Sandal 9-16 Huddersfield
Report by Patrick Moore
Huddersfield RUFC got off to winning ways in the National North III with a hard fought and well deserved 16-9 victory away at Sandal.
Mark Pease, against the side he signed from, along with Brandon Conway and Francis Entresangle all made impressive debuts on an afternoon where Nick Sharpe’s try was the difference between the two sides who were both relegated from the National North II last season.
On a rainy afternoon, the home side had a chance to take an early lead through a penalty, but their captain Gregg Wood missed and Huddersfield went on to dominate possession.
After a succession of mauls near the 20 metre line, Sharpe found the try line to score his sides first try of the season and give the advantage in the local derby.
Chris Bell was on kicking duties and converted with ease.
Huddersfield took full control of the game from then on and when Tom Owen split through the Sandal defence it was only a matter of time before they added more scores to their name, and Bell did that with a penalty following that play.
Gareth Lewis’ side had another chance through Brandon Conway when he picked up a loose ball near the half way line, but he failed to realise he had men either side of him before he kicked and the ball was put into touch by the struggling Sandal defence.
Huddersfield continued to look very strong in the centre despite difficult conditions and were rewarded with another penalty put between the posts by Bell to go 13-0 up.
The only real chance Sandal could get was when Joel Hinchliffe gave a loose pass away but Elliott Hodgson cleared to touch before the home side could score a try.
Sandal did finally get themselves on the scoreboard through a Wood penalty, but the Field soon regained their lead when Bell had a penalty from beneath the sticks to give a 16-3 advantage.
Just before the half time whistle Sandal had another penalty put over by Wood which could have swung the momentum as the teams headed into the changing rooms.
Conditions seemed to get the better of the second half, but Huddersfield started off well and defended excellently to never give Sandal a chance to score a try.
However, Wood added another penalty for his side and they were just a converted try away from nicking a draw; something which Sandal did the last time the two sides met as they stole a 13-12 win thanks to a cruel late converted try.
History thankfully wasn’t to repeat itself and after a late onslaught, which Huddersfield first turned over before they knocked on next to their try-line, was dealt brilliantly with and the ball was kicked out of play to make sure of the first win of the season.
“We’re all delighted to get up and running,” said Lewis. “We played some really good stuff in the first half, our shape in attack and discipline was good and we managed the game well, but they made it hard for us in the second half.
“They competed a lot harder in the line outs and on their breakdown so we struggled to get our forwards into the game
“We showed very good resilience at the end. It was a bit like déjà vu at the end and it was nerve wracking but the lads showed great character so I’m made up for them.”
“The way we came out of the blocks in the first half was probably the difference today.
“It was pleasing to see how well we defended and we looked incredibly fit, and that will give the lads so much confidence now as they know they can play the full 80 minutes.
“In these conditions, it’s all about building the scores and with the conversions and penalties took by Bell it obviously helps massively.”
“Frances in the line outs was accurate in difficult conditions where the ball was greasy, Mark Pease was very physical and he did everything he needed to do and I thought Brandon did well too”
Huddersfield now face another tough challenge against Doncaster Phoenix, who won 20-5 against Firwood Waterloo on the opening day of the season, in their first home fixture of the season, and Lewis knows that although they were only promoted to the National North III last season, they will be a very tough side to face.
“We’re expecting a massive fight with Doncaster Phoenix next week. They’re new to the league but have gone up over the last few years so we’re expecting a very tough game.
“Today is a starting point. We’ve already spoke about the areas where we need to address so that we’re ready to go come Saturday afternoon.”
15- Lewis Workman
14- Brandon Conway
13- Tom Owen
12- Matt Pease
11- Elliot Hodgson
10- Chris Bell
9- Joel Hinchliffe
1- Alex Battye
2- Francis Entresangle
3- Adam Tamanis
4- Nick Rhodes
5- Austen Thompson
6- Lewis Bradley
7- Ben Hoyle
8- Nick Sharpe