Saturday 4 March 2017

Driffield made the long journey north on Saturday to North Shields, the home of Percy Park.  Driffield had won the home fixture last November with a  good win.  Recent form showed Park had won two out of five, with Driffield winning four out of five of the games since the Xmas break.  The coaching team led by Stuart Cooper, who are never complacent, saw this game as vital to the outcome of the rest of the season and anticipated the challenge Park would pose, particularly at North Shields. They were desperate not slip up at this key stage.  After rain during the week the going could only be described as heavy.  Changes to the team showed Blenkinsop onto the bench for the unavailable Pettinger. With Blacker unavailable, Stephenson moved to full back, with Furbank taking the wing berth.  A welcome addition was Bell onto the bench.  As the teams took to the pitch it was apparent Park had fielded a huge pack, and Driffield should anticipate a physical challenge.

As both sides vied with each other in the opening minutes, Dench  was able to make a dangerous run into the opposition half.  The ball went to ground and, following a scrum, George Mewburn and Ollie Cooper combined in a good drive making ground.  After 7 minutes, Driffield maintained pressure with Dodds and Dervey making the hard yards, close to the opposition try line.  From the resulting ruck ball, Dench sent out a long looping pass to the open-side, which Stephenson took well on the half-volley and scampered over for a good try.  Brigham could not manage to convert.  Driffield 5 – Percy Park  0

From the restart Driffield worked hard to go back on the attack.  Burns made a forceful run and from the resultant break down Gray broke free and sped into the Park 22.  With a deft shimmy he beat the last defender and went under the posts for the try.  Brigham added the points.  Driffield 12  – Percy Park  0

Percy Park were stunned into action. On 13 minutes, their powerful centre Lome Fa’atau made a good break into the Driffield 22.  From the loose ball they scored a well-worked try under the posts which was converted.  Driffield 12  – Percy Park  7

Driffield continued to press.  All eight of the pack were ready to try and break the defence.  Nellen was ever present, making himself available to run at first or second receiver.  Rob Mewburn was to the fore in the defensive set-up, tearing into the breakdown.  On 25 minutes, Dench performed a text book turn-over, but unfortunately the resultant possession went forward.  Gray was again threatening whenever spaces appeared.  The Park pack had not as yet troubled the Driffield eight.  From a line-out on the Driffield 22, their huge line-out presence clicked into gear.  From the catch they initiated the drive, but such was the ferocity of the defence they knocked the ball forward in the tackle, relieving the Driffield line.  From the resultant scrum, Driffield won the ball and instead of using the trusty boot to clear, they managed to conjure a knock-on under their own posts.  The resultant pressure led to a penalty close to the posts which Park kicked.  Driffield 12 – Percy Park  10

On 35 minutes, midway into the Park half, Brumfield pulled off a great turnover, winning a kickable penalty, which Brigham gratefully popped over.  Driffield 15 – Percy Park  10

Blenkinsop came on for Nellen in the front row.  Minutes later, Rob Mewburn made a break down the flank, combined well with Furbank and with more pressure the ball went to Dervey who went over for a well-worked try.  Dervey was tackled hard as he drove over and needed treatment before he could continue.  Half time: Driffield 20 – Percy Park  10

Park came onto the attack early in the second half, but a well-organised defence snuffed out the move, with Furbank making an excellent relieving kick up to halfway.  Early in the half George Mewburn came off with a knock to the thigh.  Dodds, who had been winning superb line-out ball at 4 in the line, moved onto the flank, with the ageless Oliver Borman taking his place in the 2nd row.  Stephenson, who was playing well in the full-back role, put a neat grubber kick between 2 Park defenders, hacked on, and won the race forward into the Park 22.  Park won the resultant line-out and were able to clear the danger.  On 50 minutes Furbank made way for Bell on the wing, followed by a rotation in the front row, with Nellen back on for captain Dervey.  Robinson, who is always a threatening runner, made a good break, fed onto Bell, who typically took three Park men to bring him to the deck.  Blenkinsop was getting heavily involved in the loose, taking ball into the Park defence and off loading well. Brigham was relaxing into his game at fly-half and put in some probing touch-finders to gain ground for his forwards, which was adding variety to Driffield’s game. Both sets of supporters commented on how well the referee, Elliott Lewis, was controlling the game allowing an open game for both sides on a heavy pitch.

On 57 minutes, during a Driffield attack, the referee awarded a penalty for a deliberate knock-on.  Brigham took the 3 points from the tee.  Driffield 23 – Percy Park 10.

A short while later, the Park pack got a foothold and showed a glimpse of their potential; suffice to say they could only play as well as they were allowed to.  From an attack close to the Driffield line, they forced their way over for a well-earned try.  The additional kick was missed. Furbank then came on to replace Brigham at fly-half.  Driffield – 23  Percy Park 15

Their try had given the home team the incentive to look for a losing bonus point.  They looked to attack at every opportunity.  Driffield, with their suffocating defence to the fore were up to the task and attacked themselves.  At one attacking scrum, Brumfield looked like he had taken a put-in against the head.  Alas, the referee judged the ball had not been allowed fully into the scrum.  Borman as a finisher, was an intimidating figure at the maul and constantly kept Park’s forwards engaged.  On 72 minutes, from a Driffield scrum in the Park half, Furbank threw a long accurate miss-pass to Dinsdale.  He was able to beat the defender with his pace, and scored Driffield’s final try.  Full Time Driffield 28 – Percy Park 15

This was a well-earned victory for the squad and keeps them on track for a strong finish and high league position.  The coaching team will identify areas for development but the group deserve great credit for this display. They faced a massive physical test with the Park forwards, but snuffed them out with their great defence.  Next week sees the visit from Wheatley Hills.  They always have a tough set of forwards who will test Driffield throughout.  Cooper will not allow any relaxation in this regime.