Pocklington recorded a hard-earned victory at Huddersfield YMCA, though they were frustrated that their second half pressure did not bring them a fourth try and bonus point.
The two sides have become keen rivals in recent years and when Pocklington played at Huddersfield last season they were locked in a promotion dogfight before going up together into Yorkshire One.
This game lacked the intensity of 12 months ago, but it was nevertheless keenly-contested and, though Pocklington always looked to have the edge, the game remained in the balance right to the end. Pocklington battered at the home line but Huddersfield hung on and always posed a threat on the breakaway.
Pocklington needed a late reshuffle due to leading scorer Nick Bennett suffering an accident at work. However, they were the first to show and looked likely to score on a couple of occasions early on. Centre Tim Nixon was stopped just inside the home half but his strength kept him going and it was another 30 yards upfield before he was finally brought to ground. The Pocklington forwards twice tried to muscle through, then they were stopped on the line from a quick tap. But Pocklington then gave away possession and allowed Huddersfield to break clear up the left touchline and they had to scramble back to halt the danger on halfway.
But, in the seventh minute, Pocklington gifted the home side the lead with a converted try. They turned over a home lineout but were unable to clear and the hopeful home kick downfield that followed looked well-covered by two Pocklington defenders, but they lost their bearings and somehow allowed Huddersfield to steal in for the score.
Pocklington hit back immediately. The Pocklington lineout was a rich source of possession on both throws and, from another clean catch, Joe Holbrough fed his brother Jack, normally a flanker but playing at centre in the revamped line-up, who broke through in midfield and sent wing Billy Hardy flying over in the left corner.
The low sun and cold conditions - the frost had just eased enough for the game to go ahead - made open play difficult but Hardy could have easily had a hat-trick inside the first quarter. Pocklington got the play wide left on half a dozen occasions from passing moves or hanging kicks but somehow the ball evaded the wing at the vital moment. Pocklington’s big tackles in midfield kept them on the front foot, though they had a brief scare when YM hacked a loose ball upfield until Joe Holbrough got back to clear.
Pocklington came again through centre Jake Bishop’s break, and Marcus Britland and Ben Rees twice combined from the base of a scrum to drive at the heart of the home defence. But, once again, Pocklington lost the ball with the line in sight and Huddersfield cleared to maintain their 7-5 lead at the interval.
Pocklington resumed the offensive after the break. Their forwards battered at the Huddersfield line in the right corner, and eventually the ball came out to the backs where the Holbrough brothers ran a midfield scissors for man-of-the-match Jack to charge through to score midway out.
A needless penalty let Huddersfield straight back in. They kicked to the corner, won a rare lineout and a slick back move produced a try under the posts to regain the lead at 14-10.
Pocklington were stung into response and livened things up as they brought on their replacements and again reshuffled the team. A 30-yard catch and drive took play back to the home line where they blew the chance by going off their feet a yard out. Another pack drive was close but not close enough, but Nixon took the ball up the middle and a neat inside pass from scrum half Rees saw Jack Holbrough, now back at flanker, wrestle over, Joe Holbrough converting.
However, Pocklington failed to close out the game and get the extra point as they bombed more good opportunites late on. Nixon stumbled as he looked to be winning the chase for a kick ahead, then fullback Kevin Walton was caught a yard out. Huddersfield were hanging on and finally had a forward yellow-carded for persistent offside.
The Pocklington forwards failed to take advantage of the extra man and Huddersfield still posed a breakaway threat. A good Pocklington move saw the ball passed through a dozen pairs of hands before Hardy was forced into the flag as he went for the corner. Then Joe Holbrough’s dummy parted the YM cover only for him to lose the ball as he went through the gap.
The final play summed up the day. Pocklington exerted more sustained pressure in the bottom corner, lost posession and Huddersfield scrambled the ball into touch.
Paradoxically, Huddersfield were probably more satisfield with their losing bonus point than Pocklington were with their four points for the victory. Nevertheless, the result, Pocklington’s ninth successive league win, moved them level on points with Driffield, who were frozen off, and Pocklington take over second place in the Yorkshire One table due to having recorded an extra victory - Pocklington having won 13 of their 17 fixtures and Driffield 12 of their 16.