before off-loading to the supporting Hoyle, who in turn popped up the try-scoring pass to full-back Tom Owen.
Chris Johnson knocked over a very good conversion, and at that point it looked like the Cup holders were on their way to the semis.
After conceding the penalty try, Field responded with a spell of pressure, skipper Nick Sharpe and Lee Brown almost conjuring up a try in the left corner, before that man Hoyle took centre stage once again, when he chased a speculative kick through the middle, and with the Bees defence dithering, the ‘blonde assassin’ pounced to get the touch down for a 14-7 lead.
The visitors, however, closed on the Huddersfield line, from where prop Eddie Peglau scrambled over for his side’s second try near half-time.
Bills’ conversion was way off the mark, but Bradford hit the front five minutes after the re-start when centre Richard Tafa spotted a huge gap in the middle of Huddersfield’s defence and skated through for a try to give his kicker an easy conversion.
Chris Duffy and Franny Entressengle replaced Ben Paxman and Chris Gough at hooker, while giant second teamer Ed Birkhead went on for Alex Battye in the front row.
As the conditions worsened, scrum half Joel Hinchliffe began to buzz around the Bees defence, and it was his initial break which led to Johnson sliding over the tryline and then regaining the lead with the conversion.
Seven minutes later came the crucial point of the game when Bradford were penalised just inside their own 22, and quick as a flash Sharpe tapped the ball to himself, and ran to the tryline with the entire Bees side watching, but anticipating the referee’s whistle to bring him back.
No whistle was forthcoming as referee Lazenby awarded the try from where he stood on the 22, and that was just about it.
Matt Johnson, who had replaced his brother Chris, added a late penalty to see Huddersfield safely into the semis, where they will meet either Wharfedale, Cleckheaton or the winner of next week’s quarter-final between Hull and Beverley.
Huddersfield: Owen; Knight; Clarke, B Paxman, Hall; Johnson, Hinchliffe; Battye, Gough, Armitage; Rhodes, Brown, Hinchliff, Hoyle, Sharpe. Subs (used): Entressengle, Duffy, Ryder, Birkhead, M Johnson.