Huddersfield 34-12 Billingham
By Patrick Moore
Huddersfield RUFC went top of the National 3 North with a stunning 34-12 win over Billingham. Two tries from Brandon Conway, along with one each from Tom Owen and Chris Bell, made it four wins from four for Gareth Lewis’ team who also recorded their first bonus point of the season.
The Lockwood Park side managed to keep Billingham, who raked in 15 tries last weekend, try-less in a stunning defensive display where their resilience was paid off with three clinical second half tries.
Huddersfield, who showed off their new kit for the first time at home as well as a new digital scoreboard, looked a much fitter side than their Tyneside opponents, and even though they were reduced to 14 men twice in the second half, they never really looked in doubt for the win from the go.
It took a while for the sides to put a marker down on the match, and after Bell missed a penalty (his first and only miss of the season so far), Billingham took the lead through Peter Evans’ penalty.
The Field responded straight away, though, and when Ben Hoyle was fouled illegally Bell made amends by putting the ball between the sticks.
Billingham regained the lead when Evans got his second penalty via the inside of the post, but when Huddersfield attacked in the next phase and looked threatening on the 22m line, Bell opted for a drop goal to tie the game.
The game was very much in the balance until moments before the half time whistle. Tom Owen surged through an up until then resolute Billingham defence and found Kristian Sharples who set up Conway to go over in the corner. Bell added the three.
With Huddersfield only 13-6 up at half-time, alarm bells were ever-so slightly ringing when Evans scored two penalties in a row after the restart, and with Francis Entressengle sin-binned Billingham had the upper hand.
Good play from the away side allowed a massive chance for Billingham as they had a man in hand as they attacked, but Danny Grainger came up with a try-saving tackle to take them out of play.
That seemed to be the defining moment. Huddersfield were soon in for their and Conway’s second try of the game. With Entressengle back on, Kristian Sharples was questionably sinbinned but Lewis’ side worked the ball well and the winger made no mistake in giving his side breathing space. Bell superbly added the three.
Huddersfield then stepped up a gear and Tom Owen went over in fashionable style, Bell again converting with ease from distance.
As the win was in the bag, Lewis’ side were in desperate search of getting their first bonus point of the season and when Bell intercepted in the middle of the park he had nothing but the metre lines to breeze past to go over the whitewash. Bell put over from under the sticks to give his side the 34-12 win.
“We’re really pleased how today went,” said Lewis. “To get our first five-point win of the season and to not concede any tries against a team who scored 99 points in the previous week is huge for the lads.”
“All the tries came from the backs today and that’s good. The forwards have been scoring most of the points this season but it shows that we can, when required, play the ball into wider channels and the wingers played really well today.”
Huddersfield were without captain Alex Battye who had to have stitches in his head due to an injury on Thursday night at training so Austen Thompson captained.
Lewis said “It was a big loss but in his absence I thought Reuben (Pollard) did brilliant. He fronted up really well in the scrum. Callum Thompson also came on and made a big impact off the bench which was good and it shows we’ve got strength in depth in the squad.
“Elliot Hodgson picked up a back injury before the match too and was not risked. Dan Jeffrey came in and had another good game and I thought Danny Grainger had his best game in a Huddersfield shirt today. He showed real confidence in attacking and defended strong; he produced some good tackles into touch.”
“The fitness and desire of the boys to get up off the line and make they hit Billingham time and time again just shows the mentality of the group. The fitness which has been put in is showing dividend.”
Man of the match was deservedly awarded to Chris Bell.
Huddersfield now face a trip to fourth placed Hull who had a 45-17 win against Firwood Waterloo.