The 1st XV trip to Durham City had to be postponed early in the day, when two Driffield players tested positive for Covid so the planned trip could not go ahead. Driffield had been hoping to get back into the action and continue their winning streak to maintain their position at the top of the league.
The game would have seen the welcome return of Robbie Rix and a debut game for his brother, Harry. The match will be rescheduled, probably for early February.
So, the 2nd XV was the senior side playing on the day, and fielded a strong side with six replacements to take on York who had finished top of the first half of the season’s league. This made it a game not to be taken lightly, even with the advantage of home territory.
The game saw the return from injury of Ben Johnson and Guy Brumfield, and two sets of brothers playing in the team : Alex and Matthew Rowbottom and Tom and Jack Sowersby. Jack Webster made his debut for the team, playing only his second game of senior rugby.
With the forecast for the day showing rain all day, the pitch was always going to be wet, but it stopped just before kick-off to make better conditions although the pitch was soft under foot.
York were straight out of the blocks and their forwards imposed themselves on the game, taking good advantage of the softer conditions. On the contrary, Driffield were slow to start, and the slippery ball and conditions made handling errors easy, and repeatedly cost them any territory they had managed to make.
The visitors therefore had the better of the game for 30 minutes although strong Driffield defence, a feature of Driffield play this season, held them out. Eventually York found a way through to give them a five-point lead.
This stung Driffield into action and they changed their tactics, starting to play for field position and kicking York back deep. This allowed the game to open up, and gave Driffield the space and confidence to run at York.
The results showed in the last ten minutes of the half with the Rowbottoms claiming a try each to give Driffield a 10-5 lead at half-time.
In the second half of the game, the superior fitness of the Driffield squad and the abundance of replacements showed, and York were consistently on their back foot. Driffield’s forwards started to match the opposition, allowing a better platform for the backs to run from.
York’s plight was not helped when one of their forwards was given yellow for persistent back-chat – he will not have been popular with his team mates in the changing room after the game for increasing the pressure on them.
Four further Driffield tries came at regular intervals during the second half. The first was from a ball worked along the three-quarters. Short, always a strong runner whose strength allows him to break tackles, made space down the left side and galloped forty yards to round the defence and dot the ball down near the sticks, allowing a straightforward conversion by Sowersby.
Next, at a five-yard scrum, Johnson broke from eight and used his size and power to get to the line for the try and an easy conversion, again by Sowersby.
It was York’s turn to score next. After a long period of pressure in their own 22, and with no thought of kicking for territory, they attacked from defence in Barbarians’ style. An outrageously bold, and successful, looping reverse pass found the outside centre. He surged through a gap in Driffield’s defence and raced fully 80 yards to go in near the sticks – the pursuing Sowersby unable to catch him. The kick was missed.
Next, Driffield successfully crossed the whitewash to the left of the sticks, following a successful rolling maul involving most of the forwards. Murray appeared from the bottom of the heap, covered in mud and a big smile, to claim the points, increased by Sowersby.
The final try came from scrum-half Sowersby, always happy to dummy a pass and dart through a half-gap to outwit the defence. He scored under the sticks and converted his own try to complete the day’s scoring.
Man of the Match was Simon Culpan with a tireless work rate, always on the shoulder offering support, and up in the face of the opposition when defending. Jack Webster’s performance was also notable, particularly given his youth.
Old Brodleians were unable to leapfrog Driffield in the league, having lost at home to Ilkley. So, Driffield 1st XV remain top of the league and hope to be able to return to action next with a home fixture against Consett.
Two other senior games were played at the weekend. On Saturday, the Extra Cents travelled with a full squad and crossed the Humber Bridge to play Scunthorpe 3rds – always a tough fixture. On a wet pitch, made hard-to-play because the surface was cut-up by a Scunthorpe Veterans match that took place before it, they lost 5 -31.
On Sunday, the Ladies 1st XV boarded a coach at 7:30 to make the long road trip to play Kendal Wasps with a 13:30 kick-off. In a tough and bruising game against a physical Wasps side, Driffield came out comfortable 48 – 12 winners to maintain their position at the top of the Women’s NC 1 North league. Tries came from Calvert x2, Harding x2, Boughton, Thomson, Harris and Short with Harding slotting 4 conversions.