Deflated Aire struggle at Skipton
By Harley Stevenson-Cocks
The referee is always right
On a crisp November Saturday, Aire travelled through West to North Yorkshire to take on a Skipton team they beat twice last season, but who are sitting a bit more comfortably in the middle of the league table this year. With the Crusaders also away to Skipton, Aireborough were hoping for an away-day double to celebrate on the bus trip home.
In the pack, Christopher Chapman started at 8 with Jonny Mackey moving to the flank alongside Philip Shopland-Reed, Jonny Hiles found himself back in the second row alongside Fred Armstrong after a stint on the wing last week, and Lewis Eastwood, Nick Jackson and Martyn Booth continued as usual in the front row. In the backs, newbie Joe White started at centre alongside Lewis Myers meaning Jamie Sykes shifted onto the wing alongside Kris Brook and Harley Stevenson-Cocks in the back three, with Stuart Wilson and Ollie Catherall continuing their half-back partnership.
Skipton kicked off into the chilly breeze, but the kick failed to travel the requisite 10m giving Aire a midfield scrum with space either side to attack. A solid platform from the pack allowed scrum-half Stuart Wilson and fullback Harley Stevenson-Cocks to put winger Kris Brook into space down the blind side, and his chip ahead forced Skipton to hack the ball straight out for an Aire throw. From the resultant lineout, Aire applied further pressure and won a penalty bang in front of the posts which captain Ollie Catherall duly converted to make it 0 – 3.
The subsequent kick off this time went long, but Aire cleared easily back to halfway thanks to the boot of Stuart Wilson. Obstruction at the lineout gave Aire a penalty which they nudged into Skipton territory, and again they got themselves into a good attacking position. Some strong carries from the pack and direct running in the backs, newbie Joe White for one causing problems, had Aire on the Skipton line and they were nearly rewarded with a try when hooker Nick Jackson crashed over from close range, although the referee adjudged him to have been held up. Aire, however, had another penalty chance and Ollie Catherall extended the lead to 0 – 6.
Skipton had barely touched the ball by this point, but eventually did find themselves with possession which they retained well, going through over 20 phases near the Aire 22m line. Aire’s defence, however, was rock solid and little ground was being made. Eventually a scrum in the Aire 22m gave both teams a breather from the previous play, but Skipton were back on the attack and their centre eventually crashed over the Aire line, despite seemingly being held up similar to Aire’s disallowed try previously. The conversion was missed for a score of 5 – 6.
Despite Aire’s good defensive work up to that point, Skipton got straight back into the game as repeated tackling led to tired bodies. Spotting disorganised defence at the ruck, Skipton’s pacy scrum-half burst through some flailing Aire arms and had enough pace to make it to the corner for a second try within as many minutes for the home team. The conversion was good, bringing the score to 12 – 6.
The remainder of the half was a disjointed affair, with collapsed mauls not resulting in turnovers and tackled players being allowed plenty of time to play the ball despite attempted jackals. Aire’s most promising attack came towards the end of the half as centre Lewis Myers stepped and outpaced a few defenders to advance 40m upfield to the Skipton 22m. Some phases later, Aire went close but with the line beckoning, Chris Chapman decided to drop the ball rather than touch it down, so the half-time whistle blew with the scores remaining at 12 – 6.
Aire’s half-time team talk focused on upping their efforts to get guards and bodyguards in place at rucks, and trying to retain the ball better in attack. Aire indiscipline, however, stifled their ambitions at the start of the second half and a few offsides and tacklers not rolling gave Skipton kickable penalties which they used to extend their lead to 15 and then 18 – 6.
Skipton, as well as being in the lead, were adapting to the referee’s interpretations better, whereas Aire frustrated themselves by continuing to give penalties away, particularly in attack. Wingers Kris Brook and Jamie Sykes looked lively at times and made yards up the edges, yet support was often slow or low in numbers which allowed Skipton to regularly counter-ruck and rob Aire of any momentum.
One such counter-ruck came after what looked like a dangerous tip-tackle by Skipton, however play continued and a few phases later Skipton found themselves over in the corner having exploited the unorganised Aire defence for a converted try and a 25 – 6 lead.
Aire tried hard to force their way back into the game – notable mentions to Stuart Wilson whose box kicking relieved pressure at important moments, and Lewis Eastwood whose shots in defence regularly put Skipton players down at source. Unfortunately, Aire found themselves down to 14 men when a Christopher Chapman tackle was harshly judged to be high. Skipton kicked for a lineout just outside the Aire 22 and their scrum-half again caught Aire napping, this time on the blind-side to dart down the wing and score in the corner to make it 30 – 6, which was ultimately the final score.
Aire will rue their failure to adapt to the refereeing which allowed Skipton to turn over lots of ball and get on the front foot, especially at key moments when Aire were on the attack. With 4th-placed Leeds Corinthians arriving at Nunroyd next weekend, Aire will need to dust themselves off quickly and gear up for a tough challenge. Kick-off is 2:15pm and all support will be greatly received.
MOTM - Skipton elected Aire captain Ollie Catherall for Man of the Match, for marshalling the game well at ten despite limited attacking opportunities. Ollie was even spotted putting in the odd tackle, though sightings of him competing at rucks are yet to be confirmed.
DOTD - After bombing a try and later being shown a cheese slice, the less glamorous award unsurprisingly went to Christopher Chapman.