Huddersfield RU battled to the end with a clinical Sedgley Park in a sun-drenched season opener at Lockwood Park, but ultimately fell short to a 29-24 defeat.
A last-minute comeback win was on the cards after Tigers replacement Nathan Rushton saw red for a shoulder to the head in the maul. But as Field applied pressure, a call for holding in the tackle put paid to any chances of a last-gasp win.
Sedgley made the brighter start to the match, gaining early territory in Huddersfield’s twenty-two, resulting in the opening score, Prop forward Daniel Maher running in the game’s opener after some good work in the lineout.
Field’s response was instant, wasting no time in setting about Sedgley with their possession. Tom Hodson received it in space in the twenty-two and set up the leveller with an impudent kick in behind to provide winger Kian Stewart, son of ex-Town favourite Marcus, with an easy first try of the season.
Will Milner got off the mark with the boot following Stewart’s try, and soon after kicked through a penalty to give Field a five-point lead.
Sedgley weren’t to be deterred easily however, and a five-minute double-salvo saw the visitors race back to a lead.
First, Sedgley captain Matt Riley taught Field a lesson in being concentrated on your try line. A penalty on five metres and a little “I’ll go, Sir” to referee Benjamin Davis saw the centre run through a gap to touch-down before kicking through his own effort.
They weren’t waiting around for a response, either. Field conceded a penalty after their restart, giving Sedgley the onus to work their way back into Huddersfield territory. Some characteristically quick ball work found Tigers’ Ten Oliver Glasse who exploited another gap to go over. Skipper riley kicked through to send the sides in 19-10 at the break.
Huddersfield were to bounce back in the second half though.
The new-look side showed in periods that when they impose themselves on a match they have the quality to get points against any side who comes to Lockwood. New scrum-half Jack Mapelsden highlighted that after exchanging passes with fly-half Milner to quickly reduce the arrears.
Milner’s kick would bring the gap to two points but Sedgley carried on the spirit of this ding-dong encounter. Glasse’s restart deceived Field and gained Tigers some good territory at a lineout five metres out.
They used that impetus to win the lineout and quickly move it across the line. Number nine Callum McShane set up Matt Riley for another try with a clever disguised pass to send him through the space and over the line. Despite this he missed a fairly easy conversion.
Then Sedgley found a way of keeping their hosts at arm’s length. After penning Field in, it was quick passing again that found winger Jamie Harrison thirty metres out. His quick feet and determination to get to the line saw him evade a couple of tackles to race in behind.
Sedgley’s scoring was complete at Twenty-nine despite Riley having the chance to convert Harrison’s try while missing a kick from distance.
Sedgley were resilient but Huddersfield stayed determined. Tom Hodson’s knack of finding himself in space served him well again here as Field drew level with five to go. Hodson combined with Stewart again on a run out wide who returned the favour to release the full back inside in behind the defence.
Another well worked try brought them within a converted score away from a win. Then, when Field were pushing for the points, an opportunity presented itself in the form of Nathan Rushton’s Red. A shoulder to the head meant he had to watch his team try and see out the game a man down.
But Field were maybe too keen in pushing for the win and gave away a penalty at the very last. A dramatic end to a great opening encounter.
Sedgley themselves will know they maybe got away lightly in the end, their captain tweeting post-match that “Not many teams will come away from Huddersfield with points this season!”
Not many teams will come away from @Huddersfield_RU with points this season!
Tough start, glad to come away with 5 points… this leagues going to be brutal this year!
Be some sore bodies in the morning! 🐯🏉
— Matthew Riley (@sedgleytruck) September 1, 2018
Head coach Gareth Lewis in his post-match thoughts said “Considering the number of new faces in the squad this was a pretty solid start. However, we must learn how to hit the reset button as too many basic errors ultimately cost us the game.
“We got ourselves into good positions within the game but let them back into it by our own inaccuracies. As it turned out we could’ve won the game in the closing stages, but it wasn’t to be. “This is just the start and I’ve no doubt once the team get to know one another better we will cause good teams a few problems like we did today.”
Elsewhere in the league, new boys Preston and Peterborough both saw defeats at the hands of Chester and Wharfedale respectively, while sides dropping down from National One Fylde and Hull both opened their accounts with wins.
South Leicester and Stourbridge sit top two after the first round of games, Leicester prop up the table while Huddersfield lay in tenth.
Brandon Reeves Huddersfield Examiner Rugby Union Correspondent