By Brandon Reeves
League Leaders Hull Ionians showed their clinical edge to seriously dent Huddersfield’s promotion ambitions by getting a bonus point 27-19 win in West Yorkshire.
Despite rallying late-on, the hosts always played catch-up to a Hull side who scored four tries to Huddersfield’s three on the day and now have a ten-point gap over Field at the summit of the table.
Compounding back-to-back home defeats is the fact that Chester and Fylde both picked up resounding bonus-point victories, leapfrogging Huddersfield leaving them 4th with seven games to play.
Toni Kuku was first off the mark for Ionians with a converted try. I’s returned a clearance kick and went through phases inside ‘Field 22 before the winger stole in by the posts after five minutes.
In response, Huddersfield spent large period of time inside Ionians territory, mainly to no avail until a couple of yellow cards for the visitors let the home side in.
Two of their back-row Mark Wigham and James Sanderson were sent to the bin in short succession before the half hour mark, and it wasn’t a long wait for the two-man advantage to be pressed home.
Harry Whitfield got the try to level things with Chris Johnson’s conversion. From 5m they ran the penalty at the line and the bustling prop stretched his hand over to score.
However, they couldn’t make the numbers count and a short-handed Hull in fact got the next score before the referee’s whistle.
Another kick return after Johnson’s 22-drop resulted in a crafty break by I’s flyhalf Tom Stephenson. He had two at his shoulder before Callum Smith was sent over in the corner with Tom Hodson outnumbered.
Ionians showed all the hallmarks of a team who would lead a title race, their defence stood strong at almost every turn, even when down a man or two.
Field throwing away a lineout one minute into the second half was symptomatic of their day where a few too many errors cut them short in possession.
Ionians on the other hand proved to be clinical when presented the opportunity.
A big up-and-under was dropped by Hodson on his 22m, leaving Toni Kuku to capitalise and send Ed Falkingham on his way to the line to punish the mistake.
Lewis Minikin made up for missing the conversion moments later by kicking a penalty after Tom Owen was penalised on the edge of his 22.
In this period there was another score very soon after, this time for ‘Field. Winning the ball from their restart, it ended in a penalty being kicked to the corner.
Being a bit quicker and showing more guile in possession paid dividends as Tom Owen got one back on the board. Going side-to-side, ‘Field worked it left where a 2-on-1 situation developed and any of Owen or Elliot Knight could have had the try.
But Ionians came back with a score to secure the result and the bonus point.
In shutting the lanes to stop any breaks, Field left the back door open for I’s to walk through and create a three-man overload down the right after Sanderson’s run into the 22.
He offloaded to Stephen Slingsby for an easy finish and a converted try.
Field’s consolation try was the highlight in an otherwise disappointing afternoon.
After nearly being caught-out from another errant lineout, possession was won back at their own try-line.
Chris Johnson received inside his in-goal area before freeing up Tom Hodson who raced up to halfway on the breakaway before feeding Lewis Workman on his shoulder.
Workman nearly went the rest of the way but was tackled 20m short of the line. Matt Dunn was in close attendance holding off Ionians back trackers before Harry Whitfield’s pick-up and go saw him burst through three tackles en route to the whitewash.
Johnson kicked the last points of the afternoon but it could have been even closer. Field pushed again and their guests had another yellow card after being penalised at their line. But Field turned it over instead of getting a bonus losing point.
Head Coach Gareth Lewis bemoaned the mistakes that let his side’s opponents in: “Full credit to Hull Ionians for the way they performed. They defended well and took their opportunities when they came.
“The last ten minutes showed what we are capable of but we made too many errors, made some poor decisions which ultimately let them off the hook. At this level you’ve got to apply pressure for sustained periods and we weren’t able to do that today.
“We’ll regroup, analyse the game and prepare thoroughly for Stourbridge next week.”
THE TITLE RACE
HUDDERSFIELD 19 – 27 HULL
CHESTER 59 – 12 South Leicester
FYLDE 54 – 10 Stourbridge
OTLEY 35 – 5 Peterborough