After all the rain of the previous 36 hours, and in spite of the well-drained Kelleythorpe pitch, the ground was sodden which was likely to favour the forwards and make things harder for the side-step and therefore the backs.
Sandal ran out looking much bigger in the forwards, and it looked as though the game could be decided by whether Driffield’s backs could do enough to counter Sandal’s forwards.
Sandal got straight into the action when they attacked from the kick-off, moving the ball quickly along the backs to the left of the pitch. They found an overlap in the Driffield 22, and went in for the try after just two minutes. The conversion was missed, but this was not the start Driffield were hoping for. D 0 – 5 S
Driffield regained the ball from the restart, and made progress toward the Sandal line. Under pressure, Sandal conceded a penalty in front of the sticks and Watts converted on five minutes to narrow the gap. D 3 – 5 S
Buoyed by this, Driffield attacked from the restart. Adam Brankley broke down the right of the pitch, bursting through several tackles before being stopped. He slipped the ball to brother Tom on his right shoulder, who was stopped 15 out. Adam, always quick up in support, was there on his inside shoulder to take the offload, and ran in unopposed for the try to the right of the sticks. Watts converted. D 10 – 5 S
Driffield then camped in the Sandal 22 for over ten minutes, but solid defence kept them out until Sandal finally managed to break out of their half. Almost reaching the Driffield 10, they were awarded penalty which was converted with an excellent kick. D 10 – 8 S
Play stayed in the middle of the park for the next ten minutes until Tom Brankley found a way past his man on the right of the pitch, and galloped majestically down the line to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, but the lead had been extended. D 15 – 8 S
Sandal were still well in the fight, and the pressure eventually resulted in another penalty with five minutes left in the half, again well-converted. D 15 – 11 S
By now, Driffield’s forwards were starting to get the edge of the bigger Sandal pack, allowing Pettinger through for a try on the stroke of half-time, converted by Watts. D 22 – 11 S HT
Boosted by the half-time team talk, Driffield came out guns blazing and Will Hughes went in for a try within the first minute of the half, but the conversion was missed. D 27 – 11 S
Sandal recovered from this, and camped in the Driffield half for almost 20 minutes, until Driffield were finally able to get possession and break out of their half, reaching the Sandal 22.
From a Driffield scrum, the ball was popped to Grant coming into the line from full-back. He romped 20 yards through the half-gap, evading tackles and a try looked on. The last tackle was made, but Driffield had their tails up and went through the phases. They finally got the ball out wide to Tom Brankley, who cut inside the last man and raced round to score under the sticks with seven minutes left on the clock. Watts converted. D 34 – 11 S.
Driffield retained possession from the restart, and ground their way up the pitch against a tiring Sandal. The ball was worked to the left, finding Adam Brankley looping round as the extra man. He beat two tacklers to get through in the left corner, but the conversion went left of the posts, and the final whistle blew shortly after. D 39 – 11 S FT
This was an excellent victory by Driffield against a bigger Sandal team, They seized their opportunities when they could, and had enough in the tank in the last ten minutes to seal off what looks like a comfortable win. But they were under pressure for long periods, and kept their composure and discipline, defending well when they need to. Sandal will have travelled back home feeling that they should have done more with all the territory they had.
With Heath beating Harrogate, York are now top of the table, and Driffield trail Harrogate by just four points.
The 2nd VX hosted Sandal 2nds, winning 27 – 14.
The 4th XV game at Bridlington was cancelled as their pitch was unplayable and they could not find enough players to travel to Driffield.
The Ladies travelled to Southport on Sunday, and drew 24-24.