On Saturday at Selby, the old but gold adage proved true once more: forwards decided if Trees won the game, and backs by how much. An ever reliable pack provided an ideal platform for swift backs moves, despite the grey, gusty, and wet conditions. The game was an ideal opportunity to keep a winning momentum going after a crowd-pleasing victory for the Club’s 125th anniversary against Thirsk last Saturday (17-0). Nineteen courageous bodies braved gale, floods, and the A19 traffic to defy Selby 3rds, always a hotly-contested affair!
Selby kicked off after a minute of remembrance in honour of one of Selby’s club members who passed away, and the locals, an experienced side with a time-tested knowledge of good ol’ tricks, sought to tame the visitors with powerful carries and acrid fights in rucks. Lo and behold, Trees responded in kind, showing a commendable spirit in defence, pushed back, and whilst the hosts kept hold of the ball most of the time for the first few minutes, the guests’ defence did not yield an inch. In particular, the back row, composed of Matt Thorpe, James Kirk, and Ben Cox for his début in black, delivered many a devastating tackle, keeping the men in yellow and green at bay. Clinical in attack, Rowntree scored between the post early on, with centre Ali O’Gara, (wearing his own boots this time!) converting against the wind (0-7). A miffed Selby side attacked with renewed tyson, sorry, with renewed fury, but, when the opponent’s back line is almost entirely Sino-Fijian, not keeping control of the ball can prove fatal: another débutant, full-back Kelly Gaunaca, gleefully picked up a loose ball somewhere around Rowntree’s 10-metre line, and step, step, gas, wheels, step ended a 70-metre run under the posts, which O’Gara easily converted (7-14). After 15 minutes, in the words of Tom Eaton laboriously stammering through his best man’s speech somewhere down south, things were going rather swimmingly. Until, in fairness after many a warning regarding such things as off-sides, high tackles, and other “subtleties” which make the beauty of our sport, a slightly irritated official beamed up James Kirk out of the field for ten minutes, I believe for a high tackle. Capitalising on their numerical advantage, Selby scored a quick try off a line-out – and it must be recognised that in this wind was quite an achievement (5-14). But for the most part, the visitors could hold out the storm, and come out of their passage with 14 men relatively unscathed. With Kirk de retour on the pitch, Trees went back on the offensive. In a bout of experimental madness, in their 22s, with wind howling sideways, fly-half 大卫 Harder, freshly retired and already back on the pitch, found the ever sturdy inside centre Ricoh Raikoso, who passed after contact to full-back Jale Bakani, who drew and passed to winger Sevu Tui, who did what he does best, stepped and danced around his opponents, unnervingly slowing down at times for some reason, to finally touch down beyond the whitewash. Sevu Bakani oblingingly added the two points, and the referee sent both teams for a rest and a few orange quarters on the score of 5-21 to Rowntree.
After an exciting first half, Trees kicked off, and Selby again ploughed forth, offering their physical game, with a few powerful scrums, and sustained series of pick and go’s. Phase after phase, the hosts inched their way towards the guests’ try line, eventually surging through the defence and scoring a converted try (12-21). Fatigue descended upon players, in addition to a spell of horizontal hail cum sleet. Both back lines turned blue with cold, a slippery and elusive pill escaped hands on both sides, which was actually collaborative conspiracy by both teams’ packs to get an opportunity to warm up in one of the many scrums which punctuated this half. Nonetheless, players battled on: Rowntree seemed to play more in the forwards now, as the bench came in to relieve a few battered bodies, a testament of a good shift! After a few phases in the forwards, the ball spun out wide until it found outside centre Ali O’Gara, who cut through Selby’s defence as decisively as Vincent Rattez cut through the English defence a couple of weeks ago (ah, the lovely moment…). O’Gara’s try was unconverted, as the high kick got kidnapped by the wind (12-26). Moments later, with a few minutes left on the clock, a penalty placed a line-out for Rowntree in an interesting position, ten metres away from the hosts’ try line. A well-built maul, a few pick-and-go’s, and second row Marc Ford’s powerful charge scored the last try of the afternoon, too wide for the conversion (12-31). A few minutes later, after resisting Selby’s last-ditched efforts, Rowntree’s players headed towards a salutory warm shower, bruised and bordering hypothermia, but nonetheless having thoroughly enjoyed the fixture.
Next week sees us travel towards the river Nidd, which by then will hopefully have returned to a somewhat normal level, to confront Knareborough in the Shield. Kick off at 14:15, come and support, Knaresborough is always and fun day out!
Tries: R. Cames; K. Gaunaca; S. Tui; A. O’Gara; M. Ford.
Conversions: A. O’Gara (2); J. Bakani (1).
Squad: R. Corker; J. Gabbatiss; G. Churchill; A. Carter; C. Reeves; M. Thorpe; B. Cox; J. Kirk; R. Cames (C); D. Harder; J. Smith; R. Raikoso; A. O’Gara; S. Tui; K. Gaucana.
Finishers: C. Lynch-Smith; R. Roodt; M. Ford; J. Bakani.