YMCA 21 Doncaster Phoenix 20
YMCA maintained their lead at the head of Yorkshire II after another last-gasp victory over a plucky Phoenix side who for much of the game threatened to spoil the New Year opener.
Indeed, the visitors led the contest for more than 40 minutes, and looked set to inflict only the second defeat of the season on the league leaders who struggled to find any cohesion on a bitterly cold afternoon at Laund Hill.
It was only thanks to a try eight minutes from time from centre Adam Ryder which salvaged the win and kept coach Damon Scholes’ side on track for promotion.
No-one could say it was pretty, or convincing, but sometimes a win, no matter how ugly, is all that matters and it is what goes to make a team successful – just ask Sir Alex Ferguson!
James Swift had given YM an early lead with a close-range penalty but Doncaster hit back almost immediately, when flanker Joe Horrocks touched down and Dan Storey added the conversion.
Two excellent touch-finding kicks from Alex Shaw and Jon Smith put YM back in good field position however, and when the ball was moved swiftly out left, full-back Chris Beever came through on the crash ball to scoot over for YM’s opening try which Swift converted to put them back in front.
But it was a short-lived lead as Doncaster began to exert a lot of pressure on the home line, and after a poor clearance kick from Swift fell straight into the winger’s arms, Jon Storey finished it off with a try in the corner, and although his brother Dan was unable to add the extras it still left the visitors 12-10 to the good at the interval.
In the second half Simon Wilson made his long-awaited return at scrum half and that certainly provided YM with more direction at half-back, Jon Smith moving to No10 to replace Swift.
But it was Doncaster who extended their lead when Chris Conway knocked over a drop goal early in the half, and although Smith reduced the deficit with a penalty, the visitors pulled away again when a quickly-taken thrown-in to Joe Watts saw the scrum half race over the line untouched with YM’s defence nowhere in sight.
However, Wilson was now beginning to pull the strings at the back of YM’s pack and after a splendid 35-metre drive, Smith knocked over a second penalty to keep the home side within four points.
YM were now finally starting to gain the upper hand with another strong run from Alex Shaw taking them over the halfway line, and the usually dominant forwards putting in a series of strong drives.
And when Beever again came into the line at pace he made good ground before flipping a pass out to the supporting Ryder who knocked over his opposite centre and rounded the winger to score the match-winning try.
Smith was unable to convert from wide out, however, and YM suffered a nervy last couple of minutes when Dan Storey had a chance to win the game for Doncaster with an injury-time penalty from just inside YM’s half, but luckily for the leaders, pushed it wide.
YMCA: Beever; Morton, Ryder, Williams, Shaw; Swift (Wilson 41), Smith; Dyke (Ste), Dyke (Stu), Sanderson, Sibbons, Housley, Sharrock, Hodge (Leonne-Mazza 70), Neilly (Bell 60).
Referee: Gary Dixon (Central Yorkshire).