BUFFALOES REGISTER OUTSTANDING VICTORY BY DEFYING ALL THE ODDS
by Andy Coldrick
Warrington Wizards 30 (18) v Bramley Buffaloes 36 (18)
There are occasions during a season when it sometimes more difficult than others to write a balanced report on a game that and be able to do the game justice, this is one of those occasions! On Saturday night at a miserable Wilderspool Stadium, Warrington, the Bramley Buffaloes as a club showed just why they are so consistent and so difficult to beat, and also why other teams raise their game in an effort to beat us. With so many obstacles stacked against them, the Buffaloes delivered a significant blow to Warrington and sent a message to the rest of the league; underestimate us at your peril as they beat the Wizards for the second year running on their own patch, this time 30-36 in a pulsating game.
Unfortunately the game itself was only part of the story and it is worth taking a few moments to put the magnitude of the result in context. The game was originally scheduled for 3.30pm but due to the lack of availability of the ground, 7.00pm was the earliest possible kick-off time. Following last week’s fixture against Kippax there was no training by the Buffaloes on Tuesday due to the high number of players carrying injuries. Bramley requested that the Warrington game be postponed as a result. This was not agreed and we had to either play or risk conceding the fixture as Carlisle did for their postponed round 2 game at Kippax, 24-0. The coaching staff took the decision to fulfil the fixture come what may. The numbers of players who may be available to play fluctuated over the week as players recovered, or not, from their injuries and /or tried to change evening shift patterns at work. On Friday we had 17 players which at that time included Scott Pendlebury coming out of retirement to play and 3 players the coaching staff had never met who were friends of players within the team! On Saturday that 17 dropped to 14 as players became unavailable or had not recovered sufficiently from their injuries. Bramley travelled with 14 players, although not all the squad were fit. With 32 players ‘on the books’, only 12 were available. The Wizards in contrast had 15 of the previous week’s starting 17 and all their team were ‘regulars’.
Talking after the game, assistant coach Jim Shuttleworth stated that the coaching staff had analysed the Wizards performances (as they do with all the opposition) and they had identified areas of weakness, where pressure could be applied. He added that they had also reflected on the Kippax performance and identified some of the areas of their performance had not been smart but could be fixed. Jim also confirmed that as a result of the pre-season work done by the squad they were one of the fittest teams in the league and had the strongest defence, nobody who has watched the team I think would dispute those facts. It would therefore be interesting to see how they go for 80 minutes with the squad they had out…..they did not disappoint.
The game started badly (for me), despite having arrived at the ground over an hour before kick-off I missed the start due to the only turnstile being opened late – shades of Gateshead away last season! Anyway once in I was in I was met with the sight of Richard Hulme and Wizards stand-off Ian Stephenson being despatched to the sin bin within the opening minute. The Buffaloes defended their line from the resulting penalty and then moved upfield on the back of an excellent Nick Fontaine run. The Buffaloes completed their opening set and forced a Wizards drop-out, debutant James McAlistair was held up before Drakey got his hands on the ball and fed Danny Mitchell with a delightful delayed pass to score by the posts, Drake converted. Further enterprising play allowed that lead to be increased on 11 minutes when a Drake break opened up the Wizards before sending Mitchell in for his second try. Three minutes later a Drake kick downfield was chased down by Fontaine who won the race to the ball, was tackled but managed to flick a pass out to the supporting Jimmy Waddington who touched down under the posts, Drake converted, 16-0. The Wizards were reduced to 12 men on 22 minutes when Craig Middlemore was dismissed for gouging. Matthew Booth did exceptionally when to keep a Wizards penalty in play, in the process setting up Shaun Flynn for a fine weaving run. Flynny then almost got on the end of another good Buffaloes passing movement and he was unlucky not to score inn the corner. Bramley forced 2 more Wizards drop-outs during this time on the back of some top class defending, strong running and an excellent long and short kicking game. However the Wizards got themselves back in the game as they ran in 3 tries in 7 minutes. Firstly quick hands saw Taylor go over in the corned, Ayres converted from the touchline. James had the ball stripped by Shaw after a huge kick downfield by Ayres; the loose ball was collected by Jono Smith who had a simple task to score by the posts. Two quick penalties took the Wizards deep into Bramley territory, Ian Stephenson set up Smith again who easily brushed off would-be tacklers to score. Ayres conversion suddenly put the Wizards in from 18-16, and their crowd woke up for the first time. On the stroke of half time Anthony Braide was sent to the sin bin for dissent and Drake added a superb long range penalty to level the scores when the Wizards were penalised for ball stealing.
Could the Buffaloes maintain this level of performance in the second half was the question? Again The Buffaloes started well, a Hulme chip kick gave the Buffaloes good field position which was helped further when the Wizards lost the ball. Drakes sent a delicate chip behind their defence into the corner and Matthew Booth reacted first to score. A drake penalty 8 minutes later stretched the lead to 18-24. The lead was doubled on 52 minutes when another chip by Drake to the corner was superbly collected by Shaun Flynn who scored, Drake added a magnificent touchline conversion. The Wizards though refused to go away and Smith completed his hat-trick on 57 minutes. Stephenson then put up a chip which Smith collected to notch his fourth try on 65 minutes and the scores were level again. No quarter was asked or given, the tackling was hard and uncompromising and the Buffaloes were sticking to the coach’s game plan of completing their sets and kicking long. The tackling the Buffaloes had done was immense, all the players taking it in turns to drive the ball away. On 67 minutes the Wizards lost possession in their own half and then gave away a penalty in front of the posts, supporters and coaching staff shouted ‘take the 2’ but instead a tap was taken and Hulmey showed great strength to twist and turn and plunge over for a precious try, Drake converted. The Buffaloes repelled further Wizard attacks and held on for an outstanding victory.
Jim Shuttleworth called this a ‘phenomenal win’ and ‘one of the gutsiest wins he had ever been involved in’. Quick mention to the supporters too who kept up their superb support throughout. Truly an outstanding performance. Get the DVD and watch it!
Game star: Jono Smith was outstanding for the Wizards, however although Paul Drake got the Buffaloes man-of-the-match award, for me this was a ‘team’ award, coaching staff included.
Game breaker: Bramley’s last try showed their determination to take the game to the Wizards who had no further ideas left.
Warrington Wizards: 1. Chris Campbell, 2. Graham Healey, 3. Danny Shaw, 4. Matt Taylor, 5. Darren Forshaw, 6. Ian Stephenson, 7. Warren Ayres, 8. Nick Braide, 9. Anthony Braide, 10. Matt Clarke, 11. Jono Smith, 12. Wez Lawton, 13. Alan Reddecliff, Subs: 14. Craig Middlemore, 15. Tom Lander, 16. Simon McEvoy, 17. Shaun Gilmour.
Tries: Smith (32, 35, 57 & 65), Taylor (28)
Goals: Ayres (5/5)
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Nick Fontaine, 2. Shaun Flynn, 3. Matt Booth, 4. Jimmy Waddington, 5. Alistair James, 6. Paul Drake, 7. Scott Pendlebury, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Richard Hulme, 10. Danny Mitchell, 11. Simon Speight, 12. Craig Green, 13. Graham Harrison, Sub: 14. Dan Lavery.
Tries: Mitchell (5 & 11), Waddington (14), Booth (42), Flynn (54), Hulme(67)
Goals: Drake (6/8)
Final score: 30-36
Referee: Darren Hayes
Penalty Count: 11(8) – 11(6)
Sin-Bin: Stephenson (Wizards) – Punching (1), Hulme (Buffaloes) – Punching (1), Braide A (Wizards) – Dissent (39)
Dismissed: Middlemore (Wizards) – Gouging (22)
Man of the Match:
Warrington Wizards: Jono Smith
Bramley Buffaloes: Paul Drake
Next game: Saturday 5 June 2010
Opponents: Featherstone Lions
Kick-off: 2.30 pm