BUFFALOES DO IT TOUGH
Carlisle Centurions 20 (14) v Bramley Buffaloes 28 (4)
On paper this looked a routine end-of-season game for Minor Premiers Bramley Buffaloes against league newcomers, Carlisle Centurions who had only won 4 games all season. However when you factor in that the game was a ‘dead rubber’ with nothing for either team to play for, that Carlisle were looking no doubt to avenge their earlier 94-0 drubbing at Bramley, and finally that due to player unavailability, the Buffaloes could only muster 14 players, then suddenly a certain win for the Buffaloes was no longer a forgone conclusion. And so it proved! The Buffaloes drew on all their reserves of energy and resolve to claim their final 2 competition points of the season, but Carlisle took them very close in a tense, feisty encounter at Gillford Park on Saturday.
The Buffaloes team had a peculiar look to it, coach Mark Butterill played all 80 minutes at hooker, Daniel Lavery and Steven Gill both completed 80 minutes and Alex White returned after a 7 week lay-off through injury. John Elliker played left centre and Simon Speight locked the scrum at loose forward.
On a damp windy afternoon Carlisle took the game to the Buffaloes early on. Steven Gill was penalised for a high shot and Craig Green was unlucky not to collect the resulting penalty kick to touch when he knocked-on attempting to catch the kick. From the scrum Carlisle moved the ball quickly out to their right and centre martin Stalker crossed with ease out wide, his brother Craig added the conversion, 6-0 to the hosts within the first minute. Carlisle continued to press the Buffaloes line and it was 4 minutes before the Buffaloes got their hands on the ball and 9 minutes before they got into the opposition half. John Elliker made a break on 10 minutes as Bramley looked to mount some pressure , however the ball was lost in the tackle. The Buffaloes first attack on the Carlisle line came on 13 minutes, however again lost ball released the pressure. Bramley were constantly incurring the wrath of referee Wallace and conceded a number of penalties, frustration and poor ball retention dogged their play for most of the first half. Surprisingly Carlisle opted to kick for goal on 15 minutes when they received yet another penalty, from ‘bang-in-front’ the kick hit the post and came out! Centurions scrum half Southward scored a fortuitous try on 19 minutes when his grubber kick bounced back into his arms off a Bramley player and he scored by the post. Martin Stalker missed the simple conversion. Better control of the ball by Bramley saw them reduce the deficit on 28 minutes when a long flat Drake pass found Flynn who scorched over in the corner. Drake missed the conversion. The last action of the half again saw Carlisle again opt to take the two points on offer when they received a penalty, rather than test the Buffaloes defence again which had done a mountain of tackling. Craig Brierly successfully kicked the penalty and the Carlisle score announcer gave the half-time score as 14-4 to Carlisle.
The Buffaloes mounted early pressure at the stat of the second half and an encouraging start saw them force a drop out. Nothing came of this play and Carlisle were soon back inside the Buffaloes 10m line. Carlisle spent 10 minutes pressing the Buffaloes line with several repeat sets and forcing a drop out. The Buffaloes defence was nothing short of heroic at times with players scrambling to cover each other and deny Carlisle what seemed an inevitable score. Finally on 52 minutes good footwork by influential stand-off Martin Stalker saw him dummy and score under the posts, Brierly added his second goal. At 20-4 it looked grim. Minutes later Carlisle received another penalty under the Bramley posts and their coach was screaming for them to take the two points, the players ignored this and promptly lost the ball in a crunching Lavery/Gill sandwich tackle! Bramley brought the ball away and for the first time in the game were able to get their forwards (and backs) rolling forward on the back of some quick-play-the-ball. On 55 minutes Bramley were back in the game as Daniel Lavery came onto a short pass from Jon Nicholls and raced through a gap on the defence to score from close range, a welcome try. Drakey added the conversion. Straight from the kick-off Buffaloes made good metres again and aided by a penalty were soon deep in Carlisle territory. Buttsy at dummy half took the ball and threw an outrageous shimmy to glide over untouched on 58 minutes, Drake converted again from a similar position to the previous conversion. Sensing a change in fortunes, Bramley (again backed by a small but noisy band of supporters), upped their game. They repelled several Carlisle charges before from a scrum on their own 10m line the ball went through three pairs of hands before Andy McGann released Flynn who raced 60m before being hauled down. Quick play the ball and further drives from Alex White and Simon Speight took the Buffaloes to within 10m of the Carlisle line before Alex White shot through a gap and scored under the posts much to the delight of his team-mates. Another Drake conversion edged the Buffaloes into an 20-22 lead. Steve Moss the Centurions full back proved a handful all game and he tried his hardest to manufacture an opening in the final 10 minutes. Glenn Chapman Bramley’s only sub did good work in the second half as the forwards grabbed key minutes on the bench. Further penalties kept the final minutes tense as both teams lost the ball and failed tom retain possession. However Bramley’s superior fitness and incredible will-to-win for each other meant they took the game to Carlisle in the closing moments. Alex White and John Elliker were both held up just short following rampaging runs, however Andy McGann somehow burrowed over the line on 80 minutes to seal a memorable win in unlikely circumstances.
Game star: Top effort from all 14 players, they gave everything in a game where only pride was at stake.
Game breaker: 20-4 up and Carlisle refused the two points, opting to try to score again, lost the ball in the tackle and 3 minutes later the Buffaloes had scored and the comeback was on.
Carlisle Centurions: 1. Steve Moss, 2. Tony Palmer, 3. James Sanderson, 4. Martin Stalker, 5. Gavin Davies, 6. Craig Stalker, 7. Paul Southward, 8. Shaun Richardson, 9. Joe Crowther, 10. Steve Jackson, 11. Andrew Dalton, 12. James Field, 13. Mike Dodd, Subs (all used) 14. Dennis Bibby, 15. Grant Lindsay, 16. Andy Sawyer, 17. Craig Brierly.
Try’s: Stalker (M) (1), Southward (19), Stalker (C), (52).
Goals: Stalker (C) 1/1, Stalker (M) 1/2, Brierly 2/2
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Andy McGann, 2. Craig Green, 3. Matt Mullholland, 4. John Elliker, 5. Shaun Flynn, 6. Paul Drake, 7. Jon Nicholls, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Mark Butterill, 10. Steven Gill, 11. Daniel Lavery, 12. Alex White, 13. Simon Speight, Sub (used): 14. Glenn Chapman.
Try’s: Flynn (28), Lavery (55), Butterill (58), White (70), McGann (80)
Goals: Drake 4/5
Referee: Gordan Wallace
Man of the Match:
Carlisle Centurions: Steve Moss
Bramley Buffaloes: Paul Drake
Next game: 19 September 2009
Competition: RLCN Play-Off’s
Opponents: Huddersfield Underbank Rangers
Kick-off: 2.30 pm