Pythons slip up after nearing victory
Harrogate Pythons travelled away to Ossett RUFC hoping to back up their excellent home performances on the road. Coach Dan Bird had been forced into a handful of changes from the previous week but that didn’t seem to be affecting the Pythons game too much in the first quarter. Pythons dominated possession and field position but a series of loose passes and knock ons prevented them from getting any reward for their efforts. Play was scrappy from both sides though and it became evident early on that the set piece would be a key area with the scrum featuring heavily. Despite the two packs being fairly equally matched in size the Pythons front row of Steve Smith, Sandy Dunlop and Nathan Wake repeatedly gaining the upper hand over their opponents as Ossett were driven backwards, turning over several opposition feeds.
This scrummaging superiority proved to be decisive on the 20 minute mark as, following strong midfield running from Tim Evans and Will Clough, the ball was kicked over the top and a great chase from James Audsley-Beck and Steve Youngson saw the Ossett fullback driven back over his own line to give the Pythons a 5m attacking scrum. A huge 8 man drive saw the Ossett pack disintegrate and left the referee no option but to award a penalty try and give Pythons a deserved 7-0 lead. This score seemed to wake up both sides and the overall standard of play improved. Ossett had a decent spell of possession following the first score of the game but were repelled by strong Pythons defence led by Sandy Dunlop and captain Dan Shortman. Strong drives from 2nd row partners Steve Lennox and Adam Challis got Pythons out of their own half and intelligent play from fly half Jed Carr pinned Ossett back in their own 22.
Pythons forced Ossett nearer and neared their own line with some strong tackling and as their fly half looked to clear his lines from behind his own posts he fumbled the ball as several Pythons forwards bore down on him and Nathan Wake was first to react, diving on the loose ball to notch his 2nd try in as many weeks. Will Clough added the extras to push the score out to 14-0. Failure to clear their lines from the resulting kick off led to a decent attacking platform for Ossett and poor discipline from Pythons cost them even more field position. Ossett’s pack worked well to get close to Pythons’ line with a strong tight game aided by some soft tackling from the Pythons forwards. Eventually enough numbers were sucked into the breakdown and the Ossett 9 spun the ball wide for their winger to walk in the corner. 14-5. Pythons then gave away a series of coach killing penalties to yet again pin themselves in their own half. Hard work from the pack saw an attacking opportunity for the backs to get the ball wide. Unfortunately, a loose pass in midfield saw possession turned over and Ossett go through the hands to score a 2nd try. 14-12. Strong words behind the sticks seemed to fire up Pythons and they worked their way up the field with strong running controlled by scrum half Ivan Drane.
Elusive running from Will Clough at outside centre put Ossett on the back foot and led to a penalty close to the opposition try line. Pythons kicked for the corner and the resulting maul was adjudged to have been pulled down illegally as the referee showed the Ossett flanker a yellow card. This time Pythons opted for the scrum and proceeded to march their opponents back towards the line, a 2nd penalty try wasn’t forthcoming this time as the ball popped out. Pythons went through several phases and it took 3 defenders to stop Tim Evans from crashing over next to the posts. This created the space for Jed Carr to spin the ball wide for Steve Youngson to step inside the covering defence and barrel over the line right on the stroke of half time. Will Clough added a tricky conversion to leave the score 21-12 at half time.
Pythons looked to continue the 2nd half the way they had ended the 1st and good work at the breakdown from Dan Shortman gained a kickable penalty. Will Clough did the honours to push the score out to 24-12. Credit goes to Ossett at this point as they fought to stay in the game. Strong running from their pack put Pythons on the back foot and a series of penalties were conceded giving Ossett good field position and leaving Pythons not to lose a man to the sin bin. Ossett finally capitalised on all their pressure following another penalty advantage as a perfectly weighted cross field kick was gathered on the slide by their winger for a well-earned try. 24-19. Coach Dan Bird emptied the Pythons bench as they looked to steady the ship and push for a bonus point try, debutant Simon Williamson to the fore with a series of strong carries.
The game ebbed and flowed with neither side gaining a foothold until some excellent phase play from Pythons created space for Tim Evans and then Will Clough to move their team deep into the opposition 22. Ossett repelled the Pythons pack for a few phases but Jed Carr spotted a mismatch out wide and sent the ball out wide for Matt Audsley to stroll in the corner. Conversion missed 29-19. Pythons had their opponents on the ropes at this point and worked their way back into the Ossett half. A penalty attempt at goal was missed following a turnover from Ian Binns and, from the resulting 22 drop out, strong drives from Luke Price-Gerrard and Grant Weatherston led to an offside penalty in midfield. This time Will Clough kicked the penalty to make it 32-19 with 12 minutes to play. It was all Pythons by this point and their game plan was proving too much for Ossett to handle, their scramble defence just about covering as Pythons looked to put the game beyond doubt. It was at this point Tim Evans embarked on a crashing run, bouncing off defenders left and right. 5 players were left on the floor by the time Evans approached the try line only for a penalty to be given against him for jumping into a tackle. The resulting penalty led to several other infringements and a pinpoint kick into the corner gave Ossett an attacking line out 5 metres out. Clean ball was won from the line out and a miscommunication about whether to compete in the maul gave the Ossett 2nd row a walk into the line. 32-26. further poor discipline allowed a fired up Ossett back into the Pythons half and a yellow card was shown to Dan Bird for a high tackle.
This time Pythons managed to prevent a score from the line out but Ossett recycled the ball well and a series of pick and drives eventually saw them power their way over the line. The conversion was added to edge Ossett ahead for the first time in the game. 32-33. With last than 2 minutes remaining Ossett attempted to run out the clock in their own half but an accidental offside gave the Pythons one last chance to salvage the game. One last solid scrum led to a series of drives from the Pythons pack but the Ossett defence was strong and eventually they managed to get a man over the ball to win a penalty and with it, the game. Disappointment for the Pythons that they couldn’t back up last week’s performance and came away with 2 points that really should have been 5. Next up is high flying Leeds Corinthians at the Jim Saynor Ground.