Saturday saw the Woldsmen travel north in confident mood, after last weeks emphatic win over local rivals Bridlington, to take on the bottom-placed side Consett.
Robson held his place in the front row with skipper Mewburn starting for the first time since injury and Rowbottom making his debut in the centres.
Although Consett are at the foot of the table, the travellers were under no illusion that this game would be easy, remembering that in the game at Kelleythorpe the side from the north-east had, at one stage, led by twenty points and been good for their lead, before a marvellous fightback from their hosts had sealed a home win.
A strong wind was blowing straight down the ground at the visitors’ backs as they kicked off and it was Consett that hit their stride first, driving the ball upfield. After a prolonged period of home pressure an uncharacteristic missed tackle from the Woldsmen enabled their hosts to thrust deep into Driff 22, where the visitors conceded a penalty that was kicked into the corner. Consett caught the line-out and drove at the Driff line but were met by stout defence that resulted in the attacking side gaining only a five metre scrum.
The Woldsmen’s pack were scrummaging well and put great pressure on the home pack, successfully turning over possession and allowing Furbank to use the wind and clear down field where a good chase from Murray and Robinson limited the Consett full-back to conceding touch on the home side’s 22. The lineout was scrappy, difficult in the conditions, and the wind was causing problems for both sides as they struggled to distribute accurately. At this point exchanges were even with Cullen showing well for the visitors, making his trademark driving runs, and Gray at scrum-half providing a great service for runners either side of him. However, the backs were finding it difficult to hit their rhythms with too many wayward passes and too much loose ball.
As last week, the Woldsmen’s scrum was good with Sam Robson having another good game in the tight. But Driffield’s worrying habit of conceding penalties at the break-down yielded Consett’s next attacking opportunity when they took a quick tap and made good yards deep into Woldsmen territory. Rowbottom put in a great tackle to stunt that attack and they were pushed into touch from the ensuing maul, but the home side were soon on the attack again. This time it was the old warhorse Gray who put in a super cover tackle and great work by Mewburn and Cullen turned over the ball. Good interchange-passing between forwards and backs saw Cooper and Furbank move the ball up-field and, when the home side transgressed at the break-down, Gray was on hand with a quick tap to thrust deeper into enemy territory with Cooper once more on his shoulder. Sadly, in what was to become the story of the day, the attack came to nought and Driffield conceded another penalty.
From this point one got the feeling it wasn’t going to be our day. Brumfield received a yellow card for offside and, shortly after, Consett kicked to the corner and drove over the line for the first score of the day. The conversion sailed over and the visitors were 7-0 down. Consett 7 – 0 Driffield
The loss of Brumfield seemed to give the home side more confidence to strike and the visitors were definitely on their heels. It was Robinson’s turn to put in a desperate tackle to try and stem the black and gold tide, but the home side were attacking with fluidity and moments later, after good interplay, they extended their lead to 14 points with a try just to the right of the posts on the stroke of half time. Consett – 14 – 0 Driffield
The second half started brighter for the visitors as Murray carried well out of defence, and then Mewburn, G made a great break clean through the home defence, carrying the ball up to the 22. But the ball went loose and, from the counter attack down the right hand side, Mewburn, R had to make a diving tackle to put the ball carrier into touch. As a result of this there was an altercation that involved players from both sides, the upshot of which was that Dervey was red-carded leaving the Woldsmen to play the rest of the game with 14 men.
One could sense a feeling of injustice in the visitors as they lifted their game and produced their best ten minutes of the game and, despite being down in numbers put great pressure on their opponents, hitting rucks hard and moving the ball at pace. Good attacking play from both Mewburns, Cullen and Robinson saw a try being scored under the posts to make the conversion easy for Watts and bring Driff within one score Consett 14 – 7 Driffield.
Driffield continued to press from the restart, playing into the wind made it easier to handle the ball but, as it had been all day, the home defence was good and when Consett intercepted a pass it was Watts that had to be on hand to make the cover tackle to halt proceedings. Every time it looked like the visitors were building a good platform from which to attack, a loose pass or turn-over would stunt it. Murray made good yards up-field but the ball was lost and kicked down field.
Driffield tried to run out of defence but another wayward pass went straight into touch. Defending their own line the boys worked valiantly but Consett had them pinned at the wrong end of the field. Eventually Driff relieved the pressure with a good steal by Mewburn and patiently worked their way up the field. Time was getting very short but the large band of traveling support still had hope that the boys could knick a draw at the death. Gray was working his socks off to keep his side attacking but, as they got within spitting distance of the try line, a pass was spilt and a scrum awarded to Consett.
Unperturbed, Brumfield struck against the head only to have the referee whistle for a reset scrum, awarding the put in to the home side. This time they won the ball and punched it downfield in what was to be the last play of the game. The home side rubbed salt into the Woldsmen’s wounds when, after the kick return had made it up to the ten metre line, the ball was spilt and the Consett second row calmly dropped a goal from 40 metres to deny Driff the bonus point. Consett 17 – 7 Driffield
This had been a really difficult day for the Woldsmen. They have no-one to blame but themselves for a stuttering and under par performance. This takes nothing away from Consett who play a good brand of rugby that certainly, over the two games against the Driffield, belies their lowly league position. I think they will surprise a few more teams before the end of the season. There were as ever good individual performances from Driffield but we will have to find more cohesion before next week’s clash with Morley .