This week, Driffield travelled to Pontefract, to play the newly-promoted team. The last time they played each other was in the 2012-13 season, when Driffield won both fixtures, so the opposition was an unknown quantity as a lot can happen in ten years.
Pontefract’s form was something to be taken seriously – although they have lost two of their three games so far, they had been within a score on both occasions. A big home win over Cleckheaton show they enjoy playing at home – Driffield would have to be on top form to come away with the result.
In the first half, Driffield dominated possession, with good attacks from all quarters. They also had the edge in the scrums, no doubt helped by the fact that Pontefract’s starting tight head prop was injured and had to leave the pitch early in the game.
The first half was primarily Driffield’s, and Pontefract only managed to get into the Driffield 22 on a handful of occasions, where the defence was well-organised and effective. The result of it all was just a penalty.
Tom Brankley ran in the first try from inside the Driffield 22, ably converted by Grant.
The second try came from Will Hughes, who worked hard from ten metres out and got the ball over. Grant again added the extras.
The third came from Bryce McKinnon, who bulled himself over the line from five out. Once again, Grant added the conversion.
One worrying moment in the half came when captain Adam Brankley, playing at centre this week, went off with what appeared a bad leg injury.
By the half-time whistle, Driffield were 21-3 up, and the prospects were good to extend the lead by some margin.
But Driffield went off the boil in the second half, lacking cohesion on the slight slope and Pontefract rallied a bit. Driffield had their chances but did not make them pay, and gave away too many penalties while in the Pontefract half, losing them valuable territory. The only Driffield score came from Tom Brankley, again on a long run from outside the 22, and he never looked like he would be stopped. Grant slotted the extras.
In response, Pontefract managed an unconverted try, and the final whistle blew at 28-8 for the bonus point win.
The result probably flattered Pontefract a little, and Driffield should have been good for a couple more tries. That said, Driffield did have to defend very well against some direct runners, but the Pontefract attack was very sideways at times and made the drifting tackles look very easy for the Driffield defenders.
Driffield played some excellent rugby, with outstanding offloading, and organised open rugby – a credit to players and coaches alike.
Special mention must be made of Rob Mewburn at 7, who was absolutely everywhere in defence, with a number of brilliant breaks in attack.
Driffield need to work hard on reducing the penalty count – giving up territory in attack with needless penalties makes it a hard game.
The result lifts Driffield to third place in the league. This Saturday, they will play second-placed York at Kelleythorpe, always a tight fixture. They will need to be firing on all cylinders to get the win.