BUFFALOES TAME LIONS AND CLINCH FIFTH MINOR PREMIERSHIP
by Andy Coldrick
Featherstone Lions 20 (16) v Bramley Buffaloes 30 (10)
Bramley Buffaloes travelled to The Millpond on Sunday knowing a win would clinch their fifth successive Minor Premiership whilst the Lions needed the points to secure a top 6 finish. A fast open game was never in prospect between these two teams that have had a few spicy meetings in recent seasons, and Sunday proved no different as the Buffaloes eventually prevailed 20-30 and the Lions had a player dismissed.
In any other competition a team that wins five successive Minor Premierships (league titles) would be acclaimed as a great club which has displayed a remarkable level of consistency over five successive seasons, this feat may have passed by without so much as a whimper within RLCN and Rugby League circles, but not by the Bramley supporters who acclaimed their team at the final whistle. It is indeed a remarkable feat to achieve this level of consistency and all the Buffaloes coaching staff and players over the years deserve the highest praise for performing at such a level and maintaining that level of desire. A rare feat indeed! Driven on by captain, Paul Drake, the Buffaloes fought back superbly from 16-6 down to record their fifteenth win out sixteen games this season. Drake was ably supported by Tony Williams, Richard Hulme, Graham Harrison and Robin Wilkes who all put in a great shift.
The Buffaloes team showed some minor changes from the previous week. James Brown, Andy McGann and Junior Brandford were unavailable, whilst Dan Caston was on the bench but did not play as a result of the 15 stitches in his mouth from the previous game. In their place came Jimmy Waddington and Alistair James to the starting thirteen whilst Matthew Booth was on the bench and made a welcome return after injury. The Lions too had a number of changes from the team that lost narrowly at Nottingham the week before, however they fielded a tough looking team.
Bramley made an ideal start to the game when on the back of good drives to the Lions line by both Williams and Mitchell, Paul Drake threw a pass out that fell between players, Richard Leese was the first to react; he collected the ball and made a diagonal run through a static Lions defence to score from 5m out. Drake converted and the Buffaloes were on their way. Any thoughts of an easy game were soon dispelled though as the Buffaloes lost the ball on the third tackle from the re-start and following a good set close to the Buffaloes line, Danny Richardson fell over the line from close range after some poor Buffaloes goal line defence. Jones converted from in front of the posts. Lions lifted as a result of their score and through their hard running forwards they began to make good metres going forward. Jon Nicholls relieved pressure on the Buffaloes line when on ten minutes he intercepted a pass and ran the best part of 60m before being hauld down. Robin Wilkes left the field briefly on fifteen minutes with a horrible looking dislocation to one of his fingers, he was quickly treated and returned to the field to play the remainder of the game, true grit! The Lions continued to press and the Buffaloes had to rely on Drake kicks to clear their lines. On twenty two minutes a Buffaloes attack came to nothing as Drake’s high kick was collected over their own try line by a Lions player, from the twenty metre re-start Josh Hardcastle took a quick tap and out paced a Buffaloes defensive line that was not set. Josh made an arcing run, outpaced the chasing defence and held off Williams tackle to score a fine try in the corner. There was no conversion in the swirling wind and the Lions led 10-6. The Buffaloes responded with a Drake floated pass to James who scored in the corner on twenty six minutes, only to be chalked off for a forward pass. Bramley mounted a series attacks on the Lions line however they could find no way through a solid defence, Bramley tried high bombs, chips over the defence and grubber kicks, all were well dealt with by a solid defence. On thirty four minutes Richardson grabbed his second try as once he crashed over from close range, Jones conversion took the Lions out to a deserved 16-6 lead. However the Buffaloes responded in fine style by going back to basics, Drake’s kick-off evaded the Lions players and forced a drop-out. From the drop-out the Buffaloes played out a solid set of six tackles and on the last tackle quick hands put Shaun Flynn over in the corner for a good wingers try. There was no conversion and half closed 16-10 to the Lions.
Mark Butterill left his players in no doubt as to what he thought of their first half performance during the break, returning to the field early with assistant coach Jim Shuttleworth with him. The players responded in fine style to turn in a top quality second half display. Drake kicked a 40/20 in the first minute and Danny Mitchell was held up over the line. Drake put a short kick through the Lions defence and the on-rushing Tony Williams was tackled without the ball when he looked odds on to score. Referee Bloem did not more than talk to the offending player. From the penalty Drake took control again and chipped to the right hand corner where Alistair James brilliantly collected the ball to score his first try for the club. A popular try scorer with the fans and a try richly deserved for his performances so far this season. There was no Drake conversion this time. Shaun Flynn did well to collect a high bomb to his wing, Jimmy Waddington then ran strongly as the Buffaloes began to gain some momentum into their play. As so often has happened, the Buffaloes withstood pressure on their line as they raised the intensity of their efforts, this paid dividends on fifty four minutes as Hulme broke clear near half way, fed James who weaved past several defenders before passing to ‘T’ who showed great balance and speed to go over from 30m, Drake converted a wonderful try and the Buffaloes hit the front. Three minutes later and the Buffaloes had stretched their lead to 16-24 when James went over for his second in the corner. Bramley were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, Hulme took a quick tap and quick hands saw James over in the corner, in not dissimilar fashion to Shaun Flynn earlier. Two minutes later and the game was gone for the Lions when the outstanding Robin Wilkes ran hard and straight and crashed through three would-be-tacklers on half way, surging on he passed to the supporting Williams who stood the full back up and scored under the posts, another top drawer try which Drake converted, 16-30. John Smith was dismissed for the Lions on 68 minutes when he went Paul Drakes face with his head. Tempers became frayed as the referee struggled to control both teams as tempers began to flare. Sustained Lions pressure in the final ten minutes saw Ricky Wiiliams go over in the corner on 74 minutes; however there were no further alarms for the Buffaloes as they clinched the win they needed in order to retain the Minor Premiership.
Game star: Several to choose from, Tony Williams and Alastair James had big games, as did Graham Harrison and Richard Hulme. Matthew Booth put in a top tackling effort on his introduction as did Danny Mitchell. For me though despite Tony Williams being voted man-of-the-match I thought Robin Wilkes had a terrific game, hardly missed a tackle and constantly ran the ball in hard, despite ‘that’ finger!
Game breaker: Tony Williams second try just short of the hour and the third Buffaloes try in five minutes took them away from the Lions.
Featherstone Lions: 1. Ian Jackson, 2. Josh Beecher, 3. Josh Hardcastle, 4. Ricky Williams, 5. Sam Wilson, 6. Richard Frankland, 7. Adam Jones, 8. Mark Kear, 9. Paul Watson, 10. Danny Richardson, 11. John Smith, 12. Steve Lawrie, 13. Jack Candlin, Subs: (all used) 14. Dean Gamble, 15. Ben Smith, 16. Gareth Jones, 17. Kyle Littlewood.
Tries:Richardson (7 & 34), Hardcastle (22), Williams (74)
Goals: Jones 2/4
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Tony Williams, 2. Alistair James, 3. John Richardson, 4. Jimmy Waddington, 5. Shaun Flynn, 6. Paul Drake, 7. Jon Nicholls, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Richard Hulme, 10. Danny Mitchell, 11. John Elliker, 12. Simon Speight, 13. Robin Wilkes, Subs: (all used) 14. Graham Harrison, 15. Craig Green, 16. Dan Caston (not used sub), 17. Matthew Booth.
Tries: James (42 & 57), Williams (54 & 59), Leese (4), Flynn (39)
Goals: Drake 3/6
Final score: 20-30
Referee: Jamie Bloem
Penalty Count: 10(5)-14(7)
Dismissed: John Smith (Lions) – 68 mins
Man of the Match:
Featherstone Lions: Danny Richardson
Bramley Buffaloes: Tony Williams
Next game: Saturday 21 August 2010
Opponents: Huddersfield Underbank Rangers
Kick-off: 2.30 pm