Beverley Under-16's were unlucky not to force a draw when they travelled to Sheffield at the weekend losing 26-19. Fielding a committed fifteen, but with no reserves on the bench, meant that this fixture against a strong and well-drilled Sheffield side was going to provide a tough test.
The hosts opened the scoring after 13 minutes with a converted try. Minutes later, territorial gains from the restart and consistent pressure from the forwards saw Alex Crockett force his way over just to the right of the posts, with the conversion added by Tom Barnard. The forwards were working hard at the breakdowns with strong and determined play from Cameron Lawley, Jasper Ghio and Josh Dylan closing down the attacks and fighting hard for turn-over balls in the rucks. The Beverley scrum, with Jack Webster picking up hooker duties, was solid, and scrum-half Adam Skeates had another solid performance putting his opposite number under consistent pressure.
Despite all of this, and even though Ben Walker and Ben Wilkinson were helping Beverley to dominate most of the line-outs, Sheffield were able to secure enough ball in open play to release their backs not once, but twice, with two converted tries coming in quick succession to leave Beverley trailing by 14 points at half-time.
A high, attacking kick from Barnard to start the second half was followed-up well by the forwards, who were beginning to set the pace of the game. After a tense 10 minutes, and with Beverley pressuring the Sheffield lines, the ball was finally spun out to Ben Ashley on the right wing who broke through the defence tackles to score out wide. Sheffield retaliated by bringing on several fresh replacements and trying to increase the tempo of the game. Beverley did well to endure the subsequent onslaught, with Sheffield camped in the Beverley 22 for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, the pressure was too much and Sheffield crossed for their 4th try; with the conversion arcing wide, their lead was back up to 14 points. More pressure from Sheffield after the restart saw them threatening to increase their lead still further before a turnover, and a strong run from centre Gabriel Bejarano saw him cut through the Sheffield lines before being brought down just a few metres short of the try line. This show of determination seemed to rejuvenate Beverley who stopped Sheffield from clearing their lines effectively and began to set up repeated phases of attack. A short, well-timed ball to Barnard allowed him to hit the defence obliquely and at pace, and to break through the Sheffield defence. With the subsequent conversion kick Barnard reduced the deficit to just 7 points. The final 10 minutes were tense, with Beverley arguably on top. A move initiated by Dylan Ross, when he released Barnard into acres of space with just the Sheffield full-back to beat, was deemed to have been set in motion by a forward pass.
Then, in the dying minutes, a Beverley free-kick was hoisted from inside the Beverley half to within a few metres of the Sheffield try-line. Unfortunately it landed just inside the touch-line and bounced in-field where it was pounced on by a relieved Sheffield defence, effectively signalling the end of Beverley’s chances to force a draw from this hard-fought game.
Another excellent game of rugby to watch. Both teams played with passion and determination in a match that was conducted in the true spirit of the game. Although trailing on the scoreboard, the margins between the teams were very slight and Beverley were unlucky not to have been able to force a draw. Every one of the 15 members of the team can be justifiably proud of their performance. It certainly seems like the fitness training is paying off!