Aire break their duck and snatch late victory - Tom Clayton
By Si Davies
Coming into the sixth round of the league season, Aireborough were winless.
Hoping to end the poor run of form, changes had been made to the squad, seeing three players make debuts for the club, including colts Dan Walker and Freddie Armstrong, as well as Steffan Newport.
The Wolfpack were quietly confident with the squad that had been named for the tie with Sheffield Medics, including an illustrious return for the Fridge himself, Adam Jackson.
Aire played with the wind in the first half, and didn’t take long to assert their strength up front. The visitors brought the big guns out quickly, as Si Hill and Luke Exley dragged Aireborough in close to the Medics line, before Harley Stevenson-Cocks ran the perfect ‘heads’ line to score under the posts. Kick converted by Nick Holdsworth. 0-7
The Wolfpack could have been in again, but for Si Hill’s blunder over the line two minutes later. Hill claimed to have had the ball knocked away by the Medics defender, but we all saw him hit it against his own knee and miss out on a clear as day try.
Medics were constantly pegged back and couldn’t handle the strength up front by Aireborough, but a lucky break down their left wing saw them out-run the defence and go in for 7.
It didn’t take long for Aireborough to be back in ‘plus territory’, once again camped on the Medics line. Another good line from Charlie Middleton saw the prop go over for the side’s second try of the day. Holdsworth converted, 7-14.
Medics soon had a second try, from virtually the same situation; the kick from out wide was missed. 12-14
Before half time, the try count continued to build. Nick Holdsworth spotted the gap out wide and reached out to score after a swift pass from the most experienced player on the team, and the day’s captain, Stu Wilson. The kick was impressively converted from the touchline by Holdsworth himself.
Minutes later, Jonny Mackey was over, this time a little closer in, and Holdsworth, once again, converted.
Before half time, Medics were over again, another carbon copy of their previous tries.
HT – Sheffield Medics 19 – 28 Aireborough
Aireborough made a statement at the start of the second half, scoring from a well-worked move from the back of the dominant scrum. A nice outside combination of Harley Stevenson-Cocks and Steffan Newport saw the debutant over in the corner before the front row had emerged from the scrum. Holdsworth missed against the wind from touch. 19-33
Following on from this, Medics came back, using their fitness to turn the tide of the game. They scored two quick tries, one of which converted to bring the score to a tight 31-33.
With 12 minutes to play, captain Stu Wilson committed what can only be described as a ‘professional foul’ and was sent to the sin bin, to return with only two minutes to go.
During Medics’ longest stay in Aire’s half (around 5 minutes) a crucial penalty was conceded on the Aire 22 and the home side’s kicker slotted the ball between the posts. 34-33 with 5 minutes left.
Aire were galvanised with the return of Wilson and were stuck in the middle of the park with time running low.
A rare penalty was given the wolfpack’s way, and with time almost up, Holdsworth kicked for the corner.
A trademark Wolfpack catch and drive saw the visitors go in close. At this point, the hosts were holding strong.
Step up Jonny Mackey, who let Nick Jackson draw in the defence with a pick and drive from the ruck, before gathering the ball quickly and carrying over two defenders to score on the last play. The kick was missed from touch.
FT Sheffield Medics 34 – 38 Aireborough
It may have taken six rounds, but Aire are off the mark. The win came from an impressive and dominant display, particularly from the forward pack. The back-rowers were immense at the breakdown and any combination of the front-five were far too much for the Medics pack, carrying what seemed to be around a 20-stone weight advantage.
The game was controlled well between Wilson and Holdsworth at 9 and 10, bringing the backs into the match. This gave Dan Walker and Steff Newport the chance to impress on the outside, something they did and then some. Freddie Armstrong also showed that he will quickly become a competitor for starting positions in the starting pack.
Man of the Match – Coach Si Davies said “This was a really tough decision because it was a great team effort with a lot of players stepping up to the plate (Notable mentions to Jonny Mackey, Stu Wilson, Mikey Dolan, Nick Holdsworth and a special mention to Andy Fuller). I'll go however with Dan Walker who, on his senior debut, playing out of position didn't look out of place in senior rugby and the Medics backs never got through his channel with the help of Nick and Harley.”