Pressure back on Aire after loss at Thorne
By Harley Stevenson-Cocks
Thorne show Aire how to take their chances
After a tough win against Mods a fortnight ago, Aire probably could have done without a weekend off having put in a rusty showing away at Thorne this past Saturday. From the Mods game, there were a few changes for the Aire lineup, Mikey Dolan returning to the outside centre position with Andy Fuller returning to the pack alongside Fred Armstrong, while on the bench there were returns to the 1st XV for Jonny Hiles and Steffan Newport, with Dan Marchbank in line for a debut.
Thorne kicked off with a strong breeze behind them, meaning Aire were unable to clear their lines from the start and were made to try to play out of their own half. They started this well, putting together a number of phases through the forwards who carried well. Having advanced to near halfway, however, they were immediately sent back when Thorne won a ruck penalty and kicked for touch. From the resulting lineout, Thorne attacked but were well held out by Aire who forced a turnover. Although the scrum platform from Aire was solid, the clearance kick was tricky into the breeze, and Thorne had an opportunity to counter which they did so clinically – quickly spreading the ball wide and exploiting disorganised Aire defence for a converted try.
Aire kicked off and chased well, but with the breeze at their back Thorne were again able to make considerable distance through their kicker. From the lineout, Aire again strung together a number of phases, but were perhaps guilty of being too flat and were unable to make much yardage and Thorne again stole the ball at a ruck for a penalty. The lineout was won and after several phases Thorne were able to burst through for another converted try to extend their lead to 14 – 0.
So far, Aire had done little wrong bar a couple of concentration lapses, however Thorne had been clinical and scored on each of their two opportunities. Aire kicked off again and soon after found themselves with the ball, this time holding their depth a bit more in attack and ensuring Thorne players were cleared out at the ruck. Strong carries from the likes of Simon Hill and Christopher Chapman saw Aire advance and eventually win a penalty about 30m out. A frustrated Thorne player voiced his opinion too loudly and the referee sent them back a further 10m, meaning that even into the wind Ollie Catherall could put Aire on the board to bring the score to 14 – 3.
Aire were soon on the attack again in the Thorne 22, but were turned over and Thorne cleared their lines. Doing what any good fullback shouldn’t do, Harley Stevenson-Cocks misjudged the flight of the ball in spectacularly embarrassing fashion (more on that later) which allowed chasing Thorne players to regather the ball. Aire’s scramble defence held out initially, but after a Thorne scrum and several phases they snuck over at the end of the first half and converted for a somewhat flattering half-time scoreline of 21 – 3.
Aire needed to tighten up and retain their own ball better in the second half if they were to claw their way back into the game, as Thorne had been clinical each time they had the opportunity. With the wind now in their favour, Aire were able to reach good field positions helped by some astute kicking from captain Ollie Catherall. With Thorne now unable to clear well, Aire had an attacking platform at the Thorne 22m. Aire went wide early, however movement was much too lateral which made it easy for Thorne to defend, and things got worse when the final pass out wide was intercepted by the Thorne winger who had the legs (just) to run a try in from 70m to make it 26 – 3.
Aire, frustrated, thankfully did well to rectify their attack in the following minutes. With more direct runners being found, they were able to work themselves into a decent position in midfield which sucked in the Thorne defence. Aire spotted the overlap and the ball was well worked out wide for Ollie Catherall to score unopposed to make it 26 – 8.
The last 20 minutes of the game were very disjointed and frustrating for both teams, with the whistle blowing regularly and for largely unclear reasons. The Thorne crowd, vocal throughout the game, were clearly displeased with some decisions, with one spectator being sent to the clubhouse by the referee. Aire’s own Si Davies would soon volunteer himself to join said spectator when a clear penalty decision against Thorne somehow became a yellow card for Rich Lister and, from the resulting lineout, a further Thorne score put the home team out of reach at 31 – 8.
Aire fought to the final whistle, and credit must go in particular to debutant Dan Marchbank for getting stuck in to win a couple of key turnovers, Jamie Sykes for handling the positional switch to fullback well, and father and son combination Martyn Booth and Ollie Catherall who the Thorne supporters clearly appreciated playing alongside one another.
In the final throes of the match, Aire exploited the same wing they had earlier for a late consolation score out wide through Lewis Myers.
Full-time result: Thorne 31 – 13 Aire.
The final scoreline looked bad but in reality the only real difference between the sides was taking scoring opportunities when on offer, which can be the difference between competing for a top 4 spot (Thorne) and fighting to get out of the bottom 4 (Aire). With Baildon managing a BP win at Sheffield Medicals this weekend, Aire need a big win at home this upcoming Saturday against Skipton (who also won at the weekend) to ease the pressure of relegation. KO 3pm at Nunroyd Park and support, as always, gladly received.
MOTM – Young Jamie Sykes took this week’s MOTM award, threatening with ball in hand and dealing well with a positional switch to fullback in the first half. Jamie also put in a number of well-timed hits in defence to stunt Thorne’s sharp attack.
DOTD – What’s worse than your fullback letting a ball bounce instead of catching it on the full? Attempting to volley it instead. What’s worse than that? Missing said volley. What’s worse than that? Getting injured in the process and having to come off. This week’s DOTD award went to Harley Stevenson-Cocks who embarrassingly managed all of the above.