Pocklington end on a high note




Pocklington wrapped up the Yorkshire Division One championship with another hard-earned win at Knottingley - their 17th successive league victory of a memorable campaign.

It was a typical Pocklington performance. They moved impressively into the lead with some excellent high-tempo attacking rugby, then got dragged into a dogfight by determined Knottingley to be behind at the break, before pulling away again with a powerful performance in the final quarter.

Injuries ruled out regular kicker Nick Bennett and key back row Jack Holbrough, with Charlie Allen and Dan Wilson coming in, and when Pocklington were penalised three times in quick succession, Knottingley kicked a fourth minute goal to take the lead.

But Pocklington were soon on track. A good steal at the breakdown on halfway, followed by quick hands along the threequarters saw fullback Allen come into the line at the perfect place and had time to scythe through to the posts. The Pock pack then pushed Knottingley’s eight off the ball at the first scrum to release wingers Billy Hardy and Dan Pickard to run hard down both flanks, before more high-tempo handling and support play extended the lead. The pack made a series of thrusts up the middle, then the ball came out right to the backs on the 22 where fly half Joe Holbrough used his centre as a foil in a loop and run around that took him clean through to score.

Pocklington looked in control and heading for a big win as they launched more waves of attacks at the end of the first quarter.

Holbrough was again through to score after another back move, only to be brought back for crossing, then slick hands in midfield got Hardy away on the right, but he was dragged down a few feet short.

However, Knottingley, despite suffering a couple of early injury problems, dragged themselves back into contention as the half progressed. The penalties, particularly at the lineout, continued to go the way of the home side and, for a quarter of an hour, there were no scrums for the Pocklington front five to beat their opponents.

Knottingley kicked another penalty to close the gap then camped in Pock territory as the interval approached. Home runners had been smashed back by strong Pocklington tackles throughout the first half hour, but Knottingley then started to find some gaps. The home backs were twice almost through before they got the ball away from a two-man tackle and had their right wing free to dive in at the flag. The touchline conversion sailed over for Knottingley to lead 13-10 at the break.

The interval team talk gave Pocklington the chance to refocus and get back to basics. Normal service was resumed at the start of the second half as Pocklington pressed the kick off and forced a penalty. It was kicked to the 22, a catch and drive surged up to the line where Knottingley collapsed to stop the score. Pocklington opted to take a scrum from the penalty and the pack duly marched their opponents back for No 8 Wilson to claim the pushover try, Allen converting.

A good attack from a back row turnover was thwarted when Pocklington were penalised for backchat, and another flurry of penalties to Knottingley gave them three long-range pots at goal - one went over to close the gap to a single point.

Pocklington again had to regroup and forwards Dave Birch and Karl Durkin both came close on the right. The breakthrough finally came as Durkin ran strongly from the tail of a lineout, centre Tim Nixon took it on up the middle and, after forwards Mat Webber and Chris Morton had been held close to the home line, Knottingley finally ran out of defenders and scrum half Ben Rees strolled over, Allen kicking a good conversion.

Pocklington then kicked on to find another gear, with replacement back row Ben Stephenson making an immediate impact and the set scrummage still driving Knottingley backwards. A strong attack saw Allen wriggle over the line only to be held up and dispossessed in goal, then Durkin and Stephenson twice raided down the right before Knottingley prevented a clear score with a deliberate knock on.

The penalty was kicked to the corner, the pack gathered and drove, and Chris Morton burrowed through to touchdown. To their credit, Knottingley kept plugging away and made a couple of breakaways that forced Pocklington to scramble back to thwart. But Pocklington finished on a high note as hooker Birch looped round to take a lineout ball off the top and, on a virtuoso gallop, he produced a dummy and shimmy before accelerating away to the posts for Pocklington’s sixth try, replacement Henry Mitchell knocking over the conversion to complete proceedings.