Elland emerged deserved 29-16 victors against Brighouse Rangers in the opening Division One fixture of the Yorkshire Men’s League at a sunny Greetland Community Centre on Saturday.
The hosts had plenty of familiar faces in their ranks, many having played at Illingworth, but it was an Elland product Jack Fairbank at loose forward who was the architect of many of their best moments.
The first half was a scrappy affair with both sides losing the ball in contact but Elland were fastest out of the blocks, scoring an unconverted try in the right corner as Rangers goal line defence was caught napping.
The lead was extended to 10-0 with 20 minutes gone, a grubber through the line ricocheting into an Elland man’s hands. The try was scored by the posts and easily converted.
Rangers started to regain some composure, and human bowling ball Cameron Duffy skittled off several Elland defenders near the line. The conversion went astray, leaving the score at 10-4.
The battle of attrition continued up to the break. Elland’s tactics of putting numbers in the tackle slowed Rangers’ play the ball and their big pack proved hard to handle in the middle of the field. There were no further points scored in the half.
Rangers emerged after the break charged up and with some restored self belief, scoring two quick converted tries to take a 16-10 lead.
First, Lewis Taylor scored from a kick through, then Matty Bailey used his large frame to power over the line. Karl Frankland added both goals.
With the game there to be won, Rangers seemed to self destruct. A series of loose carries combined with strong defence from Elland gifted the hosts possession on multiple occasions, meaning Rangers played for long periods without the ball.
Elland drew level at 16-16, then went 20-16 up with two tries before electing to kick a penalty from in front of the posts to take a 22-16 lead.
With the clock ticking down, Rangers couldn’t really apply any pressure and were engaging the hosts in a forward battle, rather than playing expansively, with limited success.
Elland scored a further try near the end and close to the final whistle sealed the win with a well taken drop goal.
Rangers coach Glenn Barraclough was extremely disappointed, not so much with the result, but the manner of defeat.
Elland deserved the win but Rangers know they have enough talent to produce far better displays than was seen on Saturday.
Rangers face King Cross Park at home next weekend and will need to play a lot better than this to get a win.