Words: Richard Sykes – Images: Ray Morris

Huddersfield RUFC and Hull Ionians produced an eleven try thriller in their opening National 2 North game at Lockwood Park.

After 79 minutes of end-to-end rugby only a single point separated the teams but when Huddersfield lost possession on their 22 trying to launch a last ditch attack Kobie Fofie seized his chance and crossed between the posts for a final converted try to seal a 39-31 win for Ionians.

Director of rugby at Huddersfield Neil Ryan said: “It was a good first run out bearing in mind we had only one warm up game and this showed in some of our technical detail.

“Our tackle technique needs to be lower and we gave away far too many pens. Also, our lineout didn’t function as well as it can which also cost us. We showed an intent to play attacking rugby, our offload game was good and it was pleasing to score five tries.”

Early on Field’s power runners began to dent the Ionians’ line but in defence Field repeatedly fell foul of the new high tackle law. The penalties enabled Ionians to peg the home side back and after 35 minutes Field were 20 points down.

The Ionians lineouts were clinical. Eight minutes into the game winger Alfie Cincella was first over the whitewash. Lewis Minikin notched a penalty seven minutes later and when Field lost a scrum against the head close to their line he nipped round the blind side for a try which he had no trouble converting.

Ionians’ third try came directly from a catch and drive from a lineout, No8 Cal Sanderson the man to dot down.

The first half hour, however, was not one sided. Field’s big men had shown their ability to penetrate the opposition’s defence with skipper Ed Barber (pictured above), flanker Lewis Quinn and prop Alex Dawson prominent in one particularly outstanding 30 metre break.

Field had also demonstrated determination without the ball showing tenacity in defence.

They rounded off the first half strongly with two fine unconverted tries. The first came from a scrum on halfway. Barber made good ground, the ball went wide to Finlay Stewart who offloaded to Barber when tackled just short and the big man produced the finish.

The Ionians countered after the re-start but were turned over and Kian Stewart showed his pace down the left wing to break clear. He passed inside to Lewis Workman who showed the Ionians a clean pair of heels to score in the corner. The scene was set for an exciting final 40 minutes.

After the break Field continued where they left off. Straight from the whistle fly-half Joe Gallagher combined with hooker Ethan Myers, Quinn made good yards and put his back row partner Liam Parfitt in for a try which Gallagher converted. 17-20.

Moments later Field were caught napping. Ionian’s scrum-half Sam Pocklington took a quick tap penalty on the Field 22 and lock Joe Makin crashed through for a try before Field had set their defence. Minikin added the extras. 17-27.

The pattern of play for the second half had been set. Field parried to close the gap and the Ionians produced the riposte to open it up again.

Kian Stewart was next in for Field, latching on to a cross-field kick from Gallagher after good team work in midfield. Gallagher nailed a fine conversion to make the score 24-27.

Having survived a scare when the Ionians put a foot in touch to deny a corner flag try Field were caught offside. The penalty produced a 5-metre lineout and hooker Ally Forth touched down after a crisp catch and solid maul. 24-32.

Undeterred and with positivity oozing Field produced a spell of exhibition rugby with Workman (pictured above), the Stewart brothers and Barber taking play into the Ionians’ red zone. However, the momentum was lost when Ionians stole possession at a Field lineout.

Play went back to the other end and with only seven minutes remaining and Ionians were pressing for a clincher.

Quinn ripped the ball from their grasp and sprinted clear to halfway with winger Max Horsfall in support. The pass was spilled, Ionians took possession from the knock on but having turned the direction of play Barber intercepted and raced home for Field’s fifth and final try which Gallagher converted. 31-32.

Fofie’s last gasp score denied Field their winning chance and a losing bonus point.

Ryan added: “The game was in the balance and could have gone either way. There are lots of positives and work-ons to take away from it and we are looking forward to next week.”

Next week Field travel to Lymm to take on the newly crowned champions of Regional 1 North West.

Huddersfield: Stewart K; Stewart F; Workman; Barber; Horsfall; Gallagher; Potter; Rollins; Myers; Dawson; Pearson; Barnard; Quinn; Parfitt; Hammond. Replacements: Smith; Thornton; Wilson; Lorimer; Haywood.