Pocklington RUFC claimed a fine 15-5 win at Malton & Norton in very muddy conditions.
Much of rugby’s culture and appeal comes from being a game for all shapes and sizes, and for all conditions - rain or shine.
Pocklington’s early season performances were full of running rugby, the ball zipping around at high speed in brilliant sunshine. Saturday at Malton was the other sort of rugby, driving rain, gluepot pitch and frozen fingers.
Nevertheless, Yara-sponsored Pocklington rose to the occasion against the odds to outplay their local rivals with a performance full of commitment and endeavour and no little skill. And the victory was all the more notable as they had to overcome a 4-1 penalty count in Malton’s favour.
After a spate of injuries in the previous fortnight, Pocklington were unable to finalise their line-up until ten minutes before the start.
The game kicked off in a monsoon as the opening exchanges saw the opposing packs test each other out. But Malton then took the initiative and things were soon looking black for Pocklington as, inside a quarter of an hour, they had gone a try down and lost two more men to injury.
Malton’s first incursion into Pocklington territory saw them run a midfield crash ball and recycle smoothly for an 11th minute try in the left corner, the conversion hitting the post and coming out. Just two minutes more and lock Dan Wilson and fly half Josh Britland were both sidelined with injury.
But Pocklington dug deep and produced a stirring fightback with three well-executed tries in the second quarter, each time the backs doing the approach work and then the forwards taking over to provide the finish.
Pocklington had to reorganise and regroup. But their forwards were always ready and willing to take the ball on up the hill as they started to get good field position in Malton’s half, a couple of key lineout steals helping the cause. The breakthrough finally came in the 22nd minute, centre Joe Holbrough ran hard and straight up the middle,
Eighteen-year-old back row Joe Brown, who tackled, jumped and carried relentlessly all afternoon, drove on into the 22 and two quick passes saw teenage prop Jack Helme plunge over on the blind side.
As the interval approached, Pock produced the move of the day. Scrum half Ben Rees made a long 40 metre break up the left from a scrum deep inside his own half; excellent passing in the conditions saw the ball swung smartly through half a dozen pairs of hands with Jack Holbrough twice involved to the right flank where wing Billy Hardy went hard for the line. And when he was tackled ten metres short, he popped the ball off the floor to supporting hooker Dave Birch who flew over in the corner to cap a stunning 80-yard attack.
Straight away, a long penalty kick from Joe Holbrough forced a lineout five metres out and the Pock pack drove strongly infield before switching back blind for the irrepressible Birch to send lively flanker Ben Stephenson diving over.
Pocklington were upbeat to reach the interval 15-5 ahead and they started the second period down the hill but into the breeze. Their route to victory was built on tenacious tackling and carrying which pinned Malton in their own territory for long periods. Whenever they needed a rallying point, prop Mat Webber was there to drive the ball in and everyone contributed a massive effort as big hits all across the team kept knocking Malton back.
Good play by flanker Jack Holbrough, Helme and returning centre Pete Massie took them to within sight of the Malton line but the ball slipped to ground; then Britland, who had returned after treatment, came close with a chip to the corner.
The clock ticked into the last quarter of an hour with Pocklington still looking in control but the game not yet won.
Pocklington suffered further injury problems as lock Chis Hyde limped off, but they were determined not to let it slip. A couple more penalties gave Malton a lifeline to see them take play to the other end, and though Pock ran the ball out of defence a slipshod pass gave the home side a sniff, only for Pocklington to scramble back and tackle the Malton wing into the corner flag.
It was still in the balance until Malton dropped the ball on the attack, giving Hardy the chance to dribble long and strong down the middle like the centre half he once was.
He ended one-on-one with the home fullback and the ball still at his feet when he was bundled over, leaving his opponent to be yellow carded and Pock to bang the penalty into the corner.
Despite a couple of tired Pock forwards dropping with cramp, they dragged themselves back up and kept going to set up camp inside the home 22. The patched up pack, with skipper Rees now as an emergency flanker, maintained momentum throughout the dying minutes until the sound of the final whistle rewarded them with the spoils.