SLOW START COSTS BUFFALOES
by Andy Coldrick
Valley Cougars 44 (20) v Bramley Buffaloes 18 (6)
The Buffaloes made their longest journey of the season when they visited the Valley Cougars on Saturday; unfortunately they paid the price for a slow start and went down 44-18.
After the very encouraging performance the previous week against Nottingham Outlaws, coach Chris Gardner once again had to contend with player unavailability due to injuries and personal commitments and the team was therefore much changed. Three players made their debuts, Sam Matthews in the second row, Ash Taylor came off the bench and played in the pack, whilst Sam Neave also came off the bench and played on the wing. Graham Nash made a welcome return after injury.
The Cougars were thrashed 70-0 at the Lions the previous week but had travelled with a weaker squad than plays at home. So it was that they fielded a line up close to their strongest 17 available.
Despite a rigorous pre-match warm-up for the fifth game in a row the Buffaloes conceded a soft try inside the opening 5 minutes of the game. The Buffaloes started the game ok, getting an early penalty but losing the ball when they had good field position. The Cougars also turned the ball over when they had it for the first time, however on 4 minutes the Cougars went down the middle and some poor tackling left Cougars stand-out player on the day, Phil Carleton run 40m untroubled to the line to score. Emanuelli converted. Reece Spurr suffered a knee injury on 7 minutes and after a delay for treatment he was able to continue. Two minutes later though after giving away two penalties in quick succession Shaun Owens burrowed over from dummy half to score another easy try. Mafi added a third try on 12 minutes as the Cougars lead stretched to 16-0 and they were scoring at over a point a minute. The Buffaloes dug in and there were some spirited drives from the impressive Sam Booker, Sam Matthews, Shaun Flynn, Liam Walsh and Richard Hulme. Walsh was proving dangerous with the ball and his varied short kicking game was looking the Buffaloes best option to score points. However on 23 minutes Lewis Fox scored a good try after some indifferent tackling in the middle of the field, the Cougars with space and time off loaded at will and Fox was able to finish a flowing move. Emanuelli missed the conversion. The Buffaloes responded with a good spell of play. The backs looked to take some of the work off the forwards and Tom Langton continually made good metres as he took the ball up. The Buffaloes were rewarded for their persistence on 30 minutes when another clever Walsh kick was not dealt with by the retreating Allsop and Flynn nipped in to ground the ball. Graham Harrison added an excellent conversion from wide out (Paul Drake – who?)! The shine was taken off that score when Richard Hulme left the field on 33 minutes with a serious looking ankle injury; he played no further part in the game. As the half closed the Buffaloes scrambling defence kept the Cougars out, and Flynn pulled off an excellent one-on-one tackle on Carlton to deny him a try.
After the opening 12 minutes of the first half the game was relatively even as a contest. The challenge for the Buffaloes in the second half was to keep that pressure up and post some points early to make the Cougars wobble.
The second half started on a positive note as the Buffaloes took the game to the Cougars and had good field position. Mafi was sin binned for talking back to the referee on 43 minutes but that was as good as it got for the next 15 minutes. A Cougars off-load out of the tackle caught the Buffaloes out and Barrie Phillips was able to go over from 30m without anyone coming close to tackling him. Flynn’s short re-start did not travel 10m and he too was sin-binned for speaking out of turn to the referee. From the penalty slick Cougars passing saw Phillips go in for his second try inside 3 minutes. The Buffaloes re-gathered the re-start but a loose pass under the Cougars posts was shipped out wide to Allsop who outpaced Spurr who looked to be playing on one leg after suffering knee and hip injuries. Emanuelli added his third second half conversion. Suddenly 20-6 at half time had turned in to 38-6 after 53 minutes and the game was gone for the Buffaloes. Credit though to all 17 players, rather than cave in and ship a lot of points, they re-grouped and took the game to the Cougars for the rest of the half. Sam Booker made good metres all afternoon and he crashed over for a deserved try on 56 minutes, Harrison converted. Phillips was sin-binned for use of the elbow on a player on the floor on 60 minutes. Carleton scored his second try on 62 minutes, 44-12. Tom Langton grabbed his first try for the Buffaloes on 68 minutes, proving too strong to stop from 5m out. Flynn got his second try on 77 minutes when he chipped over the defence and collected the ball to score in the corner.
It was very pleasing to see the spirit in the Buffaloes team in the second half as they looked to take the game to the Cougars. There appeared to be a good attitude amongst the players as they looked to form scrums quickly, keep the Cougars from scoring more points, and generally keeping going to the end. If the lapses at the start of games could be eradicated as well as the bad habit of conceding two or three tries in as many minutes, then they will stay in games for longer and give themselves more of a chance to win games.
Good effort by all the players. Graham Nash got through a ton of work in the second half. Forwards made some good metres and Liam Walsh was always looking to create openings.
Game star: The Buffaloes never got to grips with Cougars Phil Carleton who ran the show and weighed in with two tries.
Game breaker: Cougars opening salvo of 16 points in the opening 12 minutes proved the difference. After that there was little between the two teams.
Valley Cougars: 1. Kevin James, 2. Ricky Allsop, 3. Lewis Fox, 4. James Allen, 5. Robin Lock, 6. Paul Emanuelli, 7. Phil Carleton, 8. Mark Jones, 9. Shaun Owens, 10. Steve Bray, 11. Ross Coombs, 12. Barrie Phillips, 13. Tylan Mafi, Subs; (all used) 14. Ryan Sadler, 15. John Sanigar, 16. Kyle Blackmore, 17. Lee Jenkins.
Tries: Carleton 2 (4 & 62), Phillips 2 (46 & 49), Owens (9), Mafi (12), Fox (23), Allsop (53) Goals: Emanuelli 6 (6/8)
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Shaun Flynn, 2. Matthew Oliver, 3. Reece Spurr, 4. Tom Langton, 5. Alistair James, 6. Sam Coates, 7. Liam Walsh, 8. Sam Booker, 9. Richard Hulme, 10. Dave Parker, 11. Sam Matthews, 12. Nathan Smith, 13. Graham Harrison, Subs: (all used) 14. Graham Nash, 15. Sam Neave, 16. Craig Broadbent, 17. Ash Taylor.
Tries: Flynn 2 (30 & 77), Booker (56), Langton (68)
Goals: Harrison 1 (1/4)
Final score: 44-18
Penalty Count: 8(5) – 12(6)
Sin Binned: Mafi (43 mins) Cougars – Talking back to referee, Flynn (47 mins) Buffaloes – Talking back to referee, Phillips (60 mins) Cougars – Use of elbow in tackle
Man of the Match:
Valley Cougars: Phillip Carleton
Bramley Buffaloes: Liam Walsh