DOMINANT BUFFALOES HALT STAGS RUN
by Andy Coldrick
Bramley Buffaloes 26 (14) v Hemel Stags 12 (4)
On a hot and sticky afternoon on Saturday, it was top versus third at the Arthur Miller Stadium as Bramley Buffaloes entertained Hemel Stags in a mouth watering clash. This game marked the beginning of the second half of the RLCN season and it was business as usual for the Buffaloes who ran out convincing winners 26-12 and so maintained their position at the top of the table.
Buffaloes coach Mark Butterill made a number of minor changes to his team, he was able to welcome back Robin Wilkes to the team who was on the bench, as was John Elliker who had recovered from his calf strain. James Brown made his debut for the Buffaloes in the centre as replacement for the injured Matthew Booth. Hemel coach Troy Perkins looked to have fielded a very strong team. Gareth Swindells started at hooker, Sean Johnson dropped to the bench. Giant Kiwi prop Joey Crompton-Meyer started. Ashley Fyson returned on the wing and after a re-shuffle of the wingers and centres from the previous week, Matt Mizzi moved into the second row.
Hemel were on the current longest unbeaten run in the league (6 games if you include Carlisle) so the Buffaloes knew to expect a strong start from their visitors; and they weren’t disappointed! The referee stamped his authority on the game from the outset, in what has historically been a ‘tasty’ game between these two, he penalised the Buffaloes and gave Hemel 3 consecutive penalties in the opening 5 minutes. Hemel were camped on the Buffaloes line almost from the first whistle but despite strong running and clever handling they found no way through. Buffaloes prop Richard Leese showed an excellent turn of speed as he shrugged off 3 tacklers to burst down the left to ease the pressure, however Fyson and Joyce combined to halt him. Hemel opted to kick for goal on 13 minutes when they got their fourth penalty; BJ Swindells easily kicked it, 0-2 to Hemel. Further Hemel pressure forced the Buffaloes to drop –out and when they received their seventh penalty on 18 minutes, somewhat surprisingly Swindells again opted to kick at goal rather than test the Buffaloes defence again. He again he added the two points. The first twenty minutes were all Hemel, time and again they banged away at the Buffaloes line, going wide or down the middle, however they found no way through some uncompromising defence. Bramley’s first spell of pressure on the Hemel line ended when a Nicholls kick to the in-goal was just too long. The Buffaloes came again though and on their next set Danny Johnson off-loaded in the tackle close to the line to Tony Williams who dived over from close range, Drake added a splendid conversion. Five minutes later and the Buffaloes had doubled their lead. Hemel were once again camped on the Buffaloes line, a Price kick was collected on his own goal line by Jimmy Waddington who found space and outpaced the covering Hemel defence to score a length of the field try under the posts. Drake converted. Bramley now started to see more of the ball and managed to push Hemel back. A Drake penalty on 31 minutes extended the Buffaloes lead further. Hemel spent the last 8 or 9 minutes of the first half again attacking the Buffaloes line. A charge-down on half way gave them field position and BJ Swindells looked a certain try scorer before the Buffaloes defence closed him down right on the line. Bramley defended 3 back-to-back sets on their line as the half closed; a major physiological boost to the Buffaloes as they went to the sheds at half-time, 14-4 up.
Bramley started the second half in confident fashion. A huge Williams’s kick was fielded by Jamie Acton who was immediately bundled into touch 25m from his own line. John Elliker on as a second half substitute almost scored from the scrum, losing the ball over the line as he tried to get the ball down. The Buffaloes were now getting over the advantage line and opening the Stags up, it therefore came as no surprise when Robin Wilkes surged to the posts and somehow popped the ball back to Jimmy Waddington who easily scored under the posts, Drake again converted. John Elliker, James Brown and John Richardson then all combined down the Buffaloes left to again go close to scoring, credit though to the Stags scrambling defence that held firm in the face of increasing pressure. Hemel lost Sean Johnson injured on 48 minutes and Matty Mulholland had a try disallowed for a double movement a moment later. The Buffaloes pressure finally told on 54 minutes when Danny Johnson collected a loose ball and raced 20m before being hauled down centre-field. From the play the ball Richard Hulme found the supporting Graham Harrison who scored from close range, Drake again converted. Hemel kept going despite being 26-4 down, Jamie Acton, BJ Swindells, Jason Price and the forwards led by Joey Crompton-Meyer and Saimon Lomaloma kept pressing. Quick hands released Buffaloes winger John Richardson down the left, he made good progress before the Hemel defence closed in on him, he chipped forward into space for the supporting Tony Williams but the Hemel defence scrambled well to snuff out the opportunity. Moments later on 65 minutes hooker Richard Hulme went clear and his inside pass to Williams again went to ground as Williams was held back. The referee penalised Hemel but surprisingly did not produce a card for what looked like a professional foul. John Elliker had a great second half and he almost got Richardson in at the corner but his pass was forward. Tony Williams limped off soon afterwards with what looked like a calf injury. Hemel continued to press and finally got some reward for their efforts on 75 minutes when Jamie Acton out jumped the Buffaloes defence to collect a cross-field kick to score. Three minutes later some poor Buffaloes tackling allowed Olly O’Mara to evade several would-be tacklers to score. Neither try was converted and with it went the opportunity for a bonus point for Hemel.
Both teams went toe-to-toe with each other in this enthralling encounter which was yet another great advert for the RLCN competition. The difference between the teams was the Buffaloes ability to soak up sustained pressure and then capitalise on the few opportunities that came their way. Hemel are a powerful side that on this showing will be right in the mix come the end of the season. The Buffaloes meanwhile continue to build their success on the back of some well organised and committed defence and were very good value for this impressive performance.
Game star: For his two try effort, Jimmy Waddington takes the plaudits, however he also goy through a lot of work collecting and return ing kicks as well as his usual stint of tackling.
Game breaker: The try by Jimmy Waddington 5 minutes into the second half probably sealed the points for the Buffaloes but that only came on the back of some outstanding goal line defence towards the end of the first half. To keep Hemel out then up to half-time and then score ourselves early in the second was a major psychological blow.
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Jimmy Waddington, 2. Andy McGann, 3. Matt Mulholland, 4. James Brown, 5. John Richardson, 6. Tony Williams, 7. Jon Nicholls, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Richard Hulme, 10. Junior Brandford, 11. Simon Speight, 12. Danny Johnson, 13. Paul Drake, Subs: 14. Craig Green, 15. Graham Harrison, 16. Robin Wilkes, 17. John Elliker.
Tries: Waddington (26 & 45), Williams (21), Harrison (54)
Goals: Drake 5/5
Hemel Stags: 1. Barry John Swindells, 2. Ashley Fyson, 3. Jamie Acton, 4. Olly O’Mara, 5. Eddie M’Baraga, 6. Ben Joyce, 7. Jason Price, 8. Joey Crompton-Meyer, 9. Gareth Swindells, 10. Michael Crosby, 11. Aaron Hall, 12. Matt Mizzi, 13. Saimon Lomaloma, Subs: 14. James Howitt, 15. Sean Johnson, 16. Connor Boyd-Barnes, 17. Tim Stevens.
Tries: Acton (75), O’Mara (78)
Goals: BJ Swindells 2/4
Final score: 26-12
Penalty Count: 12(8)-14(9)
Referee: Paul Knowles
Man of the Match:
Bramley Buffaloes: Jimmy Waddington
Hemel Stags: Jamie Acton