Vine points vital for Crocs

Crocs scrum half Chris Vine
Crocs scrum half Chris Vine

Old Crossleyans beat Driffield by two points for the second time this season on a red letter day for local clubs.

Calderdale’s six rugby union first teams all won their league encounters on Saturday, spearheaded by the Broomfield men who were 26-24 winners in North One East at Broomfield.

Crocs, who had won a dramatic contest at Driffield by 24-22 on November 2, had their usual patched-up side.

Gareth Ott, Mark Palmer, Rory Davis and Chris Wood all returned but the absentees were added to when Billy Hammond was injured in training on Thursday and new dad Chris Jones withdrew an hour before kick-off.

Ott had a lively game at stand off but his half-back partner Chris Vine played even better, producing a faultless display of goal-kicking and scoring probably the best try of the match on his way to a 21-point haul.

The lineout was another key area with Crocs repeatedly stealing Driffield ball. That extra possession enabled Crocs to enjoy a territorial advantage for much of the match and although Driffield defended extremely well, Vine made them pay when they were offside.

A Driffield side three places below Crocs in ninth and with 13 points fewer looked the more potent with the ball in hand and took just six minutes to get on the scoreboard, speedy fullback Jordan McGregor scoring wide on the right. McGregor’s conversion attempt hit a post.

The hosts replied with a Vine penalty on 13 minutes and twice worked openings for Gareth Sweeney near the top touchline but the cover was sound on the first occasion and the winger was unable to hold the pass on the second.

Ott was happy to kick to touch with Driffield losing four lineouts in a row on their own throw and intense Crocs forward pressure eventually yielded a try for Ollie Coyne five metres to the left of the posts. Vine’s conversion made it 10-5 after 37 minutes.

However, Driffield again showed how dangerous they could be in possession. A rushed Crocs clearance kick failed to find touch and the East Yorkshire side returned the ball with interest, stand off Mick Brown touching down.

McGregor’s conversion gave Driffield a 12-10 interval lead and the visitors kept up the good work on the resumption, scrum half Joe Shepherdson scooting over following a ruck close to the home line.

Trailing 17-10, Crocs had work to do. Fullback Joe Baker’s good touchfinder led to three points from an easy Vine penalty and the number nine added another seven points on 56 minutes.

The try came after No 8 Tony Oxley, the best forward on the pitch, went digging for the ball on half-way and won a penalty. Crocs took a quick tap and Richard Wheale and replacement Chris Seymour set up Vine to surge through wide on the right and cut back towards the posts before touching down.

Centre Jack Hammond made a 50 metre break and although a wild pass was intercepted, Crocs were soon back on the attack and the sure-footed Vine kicked penalties on 72 and 74 minutes to extend the home lead to 26-17.

After a lengthy stoppage for an injury to home lock Chris Wood, Driffield picked up two deserved match points in the closing stages.

A McGregor penalty which would have put the visitors in losing bonus point territory struck an upright.

However, the number 15 got his side there anyway - and added a four-try bonus point - when he crossed the line after the tiring Crocs had been outflanked on their left.

Injuries were taking their toll on Crocs, forcing coach Neil Spence to make a rare playing appearance in the closing moments, but the home side held out to the relief of their supporters.