Another huge win for the mighty A Team.
This bonfire night weekend saw the mighty A Team travel to take on Halifax Vandals. Recent encounters have seen a well contested game, especially at Warley and so fireworks were expected. Captain, manager and chief George Hinchliff was unavailable for the game leaving Andy Lyon to organise the troops and Josh Cook to take on the role of captain and ignite the Huddersfield side with an inspiring team talk.
Despite the skipper and a couple of other key personnel unavailable, the Huddersfield outfit were able to travel with a strong squad and plenty of players. With Lyon responsible for picking the side and so many players at his disposal, his first important decision was to put himself on the bench! Glenn Keogh dropped out on the morning of the game to go and view a house; certainly that is a new one to add to the list of excuses for not turning up!
Key selection decisions saw Neil Thornton at scrum half, making his first A Team start and James Giblin at fly half. This combined with Danny Brough and Eddie Newman in the centres posed a threatening back line, regardless of the fact they are all approaching or have already turned 40! A welcomed first appearance of the year from Darren Neilly saw him start at 8 and Maxwell Shelton returned from University for the weekend to add to a strong bench.
With the opposition traditionally having a big pack and playing on the exposed and sloping Warley pitch the A Team had a clear game plan: no kicking, the forwards running a little wider off 10 and giving the backs as much quick and clean ball as possible for them to go wide and enjoy themselves.
The game kicked off with the A Team going uphill in the first half. Things didn’t start well for the home side and they failed to ignite when their kick off didn’t go 10. An explosive start from Huddersfield saw a half break from Newman followed by another half break from Giblin. Slick handling from Brough and Broughton put last season’s Man of Tour Toby Spooner in for the first try of the game. Converted by Brough to make it 0-7.
Huddersfield withstood a barrage of strong forward runs from the Vandals as they looked to respond and a great turnover when defending 5 metres from their own try line gave the backs the opportunity to explode and put on a counter attacking display. The ball was hacked into the Vandals 22, their fullback kicked it but it was well collected and returned by Broughton. A couple of phases later with Thornton and Giblin commanding and organising the show, stand in skipper Josh Cook went in for try number 2 which was converted by Brough to make it 0-14.
After a couple of good phases in their own 22, the A Team looked to go wide and, making the only mistake of what was a sparking performance from Giblin, saw him throw a pass that was intercepted by Vandals. A certain try was prevented by a crackling cover tackle from Thornton resulting in a Vandals knock on. The Vandals continued to apply pressure and the A Team’s plans of keeping the opposition score to zero went up in smoke with numerous big runners knocking on the door. The wall was eventually broken and a converted score took the score line to 7-14.
With the game now looking like it would be the close encounter as expected, Niall Phayer was penalised for holding onto the ball and Vandals put the penalty into touch for a lineout on the 22. The Huddersfield lineout was spectacular throughout the whole game and the pressure was let off by a fantastic steal by Ben Royds.
For the most part the game plan was closely stuck to but the no kicking rule was broken as Huddersfield kicked long to relieve some more Vandals pressure. A bit of kick tennis eventually ended when Broughton made a good carry into the Vandals 22. A Vandals player clearly had a bit of a short fuse and took Broughton out late. The referee was left with no option but to show the Vandals player a yellow card.
Not long after, a firecracker of a move saw an attacking cross field kick from Brough into space, with ‘oohs and ars’ from the sidelines. The ball was collected brilliantly by Spooner and with the try line in sight he flicked it inside to Newman who, to the amazement of everyone, saw him knock on! It would certainly have been in contention for the try of the game.
A tactical masterclass was on display by only using 6 man lineouts with number 8 Neilly stood outside Giblin to offer a serious running threat. From a lineout Giblin attacked their line and gave a lovely short ball to Neilly who burst through like a rocket! A 30 metre run from Neilly with Newman in support and screaming at the Irishman like a Roman Candle for him to pass him the ball. Neilly ignored him to finish the try for himself. A superb solo effort that was converted by Brough saw the A Team to a more comfortable lead of 7-21.
A short while later and with the A Team lineout on fire, some clean ball and slick back play ended with Billy Broughton scoring. Brough’s 100% record with the boot went up in smoke as he missed the conversion. 7-26.
Soon after the A Team put some good phases together with the ball going from one side of the pitch to the other. A break from Billy Broughton eventually saw him tackled and with the try line in sight, he popped it up to Spooner. The ball was recycled passed out wide where two members of the front row union in Cook and Singh put on a ‘sparktacular’ handling display to put Brough in at the corner for a well worked try. Brough failed to convert his own try. 7-31.
With the Vandals resistance starting to fizzle out, great interplay between Brough and the impressive Neilly saw James Giblin go in for a well worked try. For the 3rd time in a row Brough surprisingly missed the conversion. 5-36.
With a strong bench a number of changes were made at half time with Maxwell Shelton, Charlie Foreman and Toby McKinnell, three home grown talents, came on along with Justin Brown.
Huddersfield, playing downhill, wanted to start the second half with a bang! Again the combination of Thornton, Giblin and Neilly looked threatening and it wasn’t long before the Giblin/ Neilly combination ignited the game. A strong Neilly carry with great support on the outside from Newman who then passed back on the inside to Giblin for his second try of the game. Brough put his kicking boots back on to convert making it 7-43 to Huddersfield.
Plans for a Vandals second half comeback went up in flames. The restart kick failed to cross the 10 metre line. The ever alert Neilly collected the ball on the half volley and, like a blast from the past made another great break as the referee shouted play on. After a couple of well worked phases Niall Phayer got his name on the score sheet with Brough converting again to make it 7-50.
With 50 points now on the scoreboard Lyon made further changes giving international student Fernando Sendra some well deserved game time on the wing. The students have been a welcome addition the A Team squad but he was the only one available this weekend as apparently they were all at home on a ‘reading week’. You’d have thought they would have to read throughout the entire year but instead they cram it all into one week! Luke Durrant, who has been coming along to T&P since the beginning of summer, came on for his A Team debut on the wing. Maxwell Shelton moved from the wing to scrum half and with Shelton senior in the stand watching, the former A Teamer could only have imagined what it would be like to play at wing or scrum half after spending many a year in the second row or at 8! In his bid to cover every position for the A Team in one season, Lyon put himself on at fly half, having now ticked off hooker, second row, back row, centre and wing, leaving just scrum half and prop to go before the end of the season!
With so many changes being made the game began to get a bit scrappy. This wasn’t helped by Charlie Foreman picking up a yellow card for a ‘hit sock’ worthy dump tackle. A textbook shot in days gone by the young centre could have no disagreement with the referee’s decision, with player safety and welfare so paramount in the modern game. The game was managed incredibly well by the man with the whistle and his clear communication and competence was appreciated by both sides. The yellow card saw the game go scoreless for 10 minutes as the Vandals rallied against the 14 men.
Following Foreman’s return to the pitch and with Brough joining Thornton and Newman on the sidelines for a well deserved rest, Foreman converted a Toby McKinnell try to give himself a 100% record with the boot for the match with 1 from 1. It has been great to introduce McKinnell the former Huddersfield junior player into the A Team fold this season. 7-57 to Field.
The Field lineout had operated superbly throughout the whole game and so with a penalty in the dying minutes of the game the decision was made to put the ball into the bottom corner. With every lineout going off the top to release the backs so far, it was the opportunity for the A Team pack to have their moment and with a great catch and drive they finished off the match with a final try that was scored by Joe Shiel. Brough had returned to the pitch for the last 10 minutes and took over the kicking duties to convert the try and finish the game at 7-64.
A dynamic and entertaining display from the A Team side that combined slick handling and a well executed game plan to see them take the ‘W’. Credit must go to the Field forwards who withstood the barrage from the larger Vandals pack and laid a platform that allowed man of the match Giblin and his fellow backs to shine!
Credit must also go to the hosts who despite the one sided score line never gave up and continued to bash down the Huddersfield defensive line. We look forward to welcoming them back to Lockwood Park for the return fixture towards the back end of the season.
Written by Andy Lyon (assistant A Team manager)