OLD BOYS FAIL TO STOP BUFFALOES
Bramley Buffaloes 40 (34) v Gateshead Storm 22 (16)
Bramley Buffaloes maintained their unbeaten run with a hard fought 40-22 victory over a very determined Gateshead Storm team which was supplemented for probably 1 game only by a number of players drawn from Hunslet Old Boys, on Thursday evening at Stanningley. An early Buffaloes blitz of points proved the difference as Storm fought back gamely to close the gap but just left themselves too much too do.
The Bramley Buffaloes team showed only 2 changes from the team that outplayed Warrington Wizards the previous Saturday, ever reliable goal kicker and stand-off Paul Drake was out with a leg injury, in his place came Robin Wilkes after an impressive first game against Carlisle 2 weeks previous and Richard Leese took a well earned rest. Jim Shuttleworth moved into the centres to accommodate Wilkes, allowing Matthew Booth to step into Drakes position. Gateshead meanwhile drafted in a number of players from Hunslet Old Boys which definitely bolstered their playing strength and added some local spice to the game!
Bramley registered points within the first minute of the game as the elusive Robin Wilkes showed excellent speed and balance to go over midway between the posts and the corner flag. Matthew Booth added the conversion. Storm were guilty of slowing the play-the-ball play down as they tried to stop the Buffaloes progress, the referee eventually losing patience with this tactic and penalising them. As a result of such a penalty Chris Gardner made a great drive for the line but was held up over the line on 9 minutes, after a quick play-the-ball the ball was spun wide right and stand-in centre Jim Shuttlewoth crossed for an easy score, again Booth converted. Gateshead collected the re-start and applied good pressure to the Bramley line, however Dan Caston and Shaun Flynn provided a solid line of defence and Lassen was bundled into touch on the last tackle close to the Buffaloes line. The Buffaloes forwards were making good metres, particularly Alex White, Robin Wilkes and Chris Gardner. Following one such drive, Wilkes off-loaded to the supporting Harrison on half-way who then off loaded to Danny O’Connor. O’Connor somehow broke free of 3 tacklers and at pace swerved around the hapless Stoker at full back to score a superb try. From the kick-off Nick Fontaine took the ball up twice and on his second run he opened up the Storm defence with a mesmerising run which saw the ball eventually go out to Shuttleworth who not to be outdone weaved his way back in-field and although tackled was able to stretch out and score under the posts. Matthew Booth converted both tries. On 23 minutes Bramley posted their fifth try when on the 6th tackle Booth hoisted a huge up and under which was allowed to bounce around 30m from the Storm line wide left near the touchline. Shaun Flynn attacked the ball and hacked it forward before winger Roxborough could get to it, Dan Caston in support collected the ball, made more metres before having the presence of mind to pass outside to Matthew Booth who scored out wide, another tremendous try, Booth added a difficult touchline conversion, 30-0. Any thoughts that this was going to be an easy victory were then dashed as Gateshead, who had already posed more of a threat than Warrington in the previous match although the score-line would not suggest that, then started to play. Following two Buffaloe knock-on’s in quick succession, Gateshead got the ball from a scrum just inside the Buffaloes half and the ball was passed quickly to powerful centre Mark Cunningham who showed an excellent turn of pace to beat Andy McGann and score in the corner. From the re-start Bramley were penalised twice, providing Storm with good field position. Attacking from under the posts, good hands and some dummy running saw Chris Burnett go through a gap to score unopposed under the posts. John Coutts converted, 30-10. With ball in hand and confidence growing Gateshead now looked a different team. On 34 minutes they registered their third try in 7 minutes when a deft chip over the Buffaloes defensive line was collected by Cunningham who ran 20m to score, Coutts again converted. The Buffaloes re-grouped and for the first time in over 10 minutes got their hands on the ball following a Storm knock-on, this proved costly as Nathan Anderson found space and sent Simon Speight crashing over in the corner on 39 minutes to just nudge the Buffaloes further ahead. Half-time 34-16.
Both sides turned over possession cheaply at the start of the second half, however on 43 minutes Nathan Anderson who was playing almost as a right winger made a great break down the wing, he was eventually hauled down by Cunningham after going 40m. Bramley appeared to have re-discovered their flowing attacking game as first Wilkes and then Hulme went close to scoring. Bramley were asking lots of questions, but to their credit Gateshead’s scrambling defence was up to the task. O’Connor then had another powerful run on 48 minutes and was held up over the line. Storm then applied some pressure of their own with Steven Coutts instrumental in all their probing and attacking play. Most of the Storm attacks were coming from left-hand side at this time, through Cunningham and Aitken, however they too could not find a way through despite forcing a goal-line drop out. On 57 minutes Graham Harrison scored another valuable try for the Buffaloes when he went over from dummy half, Sam Thorpe hotly disputed the try and was sin-binned for dissent. Booth converted. At 40-16 Gateshead refused to throw the towel in and more inventive attacking saw 2 further drop outs forced. Both sets of players were becoming increasingly frustrated by the referee constantly disrupting the flow of the game. What appeared to be minor technical infringements were penalised, whilst some ‘high shots’ went apparently unpunished. Following another such decision Bramley’s Dan Caston was sin-binned on 65 minutes for abuse to the referee. Two minutes with the extra man, Storm’s Robert Roxborough scored and Coutts converted. For the remaining 13 minutes the game flowed back and forth, defences were on top and no further points were scored. Dan Caston did have what looked a perfectly good try disallowed on 78 minutes after Anderson had charged down a kick on half way and Caston had evaded 4 would be tacklers to score. Inexplicably the referee after consulting the lineswoman, disallowed the try and penalised Bramley for offside and took play back 80m!
As a result of their influx of players Gateshead Storm in the end provided Bramley with a good test after it looked unlikely following the opening 25 minutes. Bramley showed up well in attack, particularly in the first half hour, and after conceding 3 quick tries their defence in the second half, which was tested on a number of occasion; stood up well. Gateshead performed very well albeit with some ‘imports’, if that level of application can be maintained a third victory of the season can not be far away.
Game star: Robin Wilkes for the Buffaloes had an outstanding game in only his second start. Made good metres going forward and was always looking to off-load. Strong in defence, good speed, a top game throughout.
Game breaker: A trademark Graham Harrison try on 57 minutes meant that Storm then required 4 converted tries just to draw level, a big ask.
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Andy McGann, 2. Nick Fontaine, 3.Dan Caston, 4. Jim Shuttleworth, 5. Shaun Flynn, 6. Matthew Booth, 7. Jon Nicholls, 8. Chris Gardner, 9. Graham Harrison 10. Alex White, 11. Simon Speight, 12. Robin Wilkes, 13. Danny O’Connor, Subs (all used) 14. Richard Hulme, 15. Nathan Anderson, 16. Antony Ward, 17. Daniel Lavery.
Tries: Shuttleworth (20), Wilkes (1), O’Connor (17), Booth (23), Speight (10, 39), Harrison (57)
Goals: Booth 6/7
Gateshead Storm: 1. Josh Stoker, 2. Scott Aitken, 3. Mark Cunningham, 4. Michael Lassen, 5. Robert Roxborough, 6. Steven Coutts, 7. John Coutts, 8. David Cash, 9. Reece Young, 10. Stephen Welton, 11. Chris Burnett, 12. Mick Dixon, 13. Neil Emmerson, Subs (all used) 14. Sam Thorpe, 15. Amraz Hamid, 16. Craig Ollivant, 17. Melvyn Brown.
Tries: Cunningham (28 & 34), Burnett (31), Roxborough (67)
Goals: J Coutts 3/4
Sin-Binned: Thorpe (Gateshead Storm) – Dissent (57 mins), Caston (Bramley Buffaloes) – Referee Abuse (65 mins)
Final score: 40-22
Man of the Match:
Bramley Buffaloes: Robin Wilkes
Gateshead Storm: Mark Cunningham