Last Thursday evening saw Old Rishworthians travel to Sandal near Wakefield to play in the Final of the U18's Yorkshire Cup against Sheffield. Rishies task was always going to be difficult given Sheffield's impressive playing record, the South Yorkshire side having only lost one game all season in the semi-final of the National Cup and were previous winners of the Yorkshire Cup for the past two seasons. Rish had already played Sheffield twice in the league this season and hadn't managed to get on the scoreboard in either game. However, the Copley men relished the opportunity of playing as considerable underdogs and had prepared well over the past few weeks. In addition Rish had finally found themselves in a position to select their strongest squad of the season for the final.
True to form Sheffield started brightly, moving the ball through hands across their backline, finding some space out wide as Rish were slow to react and work their defence around the corner from the breakdown. It was through one such move that Sheffield opened the scoring on six minutes with a well-executed try in the corner. On an ideal night for rugby with little or no wind, the Sheffield kicker comfortably slotted the conversion over from the touchline to put his side 7-0 up. Certainly not the start the maroons had hoped for.
From the resulting kick-off Sheffield pressed forward once again and but for the Rishies scrambled defence and a last minute try saving tackle, the cup holders could have doubled their lead. The Copley side were on the back foot and had to dig deep if they were going to find a response.
Following a period of settled play Rishies then began to press with more urgency and line speed in defence. This increased pressure on Sheffield's backline resulted in some handling errors and Rishies began to gain a foothold in the game and find territory deep in Sheffields half. However, despite several line outs within the Sheffield twenty-two, Rishies were unable to hold their composure and convert territory and ball retention into points.
Midway through the first half, Sheffield had another period of possession but Rish were now more organised in defence and began to hold their shape and compete more at the breakdown. A stray pass across a flat Sheffield attacking line was intercepted by Kian Stewart who looked up, saw a gap and broke out from his own twenty-two to sprint unopposed down the centre of the pitch and dot the ball down under the posts. Kian Sutcliffe had the easiest of conversions to level the scores at seven a piece.
Rishies continued to compete well and both sides had chances to go ahead before half time. Breaking the gain line by effectively linking up and latching on in midfield, Rishies were now able to counter attack Sheffields strong backline., However, despite gaining several penalties the Maroons could not get their maul working effectively from the line out and so the first period ended at seven points all.
The second half started much as the first half had ended with both sides pushing hard but finding it difficult to execute well under pressure and after a period of sustained attack it was Rishies who took the lead with a well worked move across their backline, the ball finally finding Kian Stewart once more. The talented centre cut back inside from a wide position to score under the posts. Kian Sutcliffe once again converted successfully to put Rishies in the lead by fourteen points to seven.
The game then ebbed and flowed and the level of intensity began to take its toll on the Rish forwards, leading them to make four changes to their starting eight. Sheffield exploited Rishies' mistakes and crossed the whitewash on fourty five minutes with a try from close range. A successful conversion saw Sheffield draw level with around fifteen minutes remaining. The game was very now very much in the balance.
Rish continued to play above themselves as both sides began to ship penalties for minor infringements in and around the breakdown. Rishies line out, so impressive all season began to miss-fire and the Sheffield pack pressed hard and capitalised on these errors. With around five minutes remaining Sheffield exploited a gap in the tiring Rish defence and scored a well engineered try. Duly converted, Sheffield now had the lead once again by twenty one points to fourteen and time was running out for Old Rish.
Despite a huge effort from the men in maroon, they could not break through Sheffield's strong defence and after losing possession in a ruck, Sheffield gathered the ball and kicked for touch to gain a hard earned and well deserved victory. Although disappointed, the Old Rish squad had far exceeded expectation and put in a top class performance only narrowly being defeated by one of the best Colt's sides in the Country.
The final proved a fitting end to a hard fought season and with over half their squad eligible to play colts rugby again next year, Rishies are already hoping for another successful campaign.
Tries: Kian Stewart 2
Conversions: K Sutcliffe 2
|1. W Hilton||2. T Muscat-Baron||3. W Harker|
|6. M Tooby||7. C Bell C2|
|4. H Soothill||5. O Witchell|
|8. E Pollard|
|9. C White|
|10. K Sutcliffe C2|
|12. B Martin|
|13. K Stewart T2|
|11. S Puddephatt||14. W Symms|
|15. G Withers|
Rishworthians v Sheffield Slideshow.
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