Since a couple of hiccups in October, the Woldsmen had gone on a five-match unbeaten run. This saw them established in third position in the table and, with Harrogate coming unstuck at home against Ilkley last time out, have narrowed the gap to second place. With a good win this weekend to keep the winning run going, they knew they could put the pressure on the teams above.
With only two changes from the narrow victory at Scunthorpe, the side looked good on paper and hopes were high that a win was on, against a side they had already beaten twice this system.
Driffield kicked off, and Pontefract collected and attacked, looking sharp in the backs and heavy but strong in the forwards.
Play moved backward and forward between the two teams’ twenty-twos, until Driffield were awarded a scrum. The Woldsmen’s pack drove Pontefract solidly backwards off their ball – perhaps the opposition pack was not to be too worried about ?
With twenty minutes gone, Watts was replaced by Tom Sowersby for a suspected concussion and the backs rearranged to move Joe Robinson out to the wing. Just five minutes later, Rix had to be replaced by Henry Hughes for another suspected concussion, requiring a shuffle around in the pack.
On 25 minutes, Pontefract were awarded a penalty from the Driffield ten, and an excellent conversion sailed through the middle for the first score of the game. D 0 – 3 P
Five minutes later, Driffield got onto the score-sheet following a penalty five out with the scrum option taken. The ball was secured and Falkingham broke from the back of the scrum to score to the right of the sticks. Kalani Grant converted. D 7 – 6 P.
Shortly after the restart, Hughes was shown yellow, and Pontefract kicked another excellent penalty to narrow the gap. D 7 – 6 P
Now it was Driffield’s turn to benefit from a penalty. The ball was worked quickly to the right, and Tom Brankley found his way past the defence to score in the corner from 25 out. The conversion attempt fell just short. D 12 – 6 P.
Looking as if the tide had turned in their favour, Driffield started to be more enterprising in the backs, throwing long looping passes. This was nearly their undoing with a minute left in the half, when a loose pass was picked up and Pontefract tore away. It was a full 30 yards before the attack was stopped. HT D 12 – 6 P
The second half started in a similar fashion, although one sensed that Driffield were starting to take control of the game. This became clearer when, just six minutes into the half, a twenty-metre rolling maul from Driffield took them deep into the Pontefract half. The ball was shipped to Tom Brankley, who went down the left wing and was stopped two metres out. He popped the ball inside for Henry Hughes to collect and crash over. The conversion attempt fell just short. D 17 – 6 P.
But Pontefract were not down yet, and play stayed in the middle of the park for another fifteen minutes, before their wheels started to fall off. This started when their hooker expressed his displeasure at the referee’s decision-making once too often, and was shown yellow to give him the chance to cool down.
Shortly after, Pontefract were awarded a scrum five out from their own line. Driffield shoved them backward, and their scrum half was slow to pick up the ball that had now crossed their line. Thundercliffe was not going to waste the opportunity and dabbed it down for a great opportunistic try and the bonus point, converted by Kalani Grant. D 24 – 6 P
From the restart, Pontefract lost another man to the bin for a no-arms tackle.
With ten minutes left, Robinson, now on the wing, found a way down the left wing to go in for the try, converted by Kalani Grant. D 31 – 6 P
From the restart, the ball was flipped right to Henry Hughes who ran straight through the tiring defence from half-way to score under the sticks, converted by Kalani Grant. D 38 – 6 P
With just seconds left in the game, Blacker broke from half-way and went left to evade the tiring defenders. With twenty to go, and men available inside, he slipped the ball inside to Kalani Grant who danced through the remaining tacklers to score under the sticks, and then converted his own try. D 45 – 6 P
With York’s surprise loss at Phoenix, and Harrogate’s pitch unplayable for their game against Alnwick, Driffield move to second place behind York. The game against them at Clifton Park next weekend will be a must-win for both teams.