Beverley knew the visit of Keighley RUFC to Beaver Park was going to be a tough one, both teams prefer to set a platform for fast flowing running and passing rugby, but the lush summer grass has been replaced with squelchy, soft mud, meaning the conditions were not ideal for either team and contributed to many errors in a stop-start uninspiring game. It is a cliché but top teams get their wins when not playing well, and it was of paramount importance that Beverley kept pressure on the top two teams in Yorkshire, and did so with a bonus point win over determined West Yorkshire opponents, 27-12.
Both teams traded blows winning and losing territory for the first 20 minutes, the breakthrough came from a Beverley scrum deep in Keighley territory, quick passing wide to Steve Payne on the wing who went over in the corner. Fifteen minutes later came the next points, Rob Smith playing at Scrum Half made a characteristic darting and dodging line break offloading to Callum Harvey who galloped 30 yards, from the breakdown Flanker Lewis Szrama was able to force his way over the try line, and the kick at goal was successful from inspirational captain and Fly Half Phil Duboulay, 12-0 and into the break. A tough error strung half, and we all hoped better would follow, and knew that Keighley still had points in them.
That said it was Beverley that drew first blood in the second half with a good passing move and line break, the killer pass coming from Colt and man of the match Charlie Rawlings allowing Luke Hazell to finish from 30 yards, splashing down in the muddiest part of the field in front of his adoring fans and family in the south stand, 17-0. There was a sense of security the score line offered was false, and proven to be the case as Keighley entered a purple patch, firstly and rather opportunistically capitalising on a failed Beverley attacking kick intercepted by the effervescent long haired Grayson Tihema, fly half for Keighley who went 70 yards, and then on 67 minutes a second try this time under the posts from a central scrum for George Marshall the visitors scrum half, 17-12 with ten to play and the daylight fading - twitchy bum time!
Step up inspirational leader, Phil Duboulay, who calmly slotted 3 points from an offside penalty to steady the ship, and then with what was the last play of the game decided to deliver the much needed fourth try bonus point, breaking the line, weaving past defenders and accelerating expeditiously to the try line, splashing down under the posts and simultaneously blowing a kiss as he slid through the mud towards the south stand, where his lovely wife Jess was watching, and had just announced she was carrying Phil’s baby – perfect! Phil George refereeing blew his full time whistle after the conversion, 27-12.
Although not a classic game of rugby it was thrilling to the end and the Beverley faithful were rewarded with five points, sitting third in the league with a match in hand over the leaders.
It was particularly pleasing to see ex-Chairman Malcolm Cunningham back at Beaver Park, recovering from a big operation a few months ago. Welcome home Mal. Come back fully fit soon, to do better match reports than these!