Aireborough grind out tough away win at Skipton
By Richard Holmes
Aireborough makes it three in a row with a hard-fought victory in testing weather conditions.
Aireborough made it three wins in a row on Saturday with a narrow 03 – 07 victory away at Skipton RFC in a wind-affected game that made handling and kicking difficult. The victory was even sweeter given the referee’s liking for his yellow card which meant Aireborough spent half of the game with just 14 men.
With Head Coach Si Davies placing emphasis on the expected battle of the forwards by picking a big, yet mobile, pack and opting for all five substitutes to be forwards – it was going to be an afternoon of old school, ball-up-the-jumper style rugby which would leave the pretty boys on the wing bored and cold whilst making the bald, beer-bellied and cauliflower-eared supporters salivating.
Aireborough played the first half with the considerable wind at their backs and, although this wasn’t always an advantage as kicks went too long and long passes went astray, started strongly with a good kick-chase to hem Skipton into their ‘22m. Aireborough went through the phases and Jonny Hiles opened the scoring with a barn-storming three-metre run on the crash ball – which was converted from under the sticks by Ollie Catherall. Seven minutes were gone and Aire were 00 – 07 up; a point a minute and the optimistic Aire supporters, including Jonny’s player sponsor and Aireborough Chairman and stalwart Large, on the sidelines dreaming of an 80 point victory.
It wasn’t to be unfortunately as whilst Aireborough huffed and puffed, resolute Skipton defence and some questionable player decisions thwarted Aire’s attacks as they failed to take full advantage of the wind behind their backs. The left-right footed kicking combo of Ollie Catherall at fly-half and inside centre Nick Holdsworth gave Aireborough good field position during the first half and Antony Clitheroe dazzled the watching spectators in the main stand with some twinkle toes to leave his man flat footed but his kick forward when confronted by the covering Skipton full-back went over the dead ball line.
Aireborough’s cause in the first half wasn’t helped by poor discipline and a no-nosensne referee who needed no excuse to go the pocket. Nick Jackson was first into the sin bin, an unlucky recipient of the cheese slice after substitute and jet-lag sufferer Charlie Middleton racked up a number of successive penalties and Chunky’s misdemeanour was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Aireborough saw out the rest of the first half with Skipton rarely troubling Aireborough – they seemed almost content to play against the wind in the first-half; playing a game of damage limitation before playing with the wind in the second half to hopefully win the game. Their full-back’s whoop at halftime and exclamation that it would be a ‘very long second half with only a seven-point lead’ further evidence of this plan.
HT: Skipton 00 – 07 Aireborough
Aireborough kicked off into the wind in the second half and the two teams were soon land-locked in midfield as the two sets of forwards cancelled each other out. Jonny Hiles, who the cameraman clearly had a thing for given he was in half of the photos, impressed in the lineout and Chunky, rested after his sin-binning, turned over the ball for fun.
Aireborough were down to 14 men (again) as Wild Bill Child was sin-binned for a seemingly excellent covering tackle (judge high) as he bundled the Skipton winger into touch as Skipton began to get the ball wide and test Aireborough’s flank – having tried, and failed, to go through Aireborough.
Skipton were wayward with a penalty attempt from near the half-way line but did reduce the deficit to 03 – 07 with 25 minutes to go with a successful penalty closer to the Aireborough posts. Despite having the wind at their backs, Skipton were unable to assert real pressure on the Aireborough line for much, if any of the second half, with Aireborough putting bodies, and heads, on the line in a solid defence performance.
As Skipton tired, Aireborough began to assert their own pressure on Skipton as they looked to kill the game. Lewis Barrett, Aireborough’s own Sonny Bill Williams and foreign superstar, broke the gain line with impressive crash ball and the forwards were unlucky with a couple of rolling mauls as the Skipton defence held strong. During this period, Aireborough were again down to reduced numbers as Martyn Booth and then Jonny Hiles were sin-binned for offences adjudged yellow-worthy.
The game ended in almost farcical circumstances. Philip Shopland-Reed excellently turned the ball over just outside Aire’s ‘22m, and as handbags were thrown as the Skipton frustration boiled over, Matty Jones was ‘floored’ by the Skipton fullback after an exchange of words. Elsewhere, Jonny Mackey was discussing politics and fine wines with some sort of ogre-like creature that had resided at outside centre for Skipton. Was the Skipton full back yellow carded? Who knows… red carded? Who knows… given a “stern talking to”? Who knows....
Anyway… Aireborough scrummed from the penalty and Adam Jackson picked and went from the base of the scrum – the ball was recycled and Nick Holdsworth kicked the ball to touch and the referee brought the game to a close.
FT: Skipton 03 – 07 Aireborough
Man of the Match: Nick Jackson – lineouts were (on the whole) spot on and his work in open play, especially defence, was excellent; although I did always think that forwards kicking the ball was frowned upon (exhibit A, your honour, at the top of this page). I’m sure if everyone had a 10-minute break then we could all get around the park a bit quicker to impress Si on the touchline but hey ho…….. ;-)
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Brown Ale Moment: Where to start… it sums up the day when, despite a victory and some tremendous defence, there are contenders for the Brown Ale Moment too numerous to mention… (Although I will try).
The four lads who received yellow cards (Nick Jackson, Bill Child, Martyn Booth and Jonny Hiles) were in the mix. As was Stuart Wilson who kept trying to box kick into a gale force wind and wondering why the ball went either directly into touch or backwards… Or maybe it was our superstar Lewis Barrett who spent the first half trying to cuddle his opposite number… Matty Jones also threw his hat into the ring by adopting the foetal position, sucking on his thumb and crying for his mummy after being punched by the smallest man on the field …
However, the prize(!?) this week goes to Captain Ollie Catherall who had a momentary brain fart in the second half when fielding a clearing Skipton kick – despite having support to his right when faced with one opposition chaser Ollie, forgetting he’s a Yorkshire Division 3 player and not a World Cup-winning Kiwi playing for the Barbarians at Twickenham, tried a one-handed fake pass (I think… although there’s no actual word for what he attempted to do) but ended up with egg on his face as he dropped the ball – much to the delight of the watching horde in the main stand! Please kids... don't try that at home