Aire grind out home win vs Mods
By Harley Stevenson-Cocks
Mods' own chance of Great Escape dented by Aire
Aire returned to winning ways this weekend having ground out a tricky win against Leeds Modernians at Nunroyd Park. Preparation for the game, for the second week in a row, was not ideal, with a number of unavailabilities across the whole club meaning no Crusaders fixture and a reshuffle in the 1st XV. With Charlie Middleton fracturing his heel against Cas last week (best wishes to the "Red Wolf" in his recovery), Crusaders stalwart Ed Brewer was on front row replacement duties. Elsewhere, Mikey Dolan was finally allowed to start in the pack rather than centre. Crusaders captain James Underwood (a scrum-half) was initially named as a back-row replacement, but can thank Philip Shopland-Reed for making himself available and taking over that responsibility. Also amongst the replacements, Joe White managed to turn up to the right place (having missed the Crusaders game last week) AND on time, in what must be a first.
Aire’s warm up was crisp and sharp, unfortunately like the pain in scrum-half Stu Wilson’s groin who exacerbated a niggle from last week and was a late late withdrawal from the team. Adam Bishop was therefore promoted to the starting XV. From the kick-off, it was clear Mods were up for the game as they came firing out the blocks. Mods, bottom of Yorkshire 3, currently occupy the position Aire were in 5 weeks ago, and were evidently looking to turn their season around, as it didn’t take long for them to get on the scoreboard with a converted try after sustained pressure in the opening period. Aire 0 – 7 Mods.
From the restart, Aire exerted good pressure on Mods and they found themselves unable to exit their own half. Eventually the pressure told and Aire forced a kickable penalty for Nick Holdsworth to make it 3 – 7, and later 6 – 7 when Aire again maintained some good field position. The back row of Chris Chapman, Mikey Dolan and Jonny Mackie in particular causing trouble for Mods at the breakdown.
With the breeze slightly in Aire’s favour, intelligent kicking from Ollie Catherall, Nick Holdsworth and Harley Stevenson-Cocks kept Mods trapped in their own half, and pressure on the Mods backline meant Mods were unable to make distance from their clearance attempts. Eventually, Aire won a penalty and from the resulting 5m lineout, got the drive on. Unfortunately, the ball was held up in the maul resulting in a Mods scrum. However, the Aire front row of Rich Lister, Nick Jackson and Martyn Booth turned on the power to push Mods off their own ball. The loose ball from the scrum was quickly picked up by Mikey Dolan and he crashed over the Mods line for a try well converted by Nick Holdsworth for an Aire lead of 13 – 7.
Frustratingly for Aire, Mods got back in the game soon after some uncharacteristic errors fielding kicks from the Aire back three. From one such mistake, Mods snaffled the loose ball and shipped it wide to exploit the Aire defence in disarray for an unconverted try to make it 13 – 12 at half-time.
In the half-time huddle, Aire knew they had to cut out silly errors which were letting Mods into the game, and to keep composure with ball in hand. The second-half thankfully started well for Aire, with the team doing just that and keeping possession in Mods’ half. A penalty for Aire came and Nick Holdsworth extended the lead to 16 – 12.
The 4-point advantage didn’t last long, however, as Mods came back at Aire and forced a penalty of their own to make it a 1-point game again at 16 – 15. However, then came the key score from Aire – with a potentially kickable penalty won (albeit with a tricky wind), Aire nudged it into the corner and backed themselves in the pack, who had been on top of Mods in the set piece all game. The maul from Aire was good and with a metre or so left, Simon Hill did what “Big John” does best and bashed his way over. The tricky conversion was missed, however importantly Mods were a converted try away from taking the lead with the score at 21 – 15.
For the remainder of the match, Mods did their utmost to get said score, hammering away at Aire for the final 15 minutes of the match. Aire’s defence, however, was outstanding, and despite a few penalties conceded they regularly stopped Mods at close range and out wide. A turnover from Aire meant the ball was cleared, however the respite was only temporary as Mods again came back, but Aire held firm and valiantly defended their line. A final turnover came for and the ball was cleared, Aire relieved to have survived a tough test at home against a fired up Mods side.
Full-time result: Aire 21 – 15 Mods.
Aire were far from their best but will be glad to have added another 4 points to their league tally, moving themselves up to 11th. With a week off this coming weekend, Aire will hopefully be refreshed and ready for another tough test away to Thornensians on the 2nd March – travelling support welcome.
MOTM – This week’s MOTM went to scrum-half Adam Bishop, who was thrust into the starting line-up about 5 minutes before kick-off. Bish was exceptional in setting the tempo of the game, distributing well throughout and even putting in the odd hit when needed.
DOTD – The less-wanted award this week was shared between Stu Wilson (the regular recipient of this award last season) for his very late drop out, and Jamie Sykes who turned up at training earlier in the week having used Sellotape to strap his thumb at home, despite the plethora of more suitable strapping (as well as a dedicated physio...) available at the club.