In the top of the table clash in National 2 North Huddersfield delivered a spirited performance on their road trip to Hull Ionians. Although the match always hung in the balance it was the league leaders who shaded it, Ionians eventually running out winners 20 points to 15.
The home side made a brisk start and had Huddersfield tackling hard close to their line in the opening exchanges but a penalty and responding line break by full back Tom Hodson and a fine touch kick by fly half Harry Davey relieved the early pressure. Thereafter the visitors dominated the first quarter, retaining possession and working the ball through continuous phases. Davey eventually created space for himself weaving through a crowded mid-field for the first try of the match which Will Milner successfully converted to give Huddersfield a deserved lead. Fifteen minutes into the game Huddersfield lost the services of captain Lewis Bradley who injured his shoulder going into a ruck.
At the start of the second quarter Ionians came back into the game with two tries in quick succession. From a 22 metre drop out Toni Kuku made a break down the left wing and when Huddersfield were penalised for collapsing a maul they kicked for touch. Flanker James Sanderson crashed over in the drive from the subsequent 5 metre lineout and moments after the re-start Huddersfield were penalised again. This time for a tip tackle in front of the posts. The I’s took a quick tap and prop Ben Bell got the second score which centre Lewis Minikin converted to give his side a 12 7 lead at half time.
After the interval Huddersfield were swiftly out of the blocks and a promising move was halted when referee Joe James adjudged what could have been a try scoring pass just forward. Eight minutes into the half though Huddersfield were back on terms. From a line out mid-way inside the Ionians half they broke down the left and Davey produced a nice sleight of hand to put winger Elliot Knight in for a try in the left corner. Milner’s conversion attempt went just wide.
Ionians were back in front on 52 minutes. A scrum inside their own half gave them the possession which triggered a good attack and when the ball went loose thirty metres from the Huddersfield line Number 8 Ed Falkingham turned the visitors defence with a speculative fly hack into the in goal area winning the foot chase to touch down.
With the result still far from certain the visitors continued to threaten. Scrum half Jack Mapleston, Davey and Milner produced sniping runs through the centre which were well backed up by the forwards at the breakdown. Eventually Ionians were penalised at a scrum and Milner landed a long range kick to narrow the gap.
With time running out further chances came Huddersfield’s way. Tom Hodson produced a break for the line, chipping the ball behind the defenders but knocking on in the attempt to gather and touch down. Huddersfield looked to have gained the upper hand in the resulting scrummage but were penalised with further penalties against them taking play back into their half. Whilst trying to run the ball out of defence they were deemed guilty of not releasing and Minikin landed his second successful kick for the final score.
Photo credit: Malcolm Moorhouse
In a prolonged and frantic spell of stoppage time Huddersfield pressed time and time again but couldn’t find a way through. A losing bonus point was some consolation and leaves them in third place in the table with 37 points. Hinckley’s home win over Sedgley Park elevated them to second place with one point more.
Head Coach Gareth Lewis added his thoughts:
‘It was a closely contested game and we certainly had opportunities to win it but for one or two individual errors. I thought the referee’s interpretation of the breakdown in the last fifteen was inconsistent and we conceded some very harsh penalties. Losing Lewis Bradley to injury was a blow to the team but once again the lads stepped up to the plate and proved they can compete with any team in the league.
The week off has come at a good time for us as we are carrying a few injuries at the moment. We’ll take stock, reflect and hit the ground running in two weeks time against Stourbridge.’
The fine performance by the team on the pitch at Brantingham Park was roared on by a massive away following. The team were cheered by well over 50 travelling fans who saw the team run the league leaders oh so close. The great support was much appreciated by the players. ‘Up the Field.’
Richard Sykes, Rugby Union Correspondent Huddersfield Daily Examiner.