Aire get bogged down in Pontefract stalemate
By Granville Sellers
Two tries apiece in frustrating encounter
Pontefract 10 v Aire 10
Aire travelled to Pontefract minus skipper Johnny Ivory and power house 2nd rowers Miles Sexton & Jake Baker. Aire pipped their hosts to victory last season, so the lads were in no doubt that they would be in for a tough game. The pre match warm up revealed that Pontefract had some big & well drilled lads in their pack, who were complimented by pace in the backs.
Aire got off to a bright start and their pack provided a good platform for scrum half Spencer Wood to effectively distribute to the back line. Aire gained momentum and trundled forward with menace, to set up good field position in Pontefract’s 22. The ball was fed to speedster winger Felix Kraam , who stepped and scythed his was through several defenders, but was stopped 10m out. Stand in skipper Eddie Farnell has been in great form and was on hand to receive the ball and showed a turn of speed to score in the left corner.
Aire fielded the re-start and again pushed forward and probed deep into their opponents territory. Aire were applying the pressure; however alack of accuracy gifted Pontefract possession in broken field. Ponte identified a mismatch in Aire's defensive line and released their winger, who showed great gas to outpace Aire’s desperate cover to score a well taken try from 75m.
The game then became a bit of an arm wrestle, with Aire being in the receiving end of some very marginal decisions. To compound matters, Aire lost stand off playmaker Eliot Bunn to what looked like a jarred shoulder, so the back line had to reorganised.
Given the conversion situation, the teams went in at half time drawing & Aire knew they would have to fight for everything in the 2nd period.
The 2nd half started very much like the before the break, with Aire having the better of the exchanges only to be frustrated by mistakes or contentious decisions.This combination meant that Aire lost good attacking opportunities and with it their composure . Tempers frayed and the game became fractious; however full back Felix Kraam kept his cool to scoop up a loose ball and outpace several defenders to score under the sticks.
Pontefract are not the type of team to buckle and cane back fighting at the re-start. Aire didn’t help themselves and some poor kicking gave Ponte’s back 3 a good attacking platform. Aire were under the pump, but back rowers Joe Priestley, Haydon Picket and Tom Hirst put in some solid tackles to stem several powerful drives. Aire's injury woes continued, with dynamo winger Jacob Bevan forced off to be replaced by wrecking ball Lewis Watson.
As the game unfolded, the penalty count against Aire grew with alarming regularity, some of which were justified but some of which seemed unduly harsh. Ponte seized upon the penalty count and Aire's frustration, which led to them having good field position and attacking opportunities. Aire were pinned down in their half and Ponte seized upon a loss of concentration and fizzed the ball wide to score the equaliser.
Aire rallied and in the dying minutes of the match found themselves in Ponte territory, but with time running out made some poor decisions and basic mistakes and could not execute their chances for the winner. The last play saw Felix Kraam make a break down the right & with only 10m to go it looked like a try was on the cards; however a last gasp tackle dislodged the ball & the final whistle was blown.
With the non conversion position the game finished 2 tries each, although this is a game which (partly for reasons beyond the lads control) got away from Aire. Having said that the Pontefract lads stood firm and showed great passion, commitment & clinical execution when it mattered.
Thankfully Eliot’s shoulder isn’t thought to be serious and we wish him well in his recovery.
Aire entertain Whitley Bay next Sunday with 12 KO at Fortress Nunroyd.