A GOOD Cup run is probably the last thing on Huddersfield RU’s minds at the moment, but it always comes as a welcome diversion from a strenuous League schedule.
And it can have bonuses – as two years ago Dan Hyde’s team went on to win the Yorkshire Cup!
Having already dispatched Bradford & Bingley 28-21 at Lockwood Park in the first round with four well-taken tries, they have been pitted against high-flying fellow National II North side, Hull Ionians, in the quarter-finals.
The date has provisionally been set for Saturday, February 23, but that is subject League commitments, because in the event of League games getting called off they must be played at the first available free date.
Before then of course, Huddersfield have several crucial games to negotiate as they try to claw their way out of the relegation mire.
“Unfortunately we were making a lot of crucial mistakes in the early part of the season, all of which contributed to our own downfall,” admitted hard-working skipper Nick Sharpe.
“But I feel we have now cut down on a lot of those errors, and I am optimistic we can turn some of those defeats into victories when we play those teams again in the second half of the season.”
If their defence has now strengthened and they have indeed cut down on the number of errors they make during a game, then another area that Huddersfield desperately must improve on is the ability to break down a defence and get points on the board – and that means getting over the try line!
Sharpe (inset) and centre Mike Clark are currently the side’s joint-leading try-scorers with just five each, while full-back Tom Owen and Ben Mitchell, who is unlikely to figure again this season after suffering injury, are one behind on four.
In fact, the total number of tries scored throughout the 40-player squad who have represented the first team to date this season, is only 37. And those are pretty poor stats for a team that has played 16 League matches and one Cup game.
Now that Luke Booth has taken over the mantle as the side’s principal place-kicker – with some success – it’s vital that Sharpe’s team begin to find some penetration up front and get over the whitewash on a regular basis.
Across town, and following their second round victory over Ilkley, YMCA face another huge battle as they bid to progress in their knockout campaign, the Yorkshire Shield.
For they have been drawn away to fellow Yorkshire I side North Ribblesdale in the quarter-finals, on Saturday, February 2, having already lost to the Settle side in the League earlier in the season at Grove Park.
They went down only by the odd point, 23-22, but nevertheless, everyone at the YM is well aware that Ribblesdale is, and always has been, a difficult place to get a victory.
The second-round win over Ilkley, 22-12, followed on from their first-round rout of West Leeds by 82-5, when several of YM’s leading scorers took the opportunity to ‘fill their boots’ against some woeful tackling.
In fact, YM’s points-for total could go through the roof this season as they have already racked up 538 points in 14 League games – averaging just over 38 per game – to go with their 104 points in the two Shield matches.
On the individual front, they could be in line to set some records, not only at club level, but also at Yorkshire level if they can continue to score in the same way during the second half of the season.
Skipper Mark Whitehead has 25 tries already, an incredible number for a No8, and only two of those came in Cup competition, so if he can stay relatively injury-free and continue to be the very personification of a ‘poacher,’ then he could post a set of figures that will take some beating.
But he is not even guaranteed to be the team’s leading try-scorer, as winger Gavin Stead also has 18 touchdowns to his name, along with 52 conversions, giving him a 200-plus tally going into the New Year fixtures.
Should YM beat North Ribblesdale in the Shield, then they look likely to face another lengthy away trip to probably play Scarborough in the semi-finals.