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RUGBY UNION: The long and winding (and winning) road!

North Ribblesdale 6 – 26 Beverley (Saturday December 2)

Beverley travelled across to Settle for their longest trip of the season to take on North Ribblesdale in this Yorkshire Division 1 match. And they had a much changed side due to several injuries and unavailability (perhaps, due to the distance, mainly the latter!)

Showing eight changes, Beverley took time to settle, but did keep up their custom of conceding a third minute penalty which the Ribblesdale No 10 duly converted to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Ribblesdale continued to press and looked extremely lively in the opening stages. And when the Beavers did get possession they were thwarted by some tenacious tackling from Ribblesdale’s defence and it looked as though the first half would end up at that scoreline.

However, after 37 minutes Beverley’s most fluid move of the half saw Luke Hazell make the breakthrough on the left-wing to touch down in the corner to give them a somewhat fortunate half time lead of 5-3.

The second half proved to be a different matter and after an early Ribblesdale attack Beverley moved the ball up field and Raymond Coates (a.k.a. Chav) scored a good forward’s try, which Phil Duboulay converted (12-3). Five minutes later Ribblesdale came back and, from a penalty, No 10 Mickey Thwaite reduced the arrears to 6-12.

Play was pretty even and Ribblesdale certainly did not look like a struggling team. They are a youngish side and played with a great deal of enthusiasm. Fortunately for Beverley, when they looked like scoring they had a tendency to spill the ball!

Beverley gradually began to impose themselves on the game and after 70 minutes Sam Fell scuttled over from a maul to score a try which Phil Duboulay converted to make it 19-6 and put some clear water between the sides for the first time in the match. Beverley then pressed hard for the bonus point try which eventually came with the last play of the match through a Jack Howdle try, again converted by Phil Duboulay to make the final score 26-6.

Sadly, the gloomy weather prevented us admiring the scenery on the drive over to Settle and, although the game itself was a little dour, the hospitality and friendliness of the North Ribblesdale club officials and supporters, together with the result, made the trip worthwhile.

Sam Fell was man of the match for Beverley and it was particularly nice to see Junior Tupai and James Mackay, two Bandits veterans, helping out and both lasting the full 80 minutes, which just proves there is no substitute for class and experience.

The next match for the Beavers is at home next Saturday to Wheatley Hills, kick-off 2.15 p.m.