BIRKENHEAD PARK 19 YMCA 29
They came, they saw – and the conquered!
Huddersfield YMCA accomplished what is arguably their greatest day in the club’s history, when they marched into Birkenhead and marched out again a couple of hours later with play-off promotion in the bag.
It was a victory that sends the Laund Hill club into the National League for the first time, and was a fitting finale for all the players, staff and, in particular, head coach Jody Shaw, who now steps down from his position after six years at the YM.
It was also a great way to round off the playing career of full back Matt Johnson, who has called time on his playing days but intends to continue to serve the club in a coaching capacity.
Victory at Upper Park always promised to be a big ask against a side who have been beaten only once at home all season, and that was by league champions Wirral.
And so it proved as YM were often left floundering in the first half, with Birkenhead taking a 13-9 lead into the break courtesy of a try from No8 Ollie Mabbott, with a conversion and two penalties from Pete White.
YM were grateful to three successful penalties from the boot of Gavin stead to keep them just about in the hunt.
Two more penalties from White early in the second half extended Park’s lead to 10 points and the situation was starting to look ominous for YM.
But then came the fightback.
Despite having both James Bell and then Sam Hodge yellow carded, YM struck back when Adam Ryder sent in Ed Barber for the visitors’ first try on 55 minutes.
Stead hit the post with his attempted conversion but, three minutes later, YM were over again when the ball was worked across the field and winger Lloyd Bentley went over in the left corner to tie the scores at 19-19.
Birkenhead now knew they had a game on their hands as YM’s superior pace and fitness began to pay rich dividends.
With the match in the balance, second rower Bell sold an outrageous dummy and plunged over the line from close range.
Stead was again unsuccessful with the conversion but made amends on 74 minutes when the powerful centre charged through to score his side’s fourth try and put the game virtually out of reach.
His conversion again hit the post, but it didn’t matter as YM controlled the closing stages to seal a great win and memorable outcome for the whole club.
An emotional shaw said: “What a day!
“To come back from the deficit at half time was fantastic. We were more composed in the second half and our fitness told in the end.
“Although I am now standing down, I am convinced this club can go on to achieve even more.”
Damon Scholes added: “This is a great day for Huddersfield rugby, not just for YM but also with Huddersfield being promoted as well.”
YMCA - Johnson, Stead, Ryder, Barber, Bentley, Wood, Wilson, Wrafter, Murphy, Dyke (Ste), Bell, Lumb, Sharrock, Hodge, Whitehead. Subs all used: Housley, Dyke (Stu), Hill, Bulloch.
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