BUFFALOES BEST SO FAR
by Andy Coldrick
Huddersfield Underbank 42 (18) v Bramley Buffaloes 26 (8)
Despite the Bramley Buffaloes going down to a record seventh straight defeat on the bounce, there was no disgrace in losing 42-26 at runaway leaders Huddersfield Underbank. It was widely acknowledged by players and supporters alike that this was the Buffaloes best display of the season by some distance.
Huddersfield Underbank coach Richard Knight wrote in his programme notes that “evidence shows that games against Bramley at the Cross are tight affairs between the sides, but current form suggests that a similar outcome today would be unlikely”. After 25 minutes with his team playing down the slope and losing 0-8 he may well have reflected upon those comments, however Underbank rallied and sealed the win. However the Buffaloes showed great spirit and desire to put in an excellent performance and were unlucky not to grab an unlikely bonus point in the end.
The Buffaloes gave debuts to four more players, Jason Dodd at fullback, Graham Charlesworth at stand- off and John Rourke at hooker. Tom Stuckey made his debut on the wing coming off the bench. Sean Storie was playing his last game before his return to Australia. Craig Green returned on the bench and Sam Neave started on the wing after making his debut at valley Cougars earlier in the season. Richard Knight the Underbank coach returned to the sidelines as Shaun Smith came in at scrum half and the influential Neil Barrett moved back to his favoured standoff position.
Bramley played up the slope in the first half and opened in positive fashion. On the last tackle the Buffaloes kick was charged down but re-gathered by Dodd who went 30m on a scything run through the heart of the Underbank defence. Underbank lost the ball on their 40m line on their set of tackles and Buffaloes winger Nick Fontaine was first to react, picking up the loose ball and racing to the line. Liam Walsh forced a drop out shortly afterwards as the Buffaloes were held up again on the line. There was a blow for the visitors on 5 minutes though when workhorse Dave Parker had to leave the field with an eye injury, he was unable to return to the field. Underbank then monopolised possession for the next 15 minutes as they steadily increased the pressure on the Buffaloes line, however unlike recent weeks the defensive line held firm. Neil Barrett, Lee St Hilaire and Adam Carroll were probing the Buffaloes line and setting the platform for their powerful forwards run the ball in, however the line was not breached. Referee Luke Fellows did not endear himself to Buffaloes supporters by penalising the Buffaloes 10-1 in the first half, nevertheless on the back of receiving their only penalty of the half on 24 minutes some smart off loading saw Sean Storie feed Graham Charlesworth with a deft one handed pass to send him over in the left hand corned. Again there was no conversion but the Buffaloes led 0-8. The Underbank re-start found touch in goal and from the Buffaloes drop out Williams was able to get over by the posts after good work from Barrett although there was more than a hint of a knock-on which went unseen by the referee. There was more organisation in the Buffaloes defensive line this week with good communication amongst the players, whether this was down to the 3 new lads on the pitch or not is hard to say, either way as a team the Buffaloes were defending manfully. On 31 minutes St Hilaire found space in the middle of the park, exploited the gap with his pace and went over easily under the posts. Two minutes later an astute Barrett chip put St Hilaire over again and the game had swung round from 0-8 to 18-8. The Buffaloes steadied the ship and no further points were conceded however Barrett missed with a long range penalty on the stroke of half-time. A fine first half performance from the Buffaloes playing up the slope, probably their best opening half of the season, the players were warmly applauded from the field.
Underbank clearly had had a stern talking to from their coach at half time regarding upping the tempo and intensity; this paid dividends in the first minute when from the kick off Sam Housley made a tremendous drive which caught the Buffaloes back pedalling. A quick play the ball on the first tackle saw St Hilaire complete his hat trick with a stroll to the line. The Buffaloes responded with Liam Walsh forcing two Underbank drop-out’s in the space of a minute, Benoit Rogers and Ash Taylor making good metres on attack. Jason Dodd was proving a handful for the Underbank defence with his strong runs from full back, whilst Charlesworth and Walsh formed a good combination together posing numerous problems. Sam Neave provided good pace on the wing and made several strong runs. Underbank though stretched their lead further and alarm bells started to ring when Richard Aka scored on 54 minutes, 26-8. From the re-start Midgley knocked on and from the scrum Charlesworth fed Dodd who took two tacklers over and scored in the corner, a great response. Buffaloes joy was short-lived as the referee penalised the Buffaloes twice on their own line and Geoghegan burrowed over, 32-12. Matters got worse on 64 minutes when a high kick was not dealt with by the Buffaloes and Cummings pounced on the loose ball to score, 38-12. Just as it looked as though the flood gates might open back came Bramley and scored a slightly fortuitous try when there looked to be a hint of a knock-on and/or accidental offside as Walsh’s kick pinged around, nevertheless Rogers got the ball to Taylor who gleefully accepted the try. Once again there was no conversion. Bramley continued to attack, skilfully directed by John Rourke at hooker who was outstanding all game. More pressure resulted in Graham Nash scoring a very popular try on 73 minutes, going over from dummy half, Harrison converted. There was still time for Adam Ryder to profit from another missed knock-on by the referee and score and for the Buffaloes to have the final say when Nick Fontaine scored his second in the corner in the final minute.
This was by some distance the Buffaloes best all round display of the season, despite losing. They defended really well throughout, yes there were some defensive lapses, however the improvement on previous weeks was very noticeably. Likewise in attack Bramley posed a lot more problems and built pressure. The challenge now is to back this performance up on Wednesday at Featherstone and then against Coventry and Nottingham. All the players deserve credit for that performance and although Jason Dodd was awarded Bramley’s man-of-the-match by Underbank, this was very much a 1-17 effort.
Game star: Lee St Hilaire had a very good game, tackled hard and ran strongly with the ball. Showed good pace and awareness to score his tries.
Game breaker: Hard to say, although after not having scored for nearly 25 minutes there was more than a touch of good fortune to Underbank’s opening try. This was followed by two more tries in quick succession to turn the score around. If they had not scored at that point it could well have been a much different game.
Huddersfield Underbank: 1. Will Midgley, 2. Courtney Allette, 3. Alex Chatterton, 4. Adam Ryder, 5. Richard Aka, 6. Neil Barrett, 7. Shaun Smith, 8. Craig Williams, 9. Adam Carroll, 10. Sam Dalby, 11. Sam Housley, 12. Rob Joyce, 13. Lee St Hilaire, Subs; (all used) 14. Jack Mitchell, 15. Chris Geoghegan, 16. Sam Cummings, 17. Paul Horsfall.
Tries: St Hilaire 3 (31, 33 & 41), Williams (27), Aka (54), Geoghegan (60), Cummings (64), Ryder (77)
Goals: Barrett (3/6), Allette (1/1), Midgley (1/2)
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Jason Dodd, 2. Sam Neave, 3. Lewis Barrett, 4. Sean Storie, 5. Nick Fontaine, 6. Graham Charlesworth, 7. Liam Walsh, 8. Dave Parker, 9. John Rourke, 10. Ash Taylor, 11. Benoit Rogers, 12. Graham Nash, 13. Graham Harrison, Subs: (all used) 14. Karl Wilson, 15. Craig Broadbent, 16. Tom Stuckey, 17. Craig Green.
Tries: Fontaine 2 (2 & 80), Charlesworth (25), Dodd (55), Taylor (67), Nash (73)
Goals: Harrison (1/2), Barrett (0/2), Charlesworth (0/2)
Final score: 42-26
Referee: Luke Fellows
Penalty Count: 13(10)-6(1)
Man of the Match:
Huddersfield Underbank: Not known
Bramley Buffaloes: Jason Dodd