By Dale Earnshaw
Indiscipline again proved costly as Huddersfield Laund Hill were arguably the better side overall but went down to a narrow 19-18 defeat at Ripon.
On a disappointing day, head coach James Tindall said: “Despite being the better team for most of the game, with our recent discipline being so poor we cannot expect to beat teams in this league.
“We need to be better at adapting to how the game is being refereed and accept the decisions that are being made.
“All of the team now needs to have a long, hard think of how they can all improve as individuals because next week’s game against the league leaders Wath Upon Dearne will be a whole new level.”
The game couldn’t have started much better for the visitors as straight from the kick-off, Ripon were guilty of holding-on at the breakdown, gifting a penalty to Hill in kickable range. Tom Egan slotted over the chance to give his side an early lead.
Ripon tried to hit back but the Laund Hill defence was on top form with huge hits coming in from Ben Hill and Corby Nasaqa. This prevented Ripon from gaining any momentum or good field position. However, when Laund Hill were caught offside, Ripon were able to level the scores with a penalty kick.
Immediately from the re-start, Laund Hill got back on top as they charged down the Ripon exit kick and regained possession. The team used possession well as they built on a number of phases before the forwards took control close to the line with a number of drives.
When the Ripon defence had been sucked in, the ball was swung wide for winger Will Burns-Smith to score in the corner, rounding off a great team try. Unfortunately, Egan was unable to add the extras.
As the half reached the mid-point, Laund Hill started to stamp their authority on the game with dominant defence and free-flowing moves in attack.
With slick handling, the ball was moved from side to side and flanker Miles Hunt was able to make a half-break close to the line and dived over for his team’s second try. This time, the conversion was successful to take Laund Hill into a 15-3 lead.
Unfortunately though, as the half progressed, momentum started to swing back to the home team due to the number of penalties that Laund Hill were conceding.
Knowing that the Hill defence was dominant, Ripon elected to take a kick at goal for any penalty that was awarded in the Huddersfield half.
In a short space of time, Ripon kicked two out of three attempts to bring themselves back to within one score.
In and amongst the penalties, Laund Hill certainly were playing the better rugby and were able to force a goal-line drop-out after being held up over the line and were applying constant pressure on the Ripon line.
At this stage, Ripon were struggling to get out of their own half and were relying on clearing kicks to give them a bit of relief.
However, as the half entered its final minute, full-back Luke Earnshaw kicked a 50-22 that bounced out just five metres from the Ripon line. Unfortunately, though, neither the referee nor his assistant saw where the kick was taken from and awarded the line-out to the home team. This gave Ripon a bit of breathing space and the half came to an end without any further score.
Going into the second half, all hopes were raised that Laund Hill could maintain the level and quality of play without conceding excess penalties.
However, this proved not to be the case as the penalty count escalated at a seemingly uncontrollable level and it didn’t take too long before the referee lost patience and handed out a yellow card to prop Archie Walsh for persistent infringements.
Sensing blood, Ripon now changed tactics and started kicking penalties into touch to turn the screw on their depleted opposition.
However, the Laund Hill defence was still strong and seemingly impenetrable, so when a penalty was awarded to Ripon in easy kicking range, it was sensibly taken to narrow Laund Hill’s lead to just three points.
Straight from the re-start, though, Ripon were guilty of going off their feet at the ruck and a penalty was awarded 50 metres out. Captain Ed Black, sensing that opportunities were going to be few and far between, asked Egan to have a shot at goal. His faith was repaid as the attempt sailed through the uprights to take an 18-12 lead.
Ripon’s confidence was building, though, and they started to move the ball around with pace. Once again, Laund Hill’s only answer was to concede yet more penalties and this allowed the Ripon winger to storm down the left wing for his side’s first try of the game with just 10 minutes left. The conversion was successful meaning that Ripon took the lead in the game for the first time.
Heading into the final few minutes, Laund Hill had good spells of possession but opportunities were snatched at resulting in uncharacteristic handling errors.
When the ball was put down just metres from the Ripon line, the home team were able to clear the ball to end the match victorious.
Matchday squad: Egan, Bulloch, Evans, Longley, Burns-Smith, Earnshaw, Vernon; Burt, Hill, Barrett, Dalton, Black (c), Watson, Bender, Nasaqa. Replacements: Walsh, Morris, Drennan.