Pocklington RUFC U1519
If last week’s win away to Doncaster was special, this victory at home to Middlesbrough was heroic. This match was Pocklington’s season in microcosm; on the back foot in the early stages, maintaining discipline and gradually gaining a foothold in the middle period of the game, and finally coming out both triumphant and dominant. In short, improving minute by minute. Even better, this victory earned them a chance at silverware.
It could be argued that better sides had graced the Yorkshire Plate this season than those displaced by Pocklington. It could be claimed that they had not yet been tested, but Middlesbrough were a different prospect with big wins posted against two good sides in Harrogate and Otley in the run up to this match.
The team from Teesside signalled their intentions early on with an easy try when their big centre trundled through a clear gap in the home defence. The fear was that the hosts would not learn from this early setback, but there appears to be a new maturity to the side, and they plugged the gaps and began to make progress up the pitch.
John Soanes struck back with a determined run through the heart of the visitors to score under the posts, giving James Hanley a relatively easy conversion, and Pocklington a precious two-point lead.
Middlesbrough piled on the pressure, but in a period of ferocious and desperate defending in the home 22, with Joshua Parkinson tackling like a demon, the hosts maintained their shape and discipline to hold the visitors out and preserve the lead until half time.
In persistent rain, handling the ball must have been a problem, but Pocklington began to move the ball and turn the tables on their opponents. Sustained pressure in the Middlesbrough 22 gained its rewards when Soanes pounced on a wayward pass and flicked the ball up to James Glew to fight his way in to score in the corner. Where the visitors began to tire, and perhaps their heads went down, the hosts were buoyed by the try and upped their game, becoming stronger and stronger as the game wore on.
Only once, in the second half did Middlesbrough threaten as Pocklington were forced backwards into their own half through a series of misplaced and fumbled passes, but Tom Hesmondhalgh cleaned up well to snuff out the threat. The forwards were winning good, clean possession and creating forward momentum.
Prop Sam Garvey even found time and energy to stretch his legs as he took an interception and set off down the line like a winger, but it came to nought as he was bundled into touch before he could get clear. Three times the ball was fly-hacked through the visitors’ defence and it became increasingly difficult to discern which side had touched down, so muddy had their shirts become, but the hosts failed to increase their lead on each occasion.
Finally, the breakthrough came when Finlay Mooney was fed from a scrum, and released George Alport who spurned the open space on the outside for the more challenging route to the try line through the Middlesbrough tackles.
Hanley scored the difficult conversion to ensure victory and a place in the Yorkshire Plate final.
The players trooped off the pitch to proud applause, and the celebrations in the changing room were, rightfully, long and loud.