UNDERBANK TAKE THE SPOILS IN TIGHT CONTEST
by Andy Coldrick
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers 24 (14) v Bramley Buffaloes 22 (16)
Huddersfield Underbank won their seventh consecutive victory to maintain their good form going into the play-offs as they beat Bramley Buffaloes 24-22 in a brutal encounter with no quarter asked or given at the Cross Ground. The Buffaloes stove manfully to secure their 15th league victory of the season, however a combination of excellent second half defence from Underbank, at time some indifferent play by the Buffaloes and a shocking display from the match officials meant that the Buffaloes slipped to only their second league defeat of the season. The Buffaloes have now finished the league season, they have won the Minor Premiership for a fifth successive season, with a 4 point gap and superior points difference between themselves and second placed Warrington. Underbank meanwhile had all to play for as they strove to finish third in the league, a win was therefore vital for them before the game started.
There was a welcome return to the team for Nick Fontaine and Andy McGann. Underbank fielded a near full strength team.
Rangers started the game at a furious pace hitting Bramley with some ferocious defence. However, Bramley were first to post points. A cross field bomb from Paul Drake was spilt by the home team and the ball was worked to lock Dan Caston who burst through two would-be tacklers to cross the whitewash. Drake kicked the conversion, the first of five successful kicks on an afternoon when he was once again faultless with the boot. Another good move moments later saw John Richardson and Andy McGann combine, McGann’s chip kick well dealt with by Williams at the cost of a drop out.
After Bramley conceded back to back penalties, Caston was binned for questioning the referee’s decision and Rangers made Bramley pay as centre and man of the match Alex Chatterton, broke through and handed on to right wing Joe Worthington who crashed over. Neil Barrett kicked to touchline conversion to level the scores at 6 apiece. Buffaloes replacement James Brown thought had he regained the lead for the visitors, but he was adjudged to have obstructed a home defender leading up to touching down after another Drake high kick had been spilt. But that disappointment was cancelled shortly afterwards as the impressive Richardson sped over from 40 metres leaving several defenders in his wake. Drake added the extras and Bramley once again led by six.
However, the Buffaloes subsequently knocked on in their own quarter in the following set and Underbank capitalised as the scrum half Tom Antony fired out a superb cut-out pass for Worthington to once more crash over in the right corner. Rangers took the lead as Antony and Nathan Williams combined to send Chatterton over the whitewash in a three man tackle. Barrett missed the conversions to both tries and the home side led by two. The Buffaloes finished the half strongly and Rangers conceded two penalties in the last three minutes of the half. Both long range penalties were converted by Drake to give the Buffaloes a two point lead at the break, 14-16. Antony was binned as a result of a melee leading to the second penalty and subsequently Rangers started the second half with twelve men.
Even though down to twelve Rangers responded in style as they forced a knock on by the Buffaloes from the kick off. From the scrum the ball was moved swiftly to the left and powerful centre Adam Ryder held off his opposite number to score in the corner, too far out for the conversion. Rangers were then reduced to eleven men on 45 minutes as prop Victor retaliated to a strong challenge and was binned. Bramley threw everything at the home line in search of a score with James Brown and Richard Hulme both going close, but the scrambling home defence was very impressive and stood firm. Lee St Hilaire then made a great relieving break, but was held down as he tried to play the ball quickly and Barrett kicked the easy penalty on 51 minutes.
The referee was in danger of losing control of the game as both sets of players became frustrated with the decisions. The Buffaloes repelled further Underbank attacks but for once their attacking options came up short in the face of some last ditch and Buffaloes-esque type defence.
A further Barrett penalty on the hour took Rangers out to a 22-16 lead. Rangers were reduced to twelve players again when Vinaka was dispatched to the bin. However Underbank increased their lead further in his absence on 68 minutes when Barrett kicked another penalty after Hulme, who was badly injured with an ankle injury, was adjudged, to the dismay of all Buffaloes players and supporters, of lying on! This was a vital two points.
The Buffaloes refused to lie down and mounted a massive effort to get back in the game with their man advantage, but Richardson dropped the ball with the line beckoning in front of him on 74 minutes, this proved to be a costly miss. Five minutes later Richardson did cross after receiving a great offload in the tackle from Brown. Drake converted magnificently from the farmer’s field, but time ran out for the Buffaloes in their effort to snatch the win. A full blooded encounter witnessed by a large and vociferous crowd, which was ultimately a poor spectacle as a result of some poor officiating. Credit to Rangers though for a top effort and both teams could easily meet again in this season’s Grand Final.
Game star: Splendid defence work from Craig Williams, Dave Valentine and Sam Housley led the home side’s rearguard with 35, 61 and 38 tackles respectively as they stifled the Buffaloes’ potent offence. Great efforts from both Simon Speight and Robin Wilkes of the Buffaloes and once again James Brown proved difficult to close down.
Game breaker: It is a toss up between the decision to penalise an injured Richard Hulme and thereby allow rangers to extend their lead to 8 points, or, uncharacteristically John Richardson’s drop ball when a certain try looked on after 74 minutes.
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers: 1. Nathan Williams, 2. Joe Worthington, 3. Alex Chatterton, 4. Adam Ryder, 5. Richard Aka, 6. Neil Barrett, 7. Tom Antony, 8. Dave Valentine, 9. Adam Carroll, 10. Victor Smith, 11. Sam Housey, 12. Craig Williams, 13. Lee St Hilaire, Subs: (all used) 14. Stephen Berry, 15. Napoleoni Vinaka, 16. Paul Horsfall, 17. Leon Alexis-Bailey.
Tries: Worthington (15 & 30), Chatterton (33), Ryder (42)
Goals: Barrett 4/7
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Nick Fontaine, 2. Andy McGann, 3. John Richardson, 4. Jimmy Waddington, 5. Alistair James, 6. Paul Drake, 7. Graham Harrison, 8. Richard Leese, 9. Richard Hulme, 10. Danny Mitchell, 11. Simon Speight, 12. Robin Wilkes, 13. Dan Caston, Subs: (all used) 14. Craig Green, 15. James Brown, 16. Junior Brandford.
Tries: Caston (6), Richardson (26 & 79)
Goals: Drake 5/5
Final score: 24-22
Referee: Danny Tindall
Penalty Count: 16(9)-12(7)
Sin-Bin: Caston (Buffaloes) 11 mins, Antony (Underbank) 38 mins, Smith (Underbank) 45 mins, Vinaka (Underbank) 65 mins
Man of the Match:
Huddersfield Underbank Rangers: Alex Chatterton
Bramley Buffaloes: John Richardson