BEVERLEY Under-18 Colts suffered a narrow 18-17 defeat in an exciting but ultimately frustrating Yorkshire Bowl Final against Huddersfield at Moortown on Saturday.
Both teams earned the praise of the YRFU for the quality and spirit displayed with one describing it as “the best Bowl Final I have ever seen” but the last kick 35-metre penalty to give the Beavers victory that went millimetres the wrong of the post summed up their game for however hard they tried to shake the opposition off, they couldn’t quite do it. And for that the West Yorkshire team deserve great credit.
Beverley started strongly and dominated the opening 20 minutes as driving runs from the likes of Keegan Foster, Alex Morris, Tom Jackson and Mobo Abayomi opened up gaps in a committed Huddersfield defence.
Flanker Charlie Fish was winning useful ball on the ground while Rhys Innes was making good wins in the lineouts. And they took the lead when Foster slipped the ball to scrum half Charlie Rawlins who raced over for a try, converted by Alex Hodgkinson.
The Beavers always looked dangerous when they moved the ball wide but Huddersfield hung in there and began to launch their own attacks. The Beverley defence was solid with skipper Will Dobson, Hodgkinson, Foster, Ifan Downey, Richardson and Spencer Roberts putting in useful hits.
However, a couple of chances went begging through sloppy handling and the team began to get on the wrong side of some refereeing decisions surrounding offside and rucks.
A great run by Abayomi saw him find Hodgkinson who charged over only for the try to be disallowed after Abayomi was deemed to have put a toe in touch. Huddersfield then scored a penalty but a break by Theo Richardson sent Brandon Leggett weaving his way over the line for an unconverted try.
Unfortunately, Beverley then lost full back Tom Johnson to a yellow card for ‘persistent offside’ and the West Yorkshire outfit made the most of the extra man to camp on the Beverley line before squeezing over for an unconverted try to leave the half-time score 12-8 to the Beavers.
It was clear that this game was going to go to the wire but it was Huddersfield who took control for the first 15 minutes after the break. They used the breezy conditions well to send a number of clever kicks that turned the Beverley lads around and kept them moving back. A converted try seven minutes into the half gave them the lead and a penalty made it 18-12.
Beverley dug in and dragged themselves back into the game. Foster was still hitting the defenders hard and from a break Hodgkinson burst down the wing only to be stopped by a great try-saving tackle by the opposition full-back and with no-one in support the chance was lost. Huddersfield then spurned a kickable penalty only to send the kick to touch too far and letting the Beavers off the hook. Minutes later, Jack Gill sliced through to feed Richardson who seemed certain to cross only for the referee to blow for a forward pass.
However, persistence paid off minutes later when Rawlins took a quick tap penalty and dived over for another unconverted try. Leggett then sent Joe Barrett racing away only to be cut down by another superb tackle.
Then, in the final seconds Beverley were awarded a penalty. It was 35 metres out. The crowd hushed. Hodgkinson struck the ball high and mighty. The referee thought he’d got it. Many in the crowd agreed. Then the wind took hold and in the last yard nudged it wide by the thickness of the paint on the post - the narrowest of margins between victory and defeat.
It was a cruel end to a great game but back in the club later it was obvious that the real victory lies in the lads themselves. Many of this team have been together throughout the junior ranks – some even back to the minis. They have been through the ups and downs of defeat, of seasons where numbers were low and some very serious injuries. They persevered and welcomed the new additions that have strengthened the team and led them to one league title, one league runners-up and two cup finals in the last two seasons.
Rugby has helped them all become decent young men and as they now leave for University or employment they will remain a credit to the club and themselves. And that, for the coaches, is probably the greatest victory of all.
PS Many thanks to Andy Innes and coaches Neil and Ian who funded the coach in which the team travelled to the game.