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York v Pontefract Saturday 23rd March

York v Pontefract Saturday 23rd March

Ian Coe25 Mar - 17:16
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York cut loose with 7 unanswered tries. Report from Huw Kane with photos by Rob Long.

York’s power and pace proved too much for Pontefract as they ran in seven tries for nil return to win the game 45-0. Injuries and unavailability presented selection problems for both sides going into the game, something that many clubs are contending with at this end of a physically demanding season. York had to shuffle the deck again with those still fit to play. Hayes coming in to prop and Barrick taking on the No.7 duties again meant Atkinson stepped into the centre. The versatile Davies picking up the No14 jersey in the starting fifteen.

York kicked off against a stiff breeze, playing down the slope. Barrick’s enthusiasm was evident form the get go unfortunately mistiming his run from the kick off to make contact with the Pontefract player receiving the ball while he was still in the air. It was a minor setback as York settled into their stride with a powerful display that kept Pontefract in their own half and unable to use the wind to relieve the pressure. The York pack were presenting good ball for Ferguson to distribute, Shackleton and the three quarters passing fluently, creating width and some good lines of attack. Hard defensive work by Pontefract helped by some imprecision and mistakes in the final stages of attack kept York out. The pressure told after 14 minutes when Mills carried over with a nice supporting line that looked unopposed. Shackleton had his kicking boots on and comfortably slotted his first of five conversions. York 7, Pontefract 0.

The stiff breeze against them, York had little option other than to run the ball back at Pontefract which they did to good effect. Hard carrying by the forwards taking its toll on Pontefract who had to make two early substitutions in the first quarter through injuries. A yellow card awarded against Pontefract not long after depleted the Pontefract defence further. York took advantage of the disarray the changes caused with some lively running from the back line but particularly Peplinski who enjoyed and exploited the space he could find with his quick acceleration.

This pattern characterised the first half with York racking up five tries by half time from Mills, Barrick, Croft, Evans and Shackleton. The pick of these was Croft’s. Pontefract, kicking towards the York 22 to clear their own lines, found the ball being returned by Evans who made good ground down the left hand side, rounding the defender and taking the ball into the Pontefract half before slipping the ball to Fothergill. Fothergill outpaced two further defenders to take the ball into the Pontefract 22. Tracking in from the wing looking for support he found Croft, no slouch himself, running a good support line to cross the line to the left of the posts unopposed. At half time York were leading 33 -0.

As many a wise old rugby player would tell you (usually a prop or second row): “you should take the wind when it is there”. Pontefract may have elected to play with the wind in the first half but as York turned around for the second the wind duly dropped. As did the tempo of the game. Pontefract keeping up their aggression in the tackle managed to draw York into more of an arm wrestle and seemed to be able to present better pictures to the referee as York conceded a string of penalties that maintained possession for Pontefract for long stints. Despite the amount of possession, they didn’t seem to be able to convert it into territory or points and the next 25 minutes turned into a forward battle.

With the last quarter underway, York seemed to find themselves again winning territory more but still having to battle hard for possession. The wind returned and helped push them into Pontefract territory. Sustained pressure resulted in a line out to York about 5m out. Barrick alert as ever cleaned up the confusion as the throw to the middle missed the jumper, the ball arcing into his arms at the back. Like a gift, the line in front of him opened up undefended and he simply had to fall across it to break the deadlock in the second half. The conversion by Shackleton took the score to York 40, Pontefract 0.

York were increasingly on top again now despite Barrick having a 10 minute rest for stripping the ball from the tackled player after the tackle was called. The resulting pressure in the York 22m area was relieved when Pontefract infringed to give York a penalty on the 22m line. Shackleton stepped up and struck the most majestic of line kicks to take the game into the oppositions 22m area. The ball spiralling parallel to the left hand touchline along the 5m channel seemed to fly forever until it hit the ground in the Pontefract 22 m area. For a moment it looked like it was going to bounce into touch, but Pontefract managed to collect and clear the ball. York remained in the red zone, Pontefract now trying to run the ball out of defence. Shackleton stripped the ball in the tackle on the centre and fed Davies who used his size and momentum to cross in the right-hand corner with the Pontefract winger clinging on to him. Final score York 45, Pontefract 0.

I am reliably informed that victory had ensured York cannot finish lower than fourth in the league. There are some interesting dynamics to play out in the remaining games to decide where York end up. Wherever that is, it has been a demanding and exciting season and the whole squad, coaches and management have given the spectators a treat. We thank them for it and what better way to show it than to turn out and cheer them on in the last league game of the 2023/24 season against Alnwick on the 6th April. See you there.

York: Hessay, Davies, Fordy, Atkinson, Peplinski, Shackleton, Ferguson, Westaby, Mills, Hayes, Croft, Evans, Fothergill (Capt), Barrick, Maud. Reps: Bell, Consterdine and Owen.
Pontefract: Gilbert, Milthorpe, Cooke, Ketteridge, Tucker, Abbot, Wollaston, Potts, Knox, Hough, Lund, Rogers, Matthews, Beddis, Matthews, Millard. Rep: Stuart, Lund and Reynolds.

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