09/09/17 Tigers 1st XV 22 v 18 Sheffield
April brought news of Tigers’ great escape with a win on the last day of the season, meanwhile, Sheffield edged a nail biting play-off game to secure promotion to National 2 North. One thing was for sure, both sets of fans would have been salivating at the prospect of yet another two local derbies for the city. Fast forward five months and Dore Moor was host to the first of these encounters. Tigers had a tough opener to the season with a 38-5 loss at the hands of a strong Sedgley Park outfit. Meanwhile Sheffield will consider themselves unlucky not to have got off to a winning start as they were edged out 31-32 by Luctonians, but the result will have demonstrated to many that Sheffield mean business in this league and are set to be competitive. Tigers made four changes to the starting line up from last week with Lee Monks replacing the injured Louis Townsend, Frank Wragg and Lee Orton partnering up in the second row, while in the backs Mark Ireland donned the familiar number 10 shirt having recovered from a broken hand.
The drizzle didn’t keep the crowds away as home, away and neutral fans from across the city converged on Dore Moor. Tigers kicked off playing away from the clubhouse as they sought to seize the early initiative. A stolen lineout from Frank Wragg in midfield put the home team on the front foot and following a quick tap penalty from Ryan Holmes, Liam Wallace made penetrating headway into the Sheffield half. The ball was eventually turned over but the early signs looked good for the home side. Two minutes later a clean lineout at the tail allowed a strong carry from Joe Symcox before the ball was moved wide to Curtis Wilson who broke the line to feed Pete Swatkins who strolled in on the right for the opening score of the game. The conversion from Mark Ireland sailed agonisingly wide of the uprights to leave the score at 5-0. After a shaky start, Sheffield were beginning to ease themselves into the game and looked to have the upper hand at scrum time, but following some well-constructed attacking phases in the Tigers half, a penalty gave the home defence some respite. The scrum was proving difficult to referee and when on twelve minutes Mr Walbaum blew for an infringement, it was Tigers who benefited with a penalty within kicking range. This time Ireland made no mistake and slotted the ball between the uprights to extend the lead to 8-0. Sheffield were intent on making a game of things and from the kick off regained possession to make inroads deep into the Tigers half. A penalty kicked to touch gave field position for the forwards to mount a driving assault on the home side’s line. The ball was moved wide as the visitors probed the Tigers defence and following multiple phases in the tight, the pressure eventually told as Fergus Wood found a gap to touch down to the right of the sticks, 8-5. The conversion was missed but the visitors had their tails up as Tigers struggled to retain possession and gain territory. Further waves of attack from the Abbeydale outfit was resulting in an escalating penalty count for the home side and when a further infringement was called under the sticks, Mr Walbaum should have been reaching to his pocket. Instead just a penalty was deemed sufficient and Hodgson duly dispatched the kick to level the scores at 8-8. Sheffield were beginning to dominate possession as the Tigers pack struggled to get a foothold in the game. However, some expansive attacking play in midfield saw a loose pass intercepted by Tiger's substitute Henri Packard who hasn’t lost his pace after 6 months out with injury, he raced 50m to touch down against the run of play. Ireland added the extras to extend the home side's lead to 15-8 as the interval approached. It was Sheffield who had the last word of the half when following yet another Tigers infringement, Hodgson clawed back three points with the boot as oranges were called (Half time score 15-11).
The Tigers faithful would have been hoping for a vast improvement in the second half, but it was Sheffield who started the brightest as they picked up where they left off, dominating possession and making inroads deep into the Tigers half. The driving lineout was becoming key as the Tigers pack were forced to repel wave after wave of forward rumbles. However, from a felled lineout illegal activity was suspected and Mr Walbaum didn’t hesitate as he dispatched Frank Wragg for a ten minute breather. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession the Abbeydale outfit could not find a way through and convert the pressure into points. Credit must go to the Tigers defence as some full throttle tackles were keeping the line in tact with Wallace and Jamie Broadley leading the way. The second half deadlock was eventually broken on 67 minutes when following multiple phases by the visiting forwards, a hard line from substitute Jonny France saw him break through and stretch to touch the ball down over the whitewash. With the conversion successful, Tigers found themselves behind 15-18 for the first time in the match, but this appeared to spark the men from Dore Moor into action. Possession was regained from the kick off and for the first time in the half the home side started to build phases with strong carries from forwards Ed Simmons, Lee Monks and Symcox. A break down the right from Broadley saw the ball quickly recycled eventually leading to scrum-half Holmes squeezing through a gap at the ruck to touch down. Ireland made no mistake with the kick as Tigers were back in front 22-18, much to the delight of the home crowd. The men from Abbeydale were certainly not beaten yet and came fighting back with some penetrating carries through the midfield. Infringements afforded the visitors the field position to mount one final lineout attack to snatch the victory, but the Tigers defence held out. Following a knock on and the ensuing scrum, Steve Walker dispatched the ball into the car park of the Door Moor Inn as Mr Walbaum blew for time.
While a win in any derby match is one to be treasured, Tigers will be disappointed in their performance having limped to victory. Work to reduce the penalty count and make improvements at the scrum and lineout will be top of the list for training on Tuesday at Dore Moor. Sheffield committed themselves admirably and despite dominating, will feel this was another game that got away as prolonged periods of territory and possession could not be converted into points.
Scorers: Tries: Holmes (1), Packard (1), Swatkins (1)
Conversions: Ireland (2)
Penalties: Ireland (1)
Team: Bennett, Coates (Thornton), Simmons, Wragg, Orton, Symcox(J) (Langan), Monks, Walker, Holmes, Ireland, Wilson, Wallace, Broadley, Mellor (Graham) , Swatkins (Packard)
Replacements: Thornton, Archer, Langan, Packard, Graham
Man of the match - Joe Symcox
Match Report: Andy Barnes
02/09/17 Tigers 1st XV 5 v 38 Sedgley Park
It was always going to be a hard ask against a side who only 3 years ago were in National 1 and have finished 3 and 4 in N2N in the last 2 years respectively … and it was!
Sedgley kicked off and immediately showed their pace and physicality by closing down Jamie Broadley. Tigers won the scrum and Steve Walker picked up and made a powerful run but, as the ball was passed out, Tigers knocked on. It was to become a repetitive theme together with a high penalty count. Tigers struggled to get and retain the ball but good breaks by Greg Mellor, Liam Wallace and Broadley gave hope that it was going to be a tight game. Another promising attack by Wallace, backed up by Louis Townsend, was halted after Will Bennett and the Sedgley 13 – Richard Wainwright - clashed heads. Bennett walked away but the Sedgley player was left lying on the floor and emergency attention was required. Unfortunately, he was in a bad way and left the field on a stretcher. Tigers recent investment in a board together with air and gas had proved its worth after just 9 minutes of the new season. The game was delayed for 15 minutes and on the resumption Sedgley seemed to have decided on their tactics. Don’t kick the ball to Peter Swatkins but pressurise the Tigers back line and scrum. The oppositions 5 and 8 were proving effective in stifling Tigers attacks as well as making powerful runs of their own. Then the inevitable happened. From a penalty Sedgley had a lineout in the Tigers 22m and set up a rolling maul. Tigers were penalised for collapsing the maul and Sedgley kicked to the corner. From the resulting rolling maul Tigers found themselves 7 – 0 down as the Sedgley hooker went over and the fullback converted. Sedgley now exerted pressure and from another rolling maul were held up over the line. The resultant scrum resulted in the ball going out along the Sedgley backs and their centre crossed the line for another converted try to make it 14 – 0 after 23 minutes. From the restart Tigers launched a good attack with backs and forwards combining. As Townsend was tackled he went down in agony but the referee allowed play to continue. With 14 men Tigers now had to defend as Sedgley attacked again. Eventually the ball went in to touch but still, with Townsend rolling in agony, the referee waved play on. Tigers were penalised at the lineout for offside and Tigers finally managed to get Lee Orton on to replace Townsend. From the penalty you can probably guess what Sedgley did. From the driving maul Tigers were penalised and Steve Walker was yellow carded. The resulting lineout led to an inevitable driving maul and the visitors were 19 - 0 ahead as the conversion was missed. Tigers now launched some attacks of their own with Swatkins, Curtis Wilson, Wallace, Broadley and Jake Lamb all contributing. Similarly, the forwards were working hard and, although outsized, were holding their own. Tom Coates, as ever, was putting himself around the pitch with tackles and runs. Good breaks by Tigers were, too often, ending with lost ball or penalties which gave the opposition easy ground. Half-time came and it was time for Tigers to regroup.
The second half started in a similar vein to how the first half finished – although Tigers were giving away fewer penalties. Wilson started to show his power and pace with some strong runs. Joe Duffy replaced Lamb at fly-half, Ross Thornton replaced hooker Coates and Tigers continued to attack. Sedgley decided, for once, to kick their way out of trouble and launched a long kick downfield. Swatkins ran across to cover it but just couldn’t take it on the full and, as rugby balls do, it bounced over his head and sideways in field. The Sedgley winger had chased down to follow up the kick and said thanks as it dropped into his arms and he scored a converted try under the posts. 26 – 0 with 29 minutes left to play. Townsend bravely tried to come back on in place of Al Symcox but after just 2 minutes was replaced by Coates who played the rest of the game in the backrow. The hard-working Ed Simmons was replaced by Will Archer but this failed to affect the Sedgley forwards. They again won clean ball and set their backs in motion. The fullback came into the line and chipped over the defenders to gather the ball and touch down for another try which was not converted to make it 31 - 0. Tigers continued to attack and a good move saw the ball go through the backs but eventually Sedgley conceded the penalty for not releasing and Tigers kicked the ball for a 5m lineout. The ball was overthrown and Sedgley kicked downfield. Tigers, unfortunately, knocked on and had to defend a concerted attack. Alex Graham came on for Greg Mellor and looked lively in attack but the Sedgley juggernaut just kept on coming as a miss move saw the winger cut through the line for another converted try to take it to 38 - 0. Tigers now went for all-out attack and at last looked like the side at the end of last season. A good break by Wallace found the ball in the hands of Wilson who made ground and got the ball away for the attack to continue until it was stopped by a Sedgley player going over the ball. From the penalty Tigers attacked again but this time Wilson was forced into touch. Undaunted Tigers attacked again with Sedgley conceding another penalty and losing a player to the bin. With one last flourish the backs swept forward and Graham crossed the line for an unconverted try and the game finished 38 - 5.
Sedgley were a big, fit and well drilled side that will certainly be battling it out at the top at the end of the season. Whether they were 33 points better is open to conjecture but the basic mistakes made by Tigers certainly helped. The ball got turned over and knocked on too often and Tigers conceded a lot of penalties in the first half. The pack put in a sterling performance although clearly under pressure. The backs showed a lot of potential but it might take time for the new players to gel into the team. With Sheffield the visitors next week it’s a process that needs to happen quickly.
Scorers: Tries: Graham (1)
Team: Bennett, Coates (Thornton), Simmons (Archer), Ellis, Symcox(A), Townsend (Orton), Symcox(J), Walker, Holmes, Lamb (Duffy), Wilson, Wallace, Broadley, Mellor (Graham), Swatkins
Replacements: Thornton, Archer, Orton, Duffy, Graham
Man of the match - Will Bennett
Match Report: Graham Cockshutt