Beverley RUFC Under-15’s travelled to Rotherham losing out 34-29 only in the last play of the match. Taking the game to Rotherham from the kick-off, good movement through the backs allowed fly-half Tom Barnard to give the Beavers an early lead through a converted try. It was ten minutes of tense rugby before a brief drop in concentration allowed the heavy Rotherham pack to push through for their first score of the day. Beverley responded well, pinning Rotherham down from the restart, and then stretching their lead through a strong, arcing run from centre Nathan Cullen. Gathering Rotherham’s restart, Beverley progressed doggedly up-field, with strong running from prop Harrison Petrie making significant ground and eventually putting captain Ben Wilkinson in under the posts just four minutes later for their third try of the morning (converted by Barnard).
Taking a 19-5 lead into half-time, Beverley were looking comfortable, and showing signs of playing at the levels that they know they are capable of. Play from the forwards was looking tight and controlled, with strong scrummaging and good clean line-out ball. There was some great tackling and carrying from lock Josh Dillon, and from Wilkinson and Ben walker in the back row, whilst the backs were also looking confident with big hits going in from Barnard and the centre pairing of Cullen and Sam Acaster. Adam Skeates at scrum half was doing well to get the ball away from the break-downs despite constant encroaching by the Rotherham forwards.
However, just four minutes into the second half, a speculative break down Rotherham’s left wing allowed them to cut wide round Beverley’s defences. Unfortunately, the referee appeared oblivious to the two knock-ons on their way through, and they completed the play with an unconverted score out wide. Beverley restarted well, but failed to capitalise on their forward momentum and another turnover by the Rotherham pack allowed a break from their backs to get up to terminal velocity and slice though the Beverley line. A desperate chase from Barnard saw him hold the ball up over the Beverley line, but the try was awarded nevertheless. A high, hanging restart saw left wing Ben Ashley almost gather the ball directly, but good line speed from Beverley saw them rewarded with good field position which they held through strong tackling and rucking from the forwards. Rotherham were rocked back on their heels, and Barnard took the chance to dance through for his second try of the morning, his conversion kick fading just left of the uprights .Barnard kept his focus and, gathering the ball from Rotherham’s restart, showed great pace and determination to run nearly 60m up the pitch and complete his hat-trick under the posts. Unfortunately a back injury sustained as he was tackled over the try line meant Barnard had to leave the field, and Dillon was unlucky to strike the right post with his
conversion attempt. With the Beverley backs forced to re-organise, the clock began to run agonisingly slowly as Rotherham clawed back first one, and then two unconverted tries, leaving them just two points adrift. Despite the half having already run 30 minutes, the referee found time to allow yet one more re-start. Rotherham shipped the ball wide to their left wing and, despite a desperate cross-field run and cover tackle from prop Jasper Ghio, scrambled the ball over the Beverley try line to take the lead for the first and only time in the match, leaving the referee to finally blow for full time with the score 34-29 to Rotherham.
Man of the match went to Barnard, but there were a number of other excellent individual performances, and some great interplay and support work in both the forwards and backs. An entertaining and fast-paced match to watch, it was hard to see how the result had swung so dramatically in the final quarter. With Beverley clearly being the stronger team for most of the match, and the undeniable role played by some of the refereeing decisions, this was perhaps a moral victory for the Beverley u15s. However, the scoreboard doesn’t lie and, ultimately, it was a hard loss to shoulder. Once again, the team has some clear work-ons, especially in communication and commitment, that need to be addressed ahead of next week’s Yorkshire Cup match against West Park Leeds, back at Beaver Park. This developing and maturing squad will undoubtedly absorb these lessons and come back more resolute and focused, and demonstrate the progress that they’ve made.