By Patrick Moore
Huddersfield RU opened a 10-point gap at the top of National III North with a massively hard-fought 22-5 victory against Rossendale.
Seventeen points came courtesy of Chris Bell’s right boot and a try from full back Lewis Workman completed a stunning performance from Gareth Lewis’ unbeaten side, who made it 13 league wins in a row.
The league leaders’ resilience and fitness proved to be pivotal in the end as second-placed Rossendale, who were on a 10-match winning streak of their own, took a 5-3 lead into the break.
But, for the second week running, the Field kept their opponents pointless in the second half with a spectacular defensive display.
“It was an absolutely fantastic win, I am delighted,” said coach Lewis.
Video: See action from the match:
“It was nip and tuck for the first half and they probably just about edged it, but our defensive discipline was outstanding to keep them to just one score.
“Then when we re-emerged for the second half, the character that we showed was just top drawer.
“Every one of the lads put their bodies on the line. It got a bit feisty and it’s fair to say we got under their skin a bit, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
In a pulsating afternoon at Lockwood Park, it was the travelling side who made the brighter start to the clash.
The first real chance fell to Sammy Atiola after a neat kick over the top from Steve Nutt, but strong defensive play forced a knock on; something which was to become a recurring theme throughout.
And as the game lived up to its pre-match hype, off-the-ball fights were to become the other regularity.
Action from the Rossendale clash:
Rossendale’s Reece Tomlinson was lucky not to be sin-binned for what looked to be a strike on Ben Hoyle, but the referee did his best to allow a full set of players to remain on the pitch after a number of early heated scraps.
Rossendale continued to put Huddersfield under pressure as they looked stronger, especially at the scrummage, but like all season the defence dealt unbelievably well by turning over possession – notably through Frances Entressengle and Lewis Bradley, who did particularly well man-to-man as the away side threatened.
As Huddersfield started to get a foothold, Adam Malthouse looked to have been in for a try following a line-out in the Rossendale 22, but he was well tackled before reaching the line.
It wasn’t long, though, until they were awarded a penalty as Chris Bell opened the scoring for 3-0.
From the restart, Huddersfield looked re-energised when Elliot Hodgson’s big hit was followed by an equally-impressive one by Brandon Conway on a powerful break, but Rossendale were on a mission to reply before the half-time whistle.
Field’s defence was finally broken down as Rossendale took advantage of Austen Thompson’s sin-binning following a scrum on the 5m line, and captain Dominic Moon was the man who put his side ahead at the break. Nutt couldn’t add the extras, so Rossendale led 5-3 at the interval.
Down to 14 players for the first eight minutes of the second half, Huddersfield had to make a huge effort, but Bell missed an early penalty from long distance as he attempted to put his team back ahead.
The fly-half, though, was to make amends (and more!) as he put over three penalties in a row as Rossendale were penalised for foul play too often with the Field dominating (12-5).
Ahead by a converted try, Ben Hoyle and Alex Isherwood were both sin-binned for an off-the-ball incident, but it was Bell who calmed matters as he produced magic with a drop goal to give breathing space at 15-5.
Rossendale did have the chance to take three points, but Nutt opted to kick for a lineout. That proved to be a big mistake, and after more gutsy work from the league’s best defence, Workman wrapped up the game with a brilliantly-worked converted try in the corner (22-5).
With Field keeping their 100% record intact to the half-way point of the season, Lewis reserved special praise for Bell and Workman, who proved strong in their biggest test.
“I think it was a really mature performance from Bell,” said the coach.
“He’s developed as a player incredibly well over the last 12 months.
“I wasn’t initially sure whether the drop goal was the right call, but when he slotted the ball over it was impressive, and the try we scored through Lewis Workman was just pure class.
“We always knew we could play right until the end, they showed their hand in the first half and we soaked up the pressure, and I honestly think we could have played another half an hour.”