BUFFALOES PUSH STAGS ALL THE WAY - Bramley Buffaloes

BUFFALOES PUSH STAGS ALL THE WAY
by Andy Coldrick

BRAMLEY BUFFALOES (12) 12 Vs HEMEL STAGS (10)  30

The curtain came down on the RLCN 2011 regular league season at the Arthur Miller Stadium on Sunday when the Bramley Buffaloes put in a great shift and pushed the Hemel Stags all the way before finally going down 12-30. The Buffaloes deservedly led at the break but after a half-time talk from Troy Perkins the Stags controlled much of the second half and led by man-of-the-match hooker Martyn Smith the Stags scored 20 unanswered points to seal victory.

Neither team had anything to gain in terms of league points and position, however after a week off the Stags no doubt had one eye on their mouth watering game against the Valley Cougars in the first round of the Play-off’s in a week’s time. This was a good opportunity for them to put any final touches to any game plans before the Play-off’s start in earnest. On the other hand the Bramley Buffaloes had endured a season to forget, or remember depending how you look at it. Their achievement was in completing all their games and preparing for 2012.

The Stags fielded a strong line–up which injuries permitting, could be close to their 17 for next week. In contrast the Buffaloes team showed a host of changes from their last game against Kippax Knights, however only Matt Collins was on debut which was something of an achievement given the long list of players not available to coach Chris Gardner.

There was nothing between the two teams in the opening exchanges, both sides completed their sets, tried to gain good field position and then defend effectively. The opening score came on 5 minutes when Buffaloes scrum half Liam Walsh chipped over the on-rushing Stags defence on half-way and beat Swindells to the bouncing ball and raced 40m to score a great try under the posts, great reward for his efforts this season. Harrison converted. Stags almost scored from the restart as they re-gained possession, however they overplayed the passing 20m out and turned possession over. The Stags enjoyed a period of sustained pressure close to the Buffaloes line, Eddie M’Baraga and Christian Champion always posed a threat with their plays on the Stags left wing, from one such foray they forced the Jason Dodds to kick the ball dead on 13 minutes for a drop-out. Despite spurning a couple of good opportunities to score the Stags drew level on 19 minutes when M’Baraga squeezed over in the corner, Butcher kicked an excellent touchline conversion. Hemel were guilty of losing the ball early in the tackle count from the restart and the confident Buffaloes put the ball through several pairs of hands before Vaughan Walsh crossed in the corner for a good score, 10-6. Illija Radan and Matt Collins were both sin binned on 28 minutes following a dust up. The Buffaloes kept their composure and continued to defend well as Price, Swindells, Butcher and Smith prompted more Stags attacks. Following two successive penalties M’Baraga crossed again in the corner as quick hands saw the Buffaloes run out of defenders. Butcher pulled his conversion wide and the scores were level at 10-10. Harrison edged the Buffaloes into a surprise but well deserved lead just minutes before half-time when he landed a penalty from half way.

The challenge at the break was for the Hemel to lift their performance and turn their possession into points, whilst for the Buffaloes it was to build upon one of their best first half displays of the season.

Martyn Smith signalled his intent and his quality as he went perilously close to scoring on 44 minutes, only more fine scrambling defence kept him out. Stags were dominating possession now and controlling the game, the Buffaloes were finding it hard to get their hands on the ball, let alone threaten the Stags line. On 49 minutes Smith left the Bramley defence in tatters as he shimmied and weaved his way through on half way and raced clear to score, Butcher converted to edge the Stags in front 12-16. Hemel increased their lead on 54 minutes as Swindells swept over from a scrum 20m out. The Buffaloes refused to fold despite having Nash sin binned for a high shot. Nathan Lumb, Dave Parker, Graham Harrison and Jason Dodd in particular were all working hard both in defence and attack. Hemel sensed that the Buffaloes were there for the kill and as a result of some very questionable referring decisions they continued to dictate play. Fryson crossed for the Stags fifth try on 71 minutes which sealed the game. Butcher converted and then added a further penalty as the clock ran down. There was little further action of note and Hemel ran out 12-30 victors after a useful work-out ahead of next week. Buffaloes Head Coach Chris Gardner can be very well pleased with his team’s efforts, which was one of their best performances of the season. It was encouraging to finish a difficult season on a positive note.  It was particularly pleasing to see scrum half Liam Walsh have such a good game and cap a fine season with us with a splendid try. Once again Jason Dodd showed all his competitive qualities and undoubted class. Nathan Lumb too was particularly impressive in the front row, whilst some of the ‘regulars’, Nashy, Benny, Ash, Reece and G-Man once again gave their all. All round a top ‘team’ effort – well done guys!

So the Buffaloes season closed on a very positive note despite slipping to their 16th defeat of the season. Once again the team gave their all, and their efforts gave everyone associated with the club a lift going into the summer ‘off season’. My great hope remains that Chris Gardner remains in charge and is able to attract sufficient players to the club in order for the team to have a proper pre-season, so by ensuring that we start 2012 with a fit, settled squad. Hopefully we can all draw upon the experiences of this season and use it as a positive factor going into 2012.

Game Breaker: BJ Swindells try on 54 minutes closely followed by Graham Nash’s sin binning proved too great a mountain for a gallant Buffaloes team to climb.

BUFFALOES: 1) Jason Dodd, 2) Reece Spurr, 3) Ian Fox, 4) Ash Taylor, 5) Vaughan Walsh, 6) James Fox, 7) Liam Walsh, 8) Nathan Lumb, 9) Graham Harrison, 10) Matt Collins, 11) Graham Nash, 12) Benoit Rogers, 13) Craig Green, Subs (all used); 14) Phil Headley, 15) Daz Greenwood, 16) Ross Peel, 17) Dave Parker

Tries: L. Walsh (5), V. Walsh (23)
Goals: Harrison 2

STAGS: 1) BJ Swindells, 2) Yusuf Lawal, 3) Eddie M’Baraga, 4) Mitch Henderson, 5) Christian Champion, 6) Jason Price, 7) Ryan Butcher, 8) James Howlett, 9) Martyn Smith, 10) Guy Aldam, 11) Seb Ward, 12) Tim Stevens, 13) Tim Thompson-Essex, Subs (all used); 14) Jamie Goss, 15) Illija Radan, 16) Ashley Fyson, 17) Max Edwards

Tries: M’Baraga (19, 35), Smith (49), Swindells (54), Fyson (71)
Goals: Butcher 5

Men of the match:
BUFFALOES – Graham Harrison
STAGS – Martyn Smith

Half time: 12-10
Referee: Gareth Evans
Sin Binned; Matt Collins (Buffaloes), Illija Radan (Stags) – 28 minutes; Graham Nash (Buffaloes) – 58 minutes.