Old Brodleians 3s vs Aireborough Crusaders - 7-15
By James Underwood
The Crusade Continues Through Harsh Winds and Old Brodleians by Matty Jones
After a brilliant start to 2019 away at Baildon, the Crusaders were once again on the road. This time the journey would be much longer and into the home of bad weather that is Halifax, more specifically to Old Brodleians.
Despite some Friday night fears of being short of players, the Crusaders amazingly travelled with 18 players all brimming with quality and confidence after last week. Special mentions to the Aslam brothers, Tom Poole and Mark Rollinson for making themselves available at the very last minute. A brief but comprehensive warm up in the high winds rolling through the valley showed Aire to be in a relaxed but determined mood and that was reflected in the early stages of the game as the Crusaders kicked off down the hill in the first half.
The early stages were played mostly in Brodleians half but neither side were keeping possession for more than a couple of phases as handling errors from Aireborough and tactical kicking from Brodleians kept the game in stalemate. Eventually the possession stats showed (or would have if such things were documented in the merit league) that Aireborough were starting to take control and chances were being made. The best chance of the first quarter fell to Rob Baker after quick hands by fly half Matty Jones and last weeks villain Kamran Aslam opened up space for the welshman to glide over in the corner, unfortunately it wasn’t to be as the ball was spilled agonisingly close to the line.
Eventually Aire would make their dominance in possession and territory count as an inside centre Jay Clay was put through a gap in the middle of the pitch and was brought down inches before the line before reluctant Hooker Ed Brewer picked and went to crash over just to the left of the uprights. The conversion was duly added by Matty Jones despite the strong winds making it difficult to place the ball on a tee.
A small resurgence from Brodleians from the restart had the Crusaders pinned back in their own half and struggling to kick for territory with the strong crossfield wind forcing the ball into touch on the full everytime. Eventually a change in tactic got Aireborough out of trouble as some passes out wide and kick on the run by full back David Krushell caused havoc for the old Brods back 3 and allowed Aire to contain their opponents in their own half. After 10 minutes or so of pressure, a penalty in front of the posts on the stroke of half time was kicked by Matty Jones and Aireborough went into the halftime break in control of the game.
HT Old Brodleians 0 - 10 Aireborough Crusaders
Having been in a similar position last week, Captain James Underwood called for commitment and heart from his Crusaders side that would be up against the slope, wind and a large Old Brodleians pack in the second half. 2 minutes after the kick off the challenge became even sterner as the Brodleians pack got a roll on down the hill and gave position for the backs to make space on the open side before the young full back managed to evade 2 would be tacklers to score in a similar position to Aireborough’s try in the first half.
At this point it should be mentioned that Aireborough had started the game with no front row replacements and were therefore reliant upon props Si Sharp and Tom Helliwell and hooker Ed Brewer to play 80 minutes. With this in mind, it would have been easy for them to try and conserve their energy and not be as involved in the play as normal. This would not be the case as all three players continually made themselves available in attack for ball carrying duties and in defence were a vital part of the solid wall that Aireborough made throughout the rest of the half. These efforts played a huge part in Aireborough turning the play around and forcing Old Brods to repeatedly play out from their own half.
As both sides began to show signs of tiredness the game became more open and Aireborough found more space for the likes of David Krushell, Jay clay and Rob Baker to test the legs of the Brodleians back line. The opposition stood firm in defence but were unable to create a threat in attack as Aireborough kept them from gaining any momentum down the hill. This feat was achieved in no short part by the impressive tackling of Flanker Philip Shopland-Reed, who time after time not only brought down players twice his size but forced them backwards and allowed Aireborough to attack the ruck.
With 22 minutes left, Aireborough managed to turn their strong defensive display into attacking chances and after a few close calls with Si Sharp, James Underwood and Matty Jones all being brought down short of the Old Brods line. Then a some swift hands through the back line found Kamran Aslam (now playing on the wing for the injured Luke Buchan) with a clear run to the line to put Aireborough 8 points ahead. Despite trying to use the wind to his advantage, the conversion narrowly missed but the Crusaders could take heart knowing that their opponents would need to score twice in the final stages to get anything from the match.
As it turned out the final stages would become a midfield battle for the ball as neither side were able to make many yards forward. A late show and go (or doing a Nick Holdsworth, as it is known by many at the club) by fly half Matty Jones showed promise but was thwarted by a scrambling cover defender and the move petered out with a knock on in the next phase. That would turn out to be the last attack of note as soon after the referee (who it must be said had an excellent game) blew the full time whistle to the relief of the Aireborough players who had given everything to come away with the win.
FT Old Brodleians 7 - 15 Aireborough Crusaders
Another outstanding team effort from a Crusaders side that is starting to show the first signs of consistency not only in performance levels but player availability as well. These signs will be tested again next week as the Crusaders play a long overdue home game at Fortress Nunroyd. The visitors will be Huddersfield YMCA who will no doubt be keen to stop the momentum building within the Crusaders camp.
Men of the Match - as with last week at Baildon it was hard to pick stand out performances in such a monumental team effort. Philip Shopland-Reed was colossal in defence, turning grown men into right angles as he chopped them in half. Fred Armstrong was dynamic around the park both sides of the ball. Kamran Aslam went from zero to hero with his performance and game winning try after last weeks moment of madness with his yellow card. But as mentioned earlier it was the unbelievable effort shown by front rowers Si Sharp, Ed Brewer and Tom Helliwell to play 80 minutes with 100% effort and commitment that proved vital to the Crusaders cause. As such, this week the Men of the Match go to the big boys of the front row.