Kelleythorpe welcomed Syston RUFC in the semi-final of the Papa John’s Community Cup, with a trip to Twickenham for the final on the line – see the full match programme here. Syston play in Regional 1 Midlands, which is the same level as our Regional 1 North league, and finished third, as did Driffield.
The selectors were fortunate to be able to select from a full squad, and the seven-man bench was filled by players who could easily have been picked to start.
The game was played in front of a very large crowd, with plenty of local support as well as spectators from other rugby clubs.
Both sides were straight into the action, with no quarter given. Driffield were first to draw blood when, with just six minutes gone, Johnson broke through the middle of the park from half-way and charged forward. He made it into the 22 where he was halted, but stood up in the tackle and off-loaded to Falkingham who thundered in under the posts, making a straightforward conversion by Watts. Driffield 7 – 0 Syston
Syston came back at Driffield and, just three minutes later, scored down the left side. The conversion was made, making it all even with nine minutes gone. Driffield 7 – 7 Syston
By now, it was evident that both sides had very similar playing styles, with mobile forwards and pacey backs. Driffield returned to attack, but the Syston defence was fast and accurate. Wave after wave of attacks were repulsed until, just after the quarter hour, Dinsdale cut inside from the right wing and ran 60 yards up the middle before being halted ten yards out. In a mirror of the first try, Falkingham was once again on hand to take the off-load and go in for the try, converted by Watts. Driffield 14 – 7 Syston
From the restart, Syston were able to retrieve the ball and started to work their way upfield. They attacked the Driffield line and dived for the try to the left of the sticks, being stopped just short with 23 minutes gone. But a long arm reached forward and placed the ball on the line to score the try, and the conversion was made, making it all even again. Driffield 14 – 14 Syston
Syston’s defence was now getting the edge, and their forwards starting to dominate the tight game, allowing them to mount attack after attack. This paid dividends just after the half-hour when they attacked down the right of the pitch. A missed tackle allowed their 12 through and the try was scored wide right, followed by an excellent conversion giving Syston the lead for the first time in the game. Driffield 14 – 21 Syston
Determined to get the lead back before half-time, Driffield did what they could but Syston’s defence was brilliant and several opportunities were wasted through loose passes. Finally, with just five minutes left in the half, Rix found a way down the right wing and made 40 yards before he was halted. Once again, Falkingham was up in support and gratefully received the off-load to go in for the try and his hat-trick. The conversion was missed. Driffield 19 – 21 Syston
With moments left in the half, Syston were awarded a penalty from an offence at the scrum, but the kick went left and they had to settle for a two-point lead when the half-time whistle went.
The second half started with as much energy as the first, although Syston’s pack were now starting to dominate in the tight, giving them the platform to launch attack after attack. With five minutes gone this paid off, when they broke from half-way down the right of the pitch to score, with an excellent conversion to stretch their lead. Driffield 19 – 28 Syston
It would be another twelve minutes before there was any more score, when Watts slotted a penalty to narrow the gap to a single score. Driffield 22 – 28 Syston
Syston now changed their tactics and, taking advantage of their forward dominance, started to use the rolling maul to drive upfield time and time again. Finally, with over twenty minutes of the half gone, this paid off with a try to the right of the sticks. In a sight rarely seen, Driffield avoided the conversion when Rix tore towards the kicker and charged the attempt down. Driffield 22 – 33 Syston
With the game in their hands, Syston made their first real mistake, losing their seven to the bin for persistent offending. This allowed Driffield to get more out of their efforts until, with fifteen minutes left, Robinson sniped around the base and went in for the try left of the sticks, converted by Watts. Driffield 29 – 33 Syston
With everything to play for, both sides threw everything they had into both attack and defence. Finally, with just five minutes left in the game, Short burrowed in at the left corner flag. The referee blew the whistle, and consulted the touch judge, before awarding a penalty try for a high tackle in the act of scoring. Driffield had the lead back. Driffield 36 – 33 Syston
Syston threw everything they had into one last push, again using the rolling maul to make ground. It looked as if the game would slip from Driffield’s grasp but, with just five yards to go, Syston gave away a penalty. Watts consulted the referee for time remaining and then booted the ball dead to end the game and clinch the victory – Twickenham next!
This was a first class game of rugby, played by two evenly-matched teams in front of an appreciative crowd. Syston had the edge in the backs, and their forwards increased their dominance as the game went on. But Driffield had courage in buckets, and a never-say-die approach that made up for any shortcomings – that has won them many games during the season.
Next Sunday, kicking off in the final at 5pm at Twickenham, Driffield will play Havant, who beat Heath 27 – 21 to secure their place at HQ.