Saturday 26 November  2016

Driffield made their way north on Saturday to face Durham City.  The last matches between the 2 sides was 3 seasons ago, prior to Durham being relegated.  The coaching team lead by Stuart Cooper once again anticipated the challenge they would pose, particularly at Hollow Drift. To date both sides had similar match results, but last week Durham had shown their ability with a hard fought win at Malton & Norton, which Cooper knew was an indication of what laid before them.  Changes to the side showed the return of Gray, after injury, with Sheader moving to the wing.  Borman returned from injury to take over from the injured Brankley.  George Mewburn, returning from injury, came into take over from his brother Rob, himself injured last week.

As both sides vied with each other in the opening minutes it became apparent that Durham possessed a strong line-out, and they would try and test Driffield throughout. Driffield started the match full of energy and whenever possible looked to move the ball wide. The Durham defence was resolute, and when they themselves gained possession they showed that they had strength in the centres, with their powerful centre Izomor always looking threatening.  Driffield stuck to their game plan, constantly moving the point of attack using some excellent quick ruck ball.  They were justly rewarded after 10 minutes.  At a breakdown close to the Durham line, Gray pounced on a charge down and managed to force his way over the line for typical opportunist try, midway out on the right wing. Brigham just failed with the conversion.  Driffield 5 – Durham 0

Driffield’s scrum had shown marked improvement in the last month, and this was continuing.  An incident of uncertainty in the Driffield defence was followed by a failed clearing kick.  Durham responded with a strong attack.  Fortunately good work by Dinsdale on the wing alleviated the danger.  Durham maintained their pressure, and 17 minutes into the game, from a line-out in the Driffield half, their centre showed a good touch, handing onto his wing who scored under the posts.  Driffield 5 – Durham 7.

From the restart Durham immediately went back on the attack.  They moved the ball down the left wing.  From a good Driffield cover tackle, they won the breakdown.  The ball was moved to their prop, and with the try line begging he knocked on.  Driffield gave a sigh of relief, but after winning the following scrum Driffield’s clearance kick fell short of touch, and was scooped up by their wing.  Driffield rescued the situation with some good cover work by both Nellen and Mewburn.  Driffield responded when Borman laid off the ball to Pettinger who burst through a couple of tackles to make the Driffield 10 metre line, but they were penalised at the breakdown.  Durham continued to establish themselves with their strong line-out.

On 30 minutes, Driffield skipper Dervey had to retire with a leg injury, being replaced by Blenkinsop.  The Driffield scrum showed its resilience and developed a couple of good shoves.  What was noticeable was the tendency for slight inaccuracy in Driffield s loose play, which kept losing them valuable territory.  The Driffield line-out was lost on a couple of occasions, which was a shame as this had improved in recent games.  Driffield create some great attacking movements, but need to convert their pressure into points. One sign of the endeavour of this team came in their scrum.  With the advent of the intolerable crooked feed infecting the game in recent seasons, it takes a deal of collective effort for a front row to win the opposition put-in lawfully, but even with both scrums fairly even at the drive, Brumfield, Blenkinsop, and Pettinger managed to steal 2 Durham put-ins during this game.

On 35 minutes, Pettinger took the ball at first receiver, broke the tackle, and fed Nellen who drove on well to the half way.  From the ruck, with little option to move the ball, Brigham showed his out-of-hand kicking game with an angled punt rolling into touch.  From the line-out the Driffield pack drove forward in numbers.  As Gray was about to pick the ball up, a Durham forward blatantly offside,  slid around the side of the ruck, and hacked the ball downfield.  The referee missed this incident completely, and as a result Driffield lost hard earned territory.  A short while later, Driffield gained some reparation, when Brigham slotted a penalty.  Driffield 8 – Durham 7.

Durham soon clawed the lead back with a penalty of their own when Driffield went offside close to their own posts. Driffield 8 – Durham 10.

Just before half time, Brigham broke with the ball and, as he was tackled, lost the ball forward.  Durham took immediate advantage.  Their prop had a good run and fed the ball and they went over for their second  try.  The conversion was missed.  Half time Driffield 8 – Durham 15.

Sheader, who had once again performed heroically, was struggling with a back injury and had to be replaced at half time by McClarron.  The concern for Driffield supporters was that their team had not been able to convert pressure into points.  Added to this they felt there were examples of apparent inconsistency in a number of refereeing decisions, particularly in the interpretation of tacklers moving away from the tackled person and release of the ball at the ruck.

Early in the second half Gray made one of his trademark bustling runs,  The forwards recycled the ball, but sadly the move broke down. Durham hit back with a good line break, and only good tackling by Stephenson and Sowersby in the centres recovered the situation.  From the scrum, close to the Driffield line, Furbank put in a siege gun of a kick, making touch on the halfway line. On 55 minutes, Dinsdale was fed the ball, and had a great run from the half-way line and made the Durham 22, before being hauled down.  Durham were penalised for not releasing in the tackle.  Brigham stepped up and converted the penalty.  Driffield 11 – Durham 15. 

As the game wore on, Driffield were starting to be put under increasing pressure.   Their powerful centre pairing making ground down the middle of the field, and on occasions the normally ultra-reliable Driffield defence fell off some tackles. On 75 minutes, Durham had engineered a promising position close to the Driffield line.  There was desperate Driffield defence and McClarron, in trying to intercept a Durham feed, was rightly adjudged by the referee to have deliberately knocked the ball forward. He was given a yellow card and went to the bin.  Durham kicked the penalty.  Driffield 11 – Durham 18

At this point, young Harrison entered the fray, replacing Ollie Cooper.  In the closing minutes, down to 14 men, Driffield shipped a third converted  try.  Final Score Driffield 11 – Durham 25

This was a game which Driffield should have been much closer to winning.   There were positives for the coaching trio however.  Burns who has been a main-stay, battled relentlessly as did the whole pack.  Nellen and Pettinger carried the ball powerfully all afternoon and made good ground.  Cooper and Borman ensured Driffield’s developing stability in the the tight.  The backs moved the ball well on occasions, but they need to find ways to get over the line – they have the ability.  Next week, Alnwick are the visitors.  It is another tough match, but the coaches will ensure the squad are well prepared as ever.