After the horror of watching London Skolars lose to Gateshead Thunder by a mere 60 points I drove to Enfield with a small sense of dread. The opponents for the afternoon were the York Knights, the team sitting at the top of the table having played 14 and won 11. The fixture had the potential to be a nightmare! The day was a big one for the Skolars with the U12’s playing the Brentwood Eels before the Mini and Junior section awards. Lads from the U9 age group up to the U17’s were recognised for their efforts during the season. What struck me was the true family nature of the day, something that can only be good for the local community.
And so to the game, no ‘sulking’ in my report this week, as Skolars produced a much better performance. York kicked off and started with an error – the ball going straight over the line. Skolars weren’t able to take advantage of the resulting field position. York came close to scoring but knocked on close to the try line. Mike Bishay showed the anything Matty Smith of Wigan can do he can, in kicking a great 40/20. Again, the advantage was lost as Tely Pelo dropped the ball in the tackle. York were awarded a penalty towards the end of their set for interference, luckily Joe Pickets dropped the ball. The theme of losing the ball continued on both teams’ parts which it has to be said was a tad frustrating as a spectator. The Skolars were awarded a penalty for what looked like a dropped ball by them; but justice was served as the kick on the last tackle went straight to Ben Dent, he wasn’t pressurised at all as he took the ball. Jack Lee for York was the first to score; the officials had ignored a high tackle in the build up to the try, playing advantage I presume. Ben Reynolds added the extras.
Ant Cox, again playing out of his usual position had a great run, with a great kick on the last following; forcing a goal line drop out. Skolars went close through Martyn Smith; Mufaro Mvududu showed his pace making a great break, Cox again took the ball on. York knocked the ball on as Ryan McDonald attacked. And Courtney Davies looked to have scored, but the pass from John Paxton was forward. That was a much better passage of play by the home team. However York came straight back at Skolars, after a lucky bounce of the ball Pat Smith scored the try. Ben Reynolds converted to take the score to Skolars 0 Knights 12. Skolars were making hard work of things and were penalised in the tackle, my notes say – ‘they’re just not tackling legs’. Now I must confess I’ve never actually tackled anyone but I’ve watched enough rugby to know you can’t run without your legs! Brad Day made the most of a poorly executed tackle as the ball popped out, to run in and score an easy try. As well as tackling legs it’s pretty key to tackle the ‘man and ball’ the result of not doing so in this case led to 6 points for York as Ben Reynolds converted. In spite of the tries scored by York one of the key talking points came near to half time as Martyn Smith was tackled – the tackle looked to be a spear tackle, and a nasty one at that! A penalty was awarded, but for an offence that should be a yellow at the very least no card was brandished. Poor decision making by the officials, that style of tackle has to be punished every time and wiped out of the game.
The second half started with a superb running try scored by Colton Roche, a try that wouldn’t have been thwarted by any defence; any 1 of 3 men could have scored. The conversion took York to 24. Brad Day was to add to the agony moments later as Skolars were again penalised for interference, the conversion was a difficult one but Ben Reynolds kicked the ball between the posts. Again to refer to my notes I typed – ‘this could be another painful half of rugby’. However the Day try was to be the last for the visitors as Skolars found some pride. We had a number of errors from York as they kicked straight out, dropped the ball then crossed in the middle of the field after making the half way line on the 1st tackle. A key error was made after Skolars kicked into the York half, the ball was spilled and James Duckworth leapt onto the ball to score. The fight back was on. And it was to be Skolars who scored again after getting a lucky break, when James Ford was deemed offside as he took a floated kick from Mike Bishay. Instead of York racing away to score it was Judd Greenhalgh for Skolars who touched the ball down in style. At this point in the game York seemed to have lost their shape and Skolars had found their determination. There were a few handbags as temperatures were starting to rise after Mike Bishay missed touch after Skolars were awarded a penalty, the handbag exchange was something and nothing and play continued. We had yet another of those ‘magic sponge’ moments that are happening far too often in the games I’m watching, as the York physio rushed on to tend to a player who looked in some difficulty. Yes, the sponge did the trick and yet another player who looked very dazed carried on playing! My soapbox I know, but how long before one of these men collapses?
Skolars had a couple of great attacking opportunities; Lamont Bryan made a good run through but the final kick was poor, Mvududu made another break but threw the final pass into touch, a 3rd attack was foiled after a determined play again by Bryan. Mvududu who had deserved to get his name on the score sheet did so after Skolars had played the ball across the line, in what was one of the best passages of play I’ve seen by Skolars this season. Courtney Davies converted to close the gap to 14 points. That gap was reduced further as Skolars hit straight back again from the kick off; Mike Bishay threw a huge pass to Mvududu who broke the line, Danny Yates had run up the pitch on his shoulder, he touched down and celebrated in some style. The kick was missed, although I have to say from where I was sitting it looked to have sailed over. The final score was London Skolars 20 York Knights 30. Not a win for the home team, but a much better performance than the previous week! With a big local derby against Hemel Stags on the horizon a further lift will be needed.