Words: Richard Sykes – Images: Mike Bayly
Former Huddersfield captain Nick Sharpe led the team out on his 350th appearance but the players couldn’t celebrate the landmark with a victory in the last National 2 North match of the season at Lockwood Park.
Sharpe, 35, broke into the first XV in the 2007-08 season and captained the side between 2010 and 2016, 22 years after his father Julian skippered the team.
Huddersfield and Sedgley Park Tigers had an equal share of territory and possession but the Tigers had the greater power in both attack and defence scoring five tries to win 35-7.
Sharpe received a standing ovation from the crowd in recognition of his 125 tries and outstanding contribution over the years. Head coach Gaz Lewis led the praise describing Sharpe as a “ferocious and extremely durable competitor who has made the team tick.”
In the game, Field produced the highlight of a scoreless first 15 minutes. From a good take of a high ball, full-back Tom Hodson set Kian Stewart up on a right wing break. He made good ground but the promising move ended when he was forced wide and put a foot in touch.
Tigers then built up a 14-point lead, scoring two tries in the space of 10 minutes. Flanker Ryan Woofenden got the first, rounding off a neat passage of passing play. Full-back, Andrew Riley scored the next, coming into the line at pace to score in the corner. Fly-half Stephen Collins converted both.
Field responded to the set backs, with centres Will Milner and Lewis Workman combining well to take play to the Tigers’ line. Tigers were penalised in front of their posts, with Collins getting a yellow card for the infringement at the breakdown.
Field opted to scrummage and continued to apply pressure. Thwarted by more good defensive play Field attempted a long mis-pass to break the log jam. Riley intercepted and ran the full length of the pitch for a try under the posts. Centre Oli Glasse added the extras in Collins’ absence.
The final 10 minutes of the first period was played out largely inside the visitors’ half, with Field showing lots of enterprise to try to break the Tigers down. Stewart made a fine 50-metre break, which Cameron Catleugh continued after Stewart was tackled. The ball was eventually knocked on and although Field drove the scrummage back, Tigers managed to clear their lines and maintain their 21-point advantage until the interval.
The third quarter saw yellow cards for Catleugh, for a high tackle, and Tigers prop Cashel Chilvers for illegally killing the ball when Field were threatening. There were also two lengthy injury stoppages.
When continuous play was resumed Field struggled to regain their rhythm, although hooker Liam Stapley came close to scoring. Tigers then secured the bonus point with a fourth try on the hour.
A penalty took Tigers to within five metres of the try line and although Field defended the maul well and managed to gain possession they lost it again and Tigers’ winger Jamie Harrison seized his chance. Collins added the extras.
After 67 minutes Field finally managed to breach the Tigers’ stout defence, When Tigers were penalised on their 22, scrum-half Jonny Mason took a swift tap and made a sniping break, with No8 Lewis Bradley in close support. After the ball was recycled, prop Sam Mann was driven over for a try, which Milner converted.
In the final moments of the game Huddersfield prop Laurence Sanderson received a yellow card for illegally handing off when breaking out of defence and Sedgley Park scored seven more points.
Sanderson’s dismissal unsettled the Huddersfield pack. Having held their own or bettered the Tigers in the earlier setpieces they were out scrummaged in the final two. Referee Ben Raynor decided that Field had deliberately folded and a penalty try was awarded.
Next week Huddersfield travel to Bournville, who are one place above them in the table, for the final game of the season.
Huddersfield: Hodson; Stewart; Workman; Milner; Nunn; Potter; Mason; Brook: Stapley; Smith; Sharpe; Hampshire; Davis; Keighley-Payne; Bradley (c). Replacements: Mann; Catleugh; Sanderson; Cadogan.