Driffield’s 1st XV boarded the coach once again for a road trip, this time to Durham for the rearranged fixture that should have been played on 8 January but was postponed because of positive Covid tests. The side was looking forward to breaking their short run of losses, and get back into the habit of winning.
Durham City sit just two places off the bottom of the league, but the game at Driffield earlier in the season had been a good contest. Driffield had withstood the efforts of a bigger opposition pack, and found winning form after two draws in a row, coming out 33 – 5 winners.
This was due to have been a rest weekend, so some players had made other plans for the weekend so, once again, there were changes in the squad that has now used 50 players in the season. The most notable was a 1st XV debut for 18 year-old Jack Webster, and a second run-out for Finn Warren-Lambert.
Durham City kicked off in wet and windy conditions, and Driffield secured the ball. They got straight into the action, working the phases until the ball found Rix. Seeing no way forward, he hoofed the ball well upfield so that Durham had to work their way out of defence.
There were two scrums in a row, and Driffield showed early scrum dominance, which was encouraging given the size of the opposition pack.
Finally, the ball went into touch and Durham had the line. Driffield’s props launched Cullen into the air and he stole it. The ball was popped down to the waiting Sowersby at scrum-half, who sent it down the line until it found Rix, who made it over in the corner. Watts made an excellent conversion to give Driffield a seven-point lead after just five minutes.
From the restart, Driffield returned to the attack, with great driving runs through the middle by Jenkinson and Johnson. Sadly, the ball was lost deep in the 22 and Durham had the scrum on 15 minutes.
However, the strength of the Driffield pack drove Durham off the ball. Jenkinson picked up from the back and went in under the posts, making an easy conversion for Watts and a 14-point lead.
Once again, Durham restarted and Driffield gladly accepted it and went looking for more points. Durham made a rod for their backs, losing two players to the bin in three minutes.
From a Durham lineout, Cullen once again rose and stole the ball. Driffield worked their way up to the five metre where they were awarded a scrum. The ball was secured and passed quickly along the line to find the waiting Rix, who went over for his second. This time, Watts was not able to make the conversion.
Stung by two tries against them in quick succession, Durham came out battling. They worked their way up the park and scored in the corner on 25 minutes, too far out to convert.
From the restart, Jenkinson took the ball and charged forward making massive gaps. Sucking in the despairing defence, he fed the ball to Mewburn who sprinted fully 25 yards to score under the sticks. This made another straightforward conversion for Watts and a 21-point lead after 30 minutes.
The second half kicked off with no further score, and Durham went straight onto the attack, catching Driffield cold and going in under the sticks for an early try, easily converted.
Just minutes later, and with their tails up, Durham were back on the attack and scored another excellent try, also converted. This cut the gap to seven points with just five minutes played in the second half.
It was time for Driffield to step up a gear and seize back control of the game. They set to the task, launching repeated attacks at the Durham defence until they were awarded a line out.
The Driffield forwards won the ball, and Sowersby sent it to the backs, finding Johnson. He drove for the line, knocking back Durham bodies, and scored to the right of the posts. Watts got the conversion, and the initiative was back with Driffield with 15 minutes played in the second half.
It would be another ten minutes before Driffield were able to increase their lead. Rob Murray, always looking to break tackles and snipe around the edges, found a gap and went through under the posts for another converted try.
Driffield took the ball from the restart, and once again started to work their way upfield meeting stiff defence. Even though they were now trailing by 21 points, Durham had not given up and showed great spirit and determination to get something out of the game.
Finally, the Driffield pressure won over and they moved the ball smoothly along the backs, finding Scurry. Always a determined and elusive runner, he made the gap on the wing and rounded the defence to score near the sticks for another converted try.
With less than ten minutes left on the clock, Durham had not given up. They found their way through in the corner for an unconverted try, giving them the bonus point for four tries. By now, this was the most they could hope to get from the game.
With Mewburn and Jenkinson continuing to wreak havoc in the loose, it was only a matter of time before Driffield scored again. The final score, just before the final whistle, came from debutant Webster’s efforts. Seeing a half-gap on the fringes, he dived for the line but Durham held him up.
Durham dropped out from behind the try line, finding the waiting arms of Johnson. He made one of his characteristic bullocking charges through but was held up short. The forwards came piling in and, after two phases, Turner went from short range to score the try, converted this time by Sowersby as Watts was off the park, making the final score 54-24.
This excellent result sees Driffield go back to the top of the League with the finest of margins, as Ilkley lost unexpectedly at Scarborough despite, apparently, importing players.
Driffield will be pleased that they got back into the scoring habit. The whole team played excellent rugby, and mention must be made of Jenkinson and Mewburn, who tore holes in the defence. However, the coaches will want to look at why the penalty count was high, and what caused them to drop concentration early in the second half.
Next week, the 1st XV travel to fourth-placed Cleckheaton for another top-of-the-table game, and second-placed Ilkley play third-placed Heath. Positions at the top of the table could change significantly next weekend.