Huddersfield 39 v 7 Sheffield – Yorkshire Cup
By Patrick Moore
Huddersfield RU stormed to the second round of the Yorkshire Cup thanks to yet another blistering second half performance as they won 39-7 against Sheffield.
Two tries each from wingers Danny Grainger and Brandon Conway, as well as another try from Elliot Hodgson, means the Field made it seven wins from seven and keep their 100% start to the season despite facing the National Three Midlands league leaders who hadn’t lost away until their travels to Lockwood Park.
A cautious opening to the game allowed Sheffield to take early control. Their effective kicking game allowed lineouts in dangerous positions, and as the Field – for the first time this season – looked nervous on their lineouts, the South Yorkshire side looked to capitalise.
Huddersfield’s defence dealt with their first threat posed at them when Grainger forced Alastair Womack out of touch next to the try line.
But it wasn’t long until Sheffield took the lead as Johnny France overturned the resulting Huddersfield scrum and Steve DePledge added the two from the conversion.
The away side could have been over again hadn’t it been for smart defending from Joel Hinchliffe, who forced Sheffield to pass forward when a try looked imminent, and when DePledge missed a penalty Huddersfield were lucky not to be trailing by more.
That was to be the last time Sheffield really offered any sort of threat to Huddersfield for the rest of the afternoon, though, and it was Elliot Hodgson who kick started the Field’s ramp. His run from the next phase of possession made it simple for Conway to get his first try, and Chris Bell did brilliant to level the scores.
Bell then put Huddersfield 10-7 ahead with a well taken penalty from the restart, but DePledge had a chance to redeem himself for an earlier miss when he had another penalty. However, he put it wide and Huddersfield went in winning at half time.
After a stalling start, Huddersfield came out a different side in the second half as they moved up the gears, and their fitness proved crucial as they ran in four tries without reply.
With Sheffield recycling possession deep inside the Field’s territory, Grainger perfectly timed his run to intercept and he didn’t look back as he used his pace to go under the sticks. Bell added the three with ease.
It wasn’t long till Huddersfield were over again, this time Conway receiving the ball on the wing and his neat kick and run to himself was rewarded as he got his second of the game. Bell this time, however, couldn’t convert.
Huddersfield then really put down their authority on the match after their stunning start to the second half, and Grainger was over again in the corner following good play from the pack to switch it from left to right. Bell did brilliant to add the three.
Hodgson was next over the whitewash just minutes later when his neat footwork gave himself time and space to stretch the lead. Bell again added the three.
The Field took their foot off the gas for the closing stages of the match as they had a man sin binned, but they still managed to get another score as Bell added a penalty on the final whistle to make it 39-7, and it’s a result which has pleased coach Gareth Lewis. He said:
“It was very good from the lads today; especially in the second half. The first half was evenly matched and it caused us problems. But we increased the intensity of our play and had that ruck speed. The win was quite convincing in the end.
“Momentum is key. They missed two penalties and could have created a little gap in the score line, however we were by far the dominant team overall so I’m very pleased.
“It’s no coincidence in the way we kick on in the second half every match. Our intensity is all down to the conditioning that the lads did during the preseason with the introduction of strength and conditioning coach Matt Green. He’s a top, top guy and been a brilliant addition to the team behind the scenes.
“We just need to improve out mentality. I felt we were in second gear for the first 30 minutes of the first half today so it’s just our mindset we need to work on. We’ve got to be driven in our approach on the game all the time.”
Conway, who switched codes in the summer, now has seven tries in his last four games and he also spoke of his delight of his current team’s form.
“We put on a good show today despite starting off a bit shaky,” said Conway. “We really pulled together in the end and we’re delighted to progress in the cup.”
“It’s my first season of rugby union as well as playing at Huddersfield, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Hopefully it will end with getting back in National Two.”
“It’s been a positive change. Back in league I fell out of love with rugby but since I’ve came here I’ve definitely rekindled that. We know we have fitness and the players to get the job done and we’ve got a high team spirit too. I take the tries as they come but it’s very much a team game here.”
Lewis’ side will now look ahead to their league fixture against Ilkley next Saturday, and the coach knows he has a good but very tough decision of choosing the team for the trip.
“I have a selection headache; big time. All the lads who came in did very well. I thought Tom Kanauros looked very comfortable at full back and cleared his lines effectively. Ben Harris carried the ball hard, and Harvey Keighley-Payne put in a good performance along with Ben Morrill who lasted the 80 minutes.”
“There’s some tough calls. The lads who weren’t involved today might be a little bit nervous come next week.”
“Ilkley are going well, they’re near the top of the league. They’ve become an established team now so we’re expecting another tough match so we need to prepare this week.”