With just six games left to play, Driffield know they have to win them all to keep their promotion hopes alive, as the three teams below them in the league all have games in hand. So, it was helpful that the team included two players returning to first XV action after long lay-offs : Ben Dinsdale and Gary Stephenson.
The day’s opposition, Old Brodleians are fifth in the league, now trailing the leading pack of four teams after a mid-season dip in form. The game at Kelleythorpe in November had been a close affair, with Driffield just hanging on for a narrow victory so an away win was going to take a little extra.
On a dry day, Brodleians kicked off into the stiff and cold breeze running straight up the park. Driffield took the ball well, and started to grind their way forward up the slope, reaching the opponents’ half. They were met with stiff defence and driven back, but regrouped for another assault.
This time they made better progress, reaching the Brodleians 22 until they gave away a penalty, allowing the hosts to clear the lines. The kick into the wind was excellent, helped by the slope, and Driffield found themselves back at their own 22.
Defence had been turned into attack, and Brodleians won the lineout and set up an excellent driving maul that took them to just five metres out. Driffield collapsed the maul, and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try on the twelve-minute mark, and a yellow card for skipper Mewburn. Brodleians 7 – 0 Driffield
With a man down, Driffield had their work cut out and applied themselves to the task, defending well against the Brodleians attack. A penalty was awarded and Robinson, always looking for an opportunity, took it quickly and set off. It looked like he had caught the defence napping but the cover tackle came in and the attack was snuffed out.
Still in the opponent’s half, Driffield were awarded a further penalty but Watts was unable to make it pay and Driffield remained seven points down.
But they kept play in the Brodleians half and, with Mewburn back on, mounted attack after attack looking for any weakness until Cullen found a crack in defence and just made it through to the line near the sticks on 24 minutes, giving Watts an easier conversion and levelling the scores. Brodleians 7 – 7 Driffield
Brodleians took the ball from the restart and made slow but steady progress down the park, meeting strong defence from Driffield. Eventually they were awarded a lineout and, like the previous occasion, set up the rolling maul that is a powerful weapon in their armoury. This time they made it through to the line and scored just before the half-hour, but too wide out for the conversion. Brodleians 12 – 7 Driffield
Driffield won the ball back after the restart, and opened up the throttle. With strong running, the ball was worked to the left and Mewburn thundered through but was held up over the line. From the drop-out, the ball was worked to Dinsdale who was stopped just short. However, the ball was recycled quickly and popped to Johnson on the charge – his size and power took him through, and Watts converted to give Driffield a two-point lead. Brodleians 12 – 14 Driffield
The two teams traded territory in the middle of the park until, with half-time approaching Robinson set off from just inside his 22, weaving through attempted tackles. With support on his shoulder, he shipped the ball to Sowersby, followed by a quick pass to Soanes who raced in for the try under the sticks, converted by Watts. Brodleians 12 – 21 Driffield
With the half-time whistle imminent, Brodleians attacked the left side of the pitch and made it deep into Driffield territory. But the visitor’s defence, which was outstanding all day, repelled the series of attacks and the whistle blew with Driffield 21 – 12 up and the slope in their favour for the second half.
Driffield went straight onto the attack and won the ball back after the kick-off. With solid work by the forwards, the ball was sent through the backs until it reached Blacker on the left wing, looking for the bonus point fourth try. Slippery as ever, he danced round the defenders. He crossed the line but, seeing that the full back had been sucked into the defending line, had a clear run across the goal area to dab the ball down under the sticks to make a straightforward conversion. Brodleians 12 – 28 Driffield
Play ebbed and flowed between the two 22 metre lines with both sides attacking but meeting strong defence. Several promising attacks by both sides were either stopped by knock-ons or snuffed out by great tackling. One particular tackle by Soanes on Brodleians’ winger, drew admiration from the crowd.
With 17 minutes gone, Driffield won the ball from their lineout and moved it quickly along the backs to Blacker who made twenty metres before shipping to Robinson for what looked like a certain try. However, the ball was knocked-on at the 22, and Brodleians had to work their way back up the slope.
Failing to make the progress they needed, and with the wind at their backs, Brodleians kicked deep into the Driffield half. Blacker fielded it and, once again, made a strong run back. He found Robinson in support to carry the attack on. The ball was recycled well when stopped, and went through the hands before finding Mewburn ten metres out. He powered through for the try well to the right of the sticks on 70 minutes. The conversion was missed. Brodleians 12 – 33 Driffield
From the restart, Driffield once again ground their way into a tiring Brodleians defence, reaching the 22. Another attack on the line reaching five metres out, but was knocked on in the tackle and the chance was lost, and the hosts were able to clear their lines.
But the clearance kick once again found the waiting arms of Blacker who ran it back into Brodleians’ half. He found Dinsdale, who had looped round from the far wing to provide support. He reached 10 metres out before he was stopped, but was able to ship it to Robinson. He took it through for the try with three minutes left on the clock, and Watts converted. Brodleians 12 – 40 Driffield
The remaining time was played in Brodleians half but no further score came and the final whistle blew with Driffield winning by a well-deserved margin.
Brodleians will be disappointed that they did not make better use of the slope in the first half. Driffield can be pleased with an excellent team performance with the whole squad putting in a great shift. The defensive work was outstanding all day. The forwards provided an excellent platform for the backs to launch from, and it was a joy to see free-running backs cutting holes through the opposition.
Driffield travel over to Halifax again next week for a crunch game again Heath. Another performance like this would provide an excellent chance of claiming the spoils.