Rugby Result: Rosslyn Park 36 Macclesfield 11
Loyal supporters rewarded by super performance
Rosslyn Park’s smallest crowd of the season were rewarded for defying the icy breeze (and missing 6-Nations rugby on TV) by a super performance against distinctly smart opposition. It was easy to see why Hartpury have been one of the in-form teams of late, and yet Park put 6 tries on them with some top notch rugby.
Park got off to a calamitous start, allowing the Hartpury kick off to go into touch inside the home 22, then knocking-on at the resulting line-out and finally conceding a penalty at the consequent scrum. Hartpury full-back Gareth Thompson judged a difficult kick perfectly to put his side 3-0 ahead on only 3 minutes.
Retribution was swift. A super run from midfield by Park scrum half Luke Carter took the ball almost to the line, where the forwards set up a good drive. Hartpury defended well but had no answer when the ball was whipped across to the left of the posts where winger Dave Vincent evaded a tackle to go over. Fly half Scott Sneddon added the conversion for 7-3 on 5 minutes.
Hartpury’s restart was a mirror image of the kick off, but this time Hugo Ellis got under it. Possibly the safest pair of hands in the side, he spilled the swirling ball forward, resulting in a scrum and a reprise of the first penalty by Thompson to narrow the score to 7-6 on 8 minutes.
Park were soon back about their business, gaining a penalty in midfield, hoisted to touch in the opposition 22. From the throw the forwards drove on and flanker Sam Shires touched down. The referee was poorly positioned but allowed the effort after consulting the nearest touch judge. Sneddon’s difficult conversion attempt hit the post but Park led by 12-6 on 12 minutes.
Hartpury had come to play good attacking rugby, and only midfield tackling of the highest order kept them at bay. However fly half Mitch Burton conjured a score for them with a superbly flighted cross-kick that was inch perfect for Thompson, galloping up the left wing, to take in his stride for a super try in the corner. He could not convert his own effort, but it was 12-11 on 16 minutes.
Park replied with a good attack that won a scrum close to the opposition line but Hartpury defended well. However, Park soon returned and nearly scored but for the referee being unsighted. From the resulting scrum Park forced a penalty, which Sneddon used to set up the catch-and-drive and eventually hooker Adam Bellamy was driven over. Sneddon’s conversion attempt went narrowly wide for 17-11 on 26 minutes.
Both sides tried to add to their scores before the interval, but defences held solid.
Park nearly made a dream start to the second half with a break from the ever-menacing Kiba Richards, who committed the defence but, with flying winger Adam Field outside him, the final pass under pressure did not quite go to hand.
It was the home side that made the vital breakthrough with a penetrating sprint up the left by Carter, who found Vincent inside him. The winger slipped the ball onto lock Will Bowley who galloped over. The conversion attempt was narrowly wide but Park led by 22-11 on 50 minutes.
Park looked to have broken their opponents when a super run through the middle by centre Mark Ireland, was taken up by Vincent to set up a drive close to the line. The referee did not enjoy the best of luck with his positioning all afternoon: three times in less than a minute Park appeared to touch down, the first two he disallowed but the third time he was again unsighted. This last one brought a 5-metre scrum and the home pack drove over for Ellis to touch down, much to the relief of a frustrated home bench. Sneddon converted for 29-11 on 58 minutes.
Hartpury proved to be resilient opponents and simply refused to lie down, forcing the home side to show their best defensive skills, albeit mostly in midfield rather than in the danger area. The Gloucestershire side are probably the fittest in the division and it was immensely to the home side’s credit that at no stage did they show any sign of cracking.
Eventually Hartpury were caught offside on half way and the penalty was cracked to the corner. Park drove over but the ball was spilled, and then they got penalised at the resulting 5-metre scrum. Park insisted on having the last say, returning to throw the ball around in the opposing 22 until Ellis came onto the ball at speed and his raw power brushed off an attempted tackle as he went over. Sneddon’s conversion brought the final whistle at 36-11.
It was a deeply impressive display by Rosslyn Park, with the final score hardly reflecting the quality of the opposition.
March 17, 2015