DRAKE EDGES BUFFALOES CLOSER TO TITLE
Bramley Buffaloes 37 (18) v Hemel Stags 28 (10)
On a gloriously sunny afternoon at Stanningley, Bramley Buffaloes beat Hemel Stags 37-28 in an entertaining game which saw the Buffaloes take a decisive step towards winning the Minor Premiership for the fourth consecutive season. Paul Drake played a major part in guiding the Buffaloes to victory over an enterprising and determined Stags team.
Once again Buffaloes coach Mark Butterill was forced to shuffle his squad around to accommodate player unavailability, Richard Hulme, Matty Mullholland, Matthew Booth all returned to the starting line-up whilst inspirational skipper Danny O’Connor was on the bench after injury. O’Connor marked his 100th appearance for the club with another big effort in attack and defence. Hemel Stags kept much the same team as that that won at Carlisle the previous week.
Both teams completed their sets early on as defences were on top. Scott Glendenning-Fenton kicked out on the full after 7 minutes which gave the Buffaloes their first opportunity to apply pressure, the Stags defence was up to the task as Chris Gardner ran the ball in hard. On 14 minutes Buffaloes Richard Hulme found space and made a break through the middle of the Stags defence on half-way, he had 3 players supporting him and as BJ Swindells closed him down he off-loaded to Dan Caston who ran in unopposed under the posts. Paul Drake landed the first of 6 perfect conversions. Hemel were frequently being penalised, this allowed Bramley to mount to more pressure but they were unable to add to their early score. Hemel themselves had back-to-back sets on the Bramley line and forced a drop out, however they could find no way through a resolute Buffaloes defensive line.
Following a Shaun Flynn break Glen was sin-binned for a professional foul, on the back of this Caston scored his second try on 23 minutes after excellent passing and movement from the Buffaloes team. Hemel rallied, from the re-start they found touch, forced a second drop-out and then worked good position so that winger Keiran Dixon got over in the corner for the first of his three tries on 25 minutes. Led by Jamie Acton, Brendan Williams and Alex Brown Hemel saw more of the ball and they were proving a handful for the Buffaloes defence. Hemel’s pressure paid dividends on 35 minutes when Acton made one of several good driving runs before off-loading to the supporting Glendenning-Fenton who scored by the posts, Swindells converted, 12-10. As the half closed Hemel were on top, however a crunching one-on-one tackle by Jon Nicholls on Dixon jolted the ball loose and the Simon Speight was on hand to gather the loose ball and outpace the would be tacklers to score from 20m, Drake converted.
Danny O’Connor made a great break out of defence on 42 minutes and set Bramley up for an early assault on the Stags line, however Drake’s chip kick to the corner was well collected by Dixon who ran the length of the field to score under the posts. Swindells added the extras and Hemel were well in the game at 18-16 after 44 minutes. On the next set Hemel almost scored again, a short kick through was almost touched down by livewire winger Dixon, the ball just running dead. Bramley got themselves into the game on 52 minutes when Drake chipped over a flat Hemel defence, Shaun Flynn hacked the ball further forward and Drake collected the bouncing ball and scored under the posts. Within 4 more minutes Bramley had extended their lead further following a classic flowing passing move that went over 70m and through 8 pairs of hands that saw Nicholls cross under the posts for a fabulous try. Buffaloes lead on 30-16 was extended again5 minutes later when Drake dropped a goal. To their credit Hemel never through the towel in and when they did have the ball and field position they looked dangerous. Centre Glen crossed in the corner on 69 minutes to narrow the gap; Swindells added a fine conversion from wide-out. Any hopes of a come-back were dashed on 74 minutes when hard working second rower Richard Hulme took a pass from Danny O’Connor to score under the posts. Both teams exchanged drop-outs in the final minutes but the final word went to Stags impressive young winger Dixon who completed a good hat-trick on 79 minutes when he scored under the posts after a fine 50m weaving run.
The Buffaloes are now just 4 points away from securing the premiership title, however if Featherstone Lions beat Huddersfield Underbank on Tuesday night then the title could be that much closer. If they continue to play as they did in this game, then Hemel could well secure 4th spot in the table, a top effort on their part.
Game Star: Shaun Flynn was awarded the man-of-the-match for Bramley and he had another outstanding game, however for me Paul Drake was most impressive. Another immaculate kicking display, plus a well taken try and a drop goal. Determined and physical in the tackle, he also directed the team around the park well.
Game Breaker: Jon Nicholls finished a superb team movement to score a try and send the Buffaloes out to a 30-16 lead on 55 minutes, just enough to quash any thoughts of an imminent Hemel revival.
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Shaun Flynn, 2. Matthew Booth, 3. Matt Mullholland, 4. Dan Caston , 5. Craig Green, 6. Paul Drake, 7. Jon Nicholls, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Scott Pendlebury, 10. Chris Gardner, 11. Simon Speight, 12. Richard Hulme, 13. Robin Wilkes, Subs (all used) 14. Danny O’Connor, 15. Glenn Chapman, 16. Antony Ward, 17. Steven Gill.
Try’s: Caston (14 & 23), Speight (39), Drake (52), Nicholls (55), Hulme (74)
Goals: Drake (6/6) + 1 Drop goal (58)
Hemel Stags: 1. BJ Swindells, 2. Keiran Dixon, 3. Jared Searson, 4. Brad Glen, 5. Oliver O’Mara, 6. Brendan Williams, 7. Scott Glendenning-Fenton, 8. James Howitt, 9. Alex Brown, 10. Dean Campbell, 11. Michael Crosby, 12. Jamie Acton, 13. John Webber, Subs (all used) 14. Joey Compton-Meyer, 15. Ben Kay, 16. Tim Stevens, 17. Chris Pomfrett.
Try’s: Dixon (25, 44 & 79), Glendenning-Fenton (35), Glen (69)
Goals: Swindells (4/5)
Referee: Jamie Bloem
Man of the Match:
Bramley Buffaloes: Shaun Flynn
Hemel Stags: Jamie Acton