Sweeney penalties bring narrow win

Ripon v Old Crossleyans' Craig Heppenstall and  and Joslin Landu
Ripon v Old Crossleyans' Craig Heppenstall and and Joslin Landu
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Old Crossleyans retained the Albert Gibson Memorial Trophy with a hard fought 9-7 victory at Ripon’s Mallorie Park ground yesterday.

For their fifth game in succession the margin of victory or defeat was three points or less, Crocs holding on to start the new year with a win following two narrow defeats.

Both teams contributed to an entertaining game where defences dominated and try scoring opportunities were at a premium.

Ultimately, Gareth Sweeney’s faultless kicking performance secured the points but the whole team contributed to a win which cemented Crocs’ position in Yorkshire Two’s top four.

Crocs applied early pressure with patient and well organised building of the phases and Lewis Sharpe cut inside from his wing position to take play deep into the Ripon half.

The home team responded. They kicked a penalty to the corner, only to be penalised for an infringement at the lineout.

Shortly after they broke through the Crocs’ midfield but knocked on when in a promising position.

Both teams were showing attacking intent but the defences held firm as Crocs’ backs combined to surge into Ripon territory.

The opening score came on the quarter hour when, following a Crocs’ spilled ball, a Ripon player kicked the ball towards the try line and the referee awarded a penalty try having adjudged he was prevented from scoring by a retreating defender. Ripon had a 7-0 lead and Crocs were temporarily down to 14 having had a man yellow carded.

Ripon knocked on from the restart and this heralded a period of Crocs’ pressure. They pummelled the home defence but the line held firm.

When Crocs were penalised for offside and then a high tackle, Ripon kicked to the corner but spilled the ball in the face of effective tackling.

Crocs were still struggling with their line out but with ball in hand they were looking to move it at every opportunity. Freddy Walker, making his debut in the centre, caught the eye when he sliced through the midfield.

Just after the half hour Ripon were penalised in front of the posts and Sweeney reduced the deficit to 7-3.

Approaching half time Ripon had a man yellow carded. The numerical advantage counted and Sweeney landed his second penalty when Ripon were offside. He then showed composure in defence, clearing with the final play of the half.

Shortly after the restart Crocs squandered a clear opportunity. Ryan Hammond blasted his way through the Ripon cover but the supporting runner was unable to gather the pass.

The Crocs’ pack was beginning to assert some dominance and the visitors took the lead with a third Sweeney penalty following a flurry of infringements from the home side.

The slim 9-7 lead on 50 minutes turned out to be the final score.

Ripon came back strongly and again kicked to the corner when Crocs were penalised for offside in midfield. Brilliant defence forced turnover ball and a long clearance kick relieved the pressure.

Ripon kept coming back, trying in vain to unlock the resolute defensive line. Having once more kicked to the corner they recycled patiently only for a superb tackle from Cam Brannan to force a turnover.

Ripon’s best opportunity came when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts but the kick was pulled wide before Crocs controlled the closing minutes of the game.

Full back Callum Dunne sprinted into the Ripon half and Ryan Hammond continued the move to establish possession and territory to see out the final phases of a keenly contested game.

Goole visit Broomfield next week, just one point behind Crocs in a finely poised league table.