Old Rishworthians 38-38 Beverley

Not necessarily the sort of last game Director of Rugby John Harris would have wished for before retiring after his long and devoted stint with the club. What promised to be an open encounter with plenty of running rugby in fine conditions with nothing at stake for either side sadly descended into a farcical finish. It is not for players, spectators, or match reporters to question the referee’s decisions but the sight of the referee’s arm shooting up for a penalty against Beverley – overall an average of roughly once every three minutes – did nothing for the game as a spectacle. Or indeed as a proper contest. It was a pity because both sides played the game in a great spirit and gave it everything.

It was tough on Beverley because they had led throughout the match, at one stage being 24-5 up. Phil Duboulay put them ahead with what turned out to be one of their only two or so awarded penalties of the game and Dan Lee went over for a try to give them a 10 point lead after a quarter of an hour. Most of Rishworthians’ pressure was coming through their forwards and they struck back with a try from a drive to the line after some astute play by their fly-half, probably their outstanding player.

Converted tries by Jacob Baggs and Luke Hazell, his 100th try for the club, took Beverley well clear to 24-5. Beverley were playing with the greater freedom and clearly had the edge and superior speed in the backs. With ball in hand and an open field further scores always looked to be on the cards. It was upfront where Rishworthians posed the greatest threat repeatedly pounding forward and retaining possession well. Two tries in the last few minutes of the first half and they were suddenly right back in it at 19-24.

Early in the second half, Beverley were soon stretching clear again through a remarkable try by Baggs who sprinted practically the full length of the field sweeping aside one defender after another down the touchline. A fourth home try once again kept the home side in touch only for Hazell to race over from his own half to give Beverley more breathing space at 26-38.

After that, it was all downhill. Penalties came thicker and faster along with a flourish of yellow cards and lecturing of players. Somewhat inevitably two penalty kicks to the corner resulted in Rishworthians scoring two further converted tries, the second of which brought them level. A final kickable penalty at the death then gave them the opportunity to snatch an unlikely victory but fortunately for Beverley the kick went wide, perhaps a divine intervention as a gesture of justice.

As for the man of the match, it might well have been Hazell for his fine achievement in reaching a century of tries for the club, or it might have been Baggs for his wonderful try. But given the referee’s prominence throughout and his remarkable afternoon performance with the whistle realistically there could only be one candidate. Rishworthians should also perhaps be complimented for committing no more than about two penalty offences in the entire game, surely something never achieved before. Not that it looked that way from the touchline.

So the season ends on a slightly disappointing note. From the results point of view, it has not been a great year but repeated problems with player availability has played a significant part. In any event, this season has been one largely of developing a new structure at the club with the coaching and player participation. The fruits of this are clearly beginning to show. Craig Hancock together with his coaching team have achieved a great deal in a short time and Beverley perhaps with a bit of strengthening here and there now look to have the making of a good side. There is at any rate every cause for optimism when the new season gets underway in September.

John Nursey