Charitable Huddersfield YMCA were their own worst enemy as they gifted visitors Sheffield Tigers a 29-21 National III North triumph.
The hosts went into the contest lacking an entire front row and fielding a virtually untried half-back combination, as well as being forced to reshuffle their backline due to the last-minute withdrawal through injury of winger Lloyd Bentley.
Yet despite the upheaval, that’s wasn’t the reason for this loss. Far from it.
Instead, it was down to the YM’s lack of respect for possession from start to finish.
Each one of the Tigers’ five tries could initially be put down to errors made by the Huddersfield side.
Winger Henri Packard was the one to benefit the most from the YMCA’s generosity, crossing for a well-executed hat-trick of tries, while full-back Peter Swatkin’s match-clinching 75th-minute try summed up the Laund Hill men’s afternoon as the hosts lost possession close to the Sheffield line and the ball was hacked upfield for the No15 to dribble his way over to complete the scoring.
But given the events of the opening 11 minutes, it seems incredible to be reflecting on Sheffield having to wait until five minutes from time to make the game safe.
By that 11th minute the impressive-looking Tigers, coached by Huddersfield’s former South African back-row forward Thiu Barnard, had stormed into a 17-0 lead, thanks to Packard’s first two efforts, a penalty try and the first of Tom Outram’s two successful conversions.
At that stage, a humiliating defeat looked a distinct possibility, particularly given the YMCA’s pre-match headaches.
But all credit to the home side for refusing to crumble under the pressure.
With blockbusting centre Adam Ryder becoming a real menace, 17-year-old full-back Sam Fletcher showing flashes of brilliance on debut, half-backs Chris Clarke and Simon Wilson slowly warming to the task and the pack prepared to roll up their sleeves when the going got tougher, the balance of power began to turn.
Player-coach Mark Whitehead’s men almost struck in the 22nd minute when Ryder was adjudged to have put a foot in touch as he ‘scored’ in the corner.
But they weren’t to be denied moments later when good work in the line-out enabled Wilson to shoot through for Gavin Stead to add the extras. That made it 17-7.
And two minutes before the break the deficit was cut to 17-14 after Clarke’s inside pass was collected at pace by Ryder to crash over under the posts.
All of a sudden the YMCA had become the dominant force.
It appeared their period in control had come to an end when the highly-influential Ryder was harshly sent to the sin-bin for intercepting a try-scoring Tigers pass by batting the ball to the ground, which the laws don’t allow.
A stupid rule in anyone’s book!
Fortunately, that had a galvanising effect on Ryder’s teammates who responded in the perfect manner by applying the pressure – which resulted in Sheffield hooker Tom Coates being yellow carded for intercepting when in an offside position – and then creating the position for Jack Housley to crash over by the posts for converted try number three.
With an hour on the clock the YM had hit the front for the first time at 21-17.
But instead of looking to shut the game down, the home side simply couldn’t help themselves and continued to play free-flowing rugby - with harmful results.
Loose play while on the attack set the Tigers on the way for Packard to finish off well for his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining before Swatkins put the final nail in the coffin with another gifted long-range effort. It was a lesson learned the hard way.
Huddersfield YMCA: Fletcher; Stead, Ryder, Van Rooyen, Bulloch;, Clarke, Wilson; Stu Dyke, Hill, Murphy, Housley, Bell, Whitehead, Hodge, Lumb. Subs: Wrafter, Dyson, Smith.
Sheffield Tigers: Swatkins; Keetley, Wallace, Buchanan, Packard; Outram, Shaw; Bennett, Coates, Ward, Refearn, Wragg, Wallace, Destounis, Pearson. Subs: Wright, Orton, Bird.
Referee: Bob Stead.