A PAIR of sparkling tries and a battling pack performance earned YMCA a valuable bonus point from their clash with top-rated Yorkshire outfit Pocklington at Laund Hill.
Having been walloped 44-10 earlier in the season at the East Yorkshire club’s Percy Road stronghold, this performance by head coach Damon Scholes’ side showed a marked improvement and gave further proof that YM are now finally getting up to speed following their promotion (behind Pocklington) last season.
Once again Jon Smith filled the problem position of fly-half and again didn’t disappoint, with some astute kicking and distribution which suggests a lengthy run in the No10 shirt might benefit the side in the long term.
YM’s hopes of causing an upset were not helped by losing two players within the first 12 minutes of the game, scrum half Simon Wilson being carried off after a heavy knock, while four minutes later second row Sean Merrick became the second home player to limp off.
Fortunately, coach Jody Shaw was able to switch Josh Marshall from the wing to scrum half – a position he is very familiar with – while bringing on James Swift to take his place on the flank, while new recruit Darren Neilly (returning after a short spell with Huddersfield) replaced Merrick in the second row.
Before the double change however, YM had hit the front with a splendid try created by full-back Nick Clarke, who is increasingly becoming a major influence at Laund Hill, and after a searching run from winger Chris Beever had put the home side in good field position, Clarke engineered a deft cross-field kick into the corner, and with the Pocklington winger and full-back getting in each other’s way, Marshall nipped in to get the touchdown, to which Smith added a very good conversion from just inside the touchline.
But following the changes in YM’s line-up, Pocklington were quick to respond, when the home defence was pulled out of position and a ball out to the left allowed Billy Hardy to skip through for a gift of a try.
Joe Holbrough missed the conversion, and that was how the score stayed until the interval, with both sides seemingly intent on keeping play tight among the forwards.
But if the first half had been pretty even, Pocklington’s huge side came out in determined mood to start the second period, and after being camped inside YM’s 10-yard mark, the big men finally ploughed a hole in the home defence and flanker Jack Holbrough got the try close to the posts, but not close enough for his brother Joe, who again missed the conversion.
But, as with Pocklington’s response in the first half, YM were similarly emphatic in their reply, as two mintues later, they moved downfield, for once took a clean line-out (an area where they clearly struggled most of the game) and Smith delayed a beautiful pass into the path of full-back Clarke who came blasting through a gap to race between the posts for an excellent score.
Smith knocked over the two-pointer and YM were back in front 14-10.
Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for YM, who were then repeatedly pushed back inside their own 22 for long periods, and it came as no surprise when their defence was again breached by Pocklington, as Jack Holbrough scored his second close-range try, and this time his sibling did land the extras for a 17-14 lead.
From that point on, it was almost a war of attrition, as the visitors piled on the pressure in the hope of scoring a fourth try for a bonus point, while YM’s plucky lightweight side resembled the 500 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae as time and time again they threw back the Pocklington hordes, to earn themselves a well-deserved losing bonus point.
YMCA: Clarke; Beever, Bentley, Shaw, Marshall; Smith, Wilson (Swift 10); Murphy, Hill, Ste Dyke, Housley (Wrafter 70), Merrick (Neilly 12), Hodge, Leone-Mazza, Whitehead.
Pocklington: Bennett, Hardy, Bishop, Nixon, Walton, Joe Holbrough, Rees, Webber, Birch, Morton, Peters, Hyde, Durkin, Jack Holbrough, Britland. Subs: Kelly, Stephenson, Shepherdson.
Referee: Matthew Riley (Manchester Soc).
HUDDERSFIELD RUFC’s home National League Two North clash with Loughborough Students was called off due to a frozen pitch at Lockwood Park on Saturday.