Hudds YMCA 19-19 Bees
All square in local derby.
As a consequence of Storm Brian battering it’s way northwards, this game was played in farcical conditions as a gale force wind whipped down the field and a tropical monsoon appeared at half time to compound the misery.
It is great credit to both sides that any kind of Rugby was played as both sides perhaps foolishly looked to keep the ball in hand and run possession back at the opposition whenever possible. The referee was becoming somewhat of a pantomime villain to those members of the crowd who had travelled from Wagon Lane as the second half penalty count stood at 10 to 2 in favour of the home side.
With eighty minutes up on the clock there were further howls of comedic protest from Bees supporters as YMCA were awarded another penalty on the Bees 22 and former Wagon Lane centre, Gavin Stead stepped up to take a shy at the posts. At 19 points each the score seemed about a fair result but with Stead lining up the penalty it seemed the home side were about to snatch victory playing into the teeth of the storm. For once it seems the Gods were on the side of Martin Whitcombe’s men as a final blast of wind from Storm Brian saw the ball blown wide of the right upright.
Immediately after the game, Bees coach, Alastair Macdonald commented “I know our supporters were moaning about the Ref, but this result was nothing to do with him. It was entirely our fault that we didn’t come away with a win. We had a word at half time, we knew what the plan was, we had picked our lines, we knew where the game had to be played and we just didn’t deliver. We also just kept giving away penalties that ruined our field position, we have to adapt to the Ref; he warned us a few times and then we go and do the same thing again”.
The Bees Director of Rugby, Martin Whitcombe continued in a similar vein: “at half time we thought we had done a cracking job keeping it so tight and we knew sustained pressure in the corners at the set piece would bring us the result. I think we got over the line from our first two attacks, keeping it tight, simple and direct. I really thought if we kept the same discipline, same shape we would be back over the line three or four more times. We just got it wrong and fair play to the YM lads for keeping going playing into that weather”.
The wind was unrelenting right from the kick off, but strangely the home side didn’t seem to want to use the power of the wind to gain field position and threw the ball about in their backs from the off. They had the Bees pinned in their own 22 for much of the half, but some excellent tackling from the visitors largely kept the YMCA attacks safely away from the tryline.
The penalty count against the Bees was in double figures and with a kicker as reliable as Stead on the field, it was inevitable that the home side would get some points on the board. Three shots at goal were successful in the 2nd, 22nd and 35th minutes with the Bees trying a number of different players charging into the home defence to try and break out of their own half. In the 27th minute the Bees were finally rewarded as the ball was shipped out to the left after an initial surge up the middle. The ball ended up in the hands of Jack Malthouse who looked to have run out of options near the touch line and just inside the home 22. However, the Bees centre has other ideas and with a shimmy back inside the first defender and a step outside the covering full back he was able to plunge over in the corner.
With the half time score at 9-5 and the elements growing increasingly wild, but at the Bees backs, it looked like YMCA had not scored enough. Within two minutes of the restart the Bees had taken the lead as Dan Jeffrey reached the whitewash. Lee Neha added the extras.
The Bees bashed and boshed away at the home defence but kept losing possession through a string of penalties. In one of the home sides ventures deep into Bees territory, a powerful forward burst saw the home side over the line for a converted try. As the hour mark passed the Bees were able to capitalise on a moment of superiority at a maul and Tom Cummins blasted over. It was now 16 points to 19 to the visitors, but there was a certain inevitability that the home side would benefit from a Bees indiscretion and Stead duly slotted the equalising score.
There followed a tense final 10 minutes where both sides had chances but both also made numerous mistakes, before the final nerve wracking shot at goal which might have unfairly separated the sides.