Furness v Hawcoat Park 1st XV

Furness (14) v Hawcoat Park (20) – Saturday 7th September, 2019

On a perfect day and pitch the computer fixture gods threw up a local derby on the first weekend of the newly extended Cumbria League 1. The teams had not locked horns since season 2014/15 so the game was eagerly anticipated by both sets of players and supporters alike. Neither team had played a pre season ‘hit up’ so although the players on both teams were a little rusty the game was the usual enthralling competitive affair.

Compared to last season a changing of the guard had taken place among the maroon and whites with many of the previous established names not available for varying reasons. We started well and had the best of the early exchanges as we attempted to run everything. On one occasion good handling involving George Smith and impressive centres Will Coles and Jason Milby nearly freed up winger Rodney Odondi on the outside but the last pass just went astray.

After 10 minutes we did take the lead, the platform was set up front by the pack, good drives by the outstanding Grady Slater and Lee Van Haren allowed captain on the day Callum Ramsay to spot a gap and force his way over. Will Coles neatly slotted over the conversion and not long after a penalty goal, 0 – 10.

Most of the game was played with both teams down to 14 and sometimes 13 men. It was not a dirty game (like some in the past) but both teams struggled to adapt to the new ‘high tackle’ laws with yellow cards issued aplenty meaning the players had to work that but harder in the warm conditions.

Without completely dominating we continued to control the first half and most of the play was in the Furness half. Thirty minutes in we scored a good second try. Attacking down the left side good hands by hooker Brad Morrow, John Donnan and Alfie White sucked in all the Furness cover and when we moved the ball out wide Callum Ramsay found himself in the space to run in his second try. Will Coles just missed with the conversion attempt.

Just before half time Furness attacked well, the Humphreys brothers combined to free up Jamie Knight but great last ditch defensive work by full back Lewis Sayle who had a solid game throughout prevented the try. Half time 0 – 15.

As to be expected Furness really cranked up the pressure in the second half, in contrast to the first half and reflecting the play the penalty count was heavily in Furness favour and our defence had to be really strong. The battle between the two back rows was a good one with the outstanding Mallinson brothers Joe and Will running strongly our back row of Callum Ramsay, Grady Slater and the returning Alfie White had to be at their best and they certainly were.
Fifteen minutes into the half the relentless pressure told. When awarded a penalty under the posts we prevented a Furness quick tap and a penalty try was awarded, 7 – 15.

With us on the back foot it took a good clean break by former captain George Smith to take play into the Furness half and good follow up play up front involving new prop Scott Dobbie and replacement Harry Higgins allowed us a period camped near the Furness line and industrious back row Alfie White to force his way over. The conversion from wide out was just missed, 7 – 20.

Furness came right back and once again our defence had to be organised and strong to keep them out. The hard pre season fitness work under Jason Meadows and his coaching team was beneficial as we had to work hard in the warm conditions and for the last 10 minutes were down to 13 men.

With the referee calling last play Furness scored a consolation try with Will Mallinson deservedly forcing his way over from close range. Fly half Dave Findlayson booted over an important conversion as this earned Furness a losing bonus point, 14 – 20.

Compared to some low point scoring derby games this was an entertaining game to watch. Certainly from the maroon and white side of town a good one, anyway a derby win at the Strawberry Grounds goes down well particularly at the start of the season with Furness now having to wait to the last game of the season to seek out their revenge.

Our newly formed younger side shaped up well at the start of what is certainly going to be a competitive Cumbria League involving some stiff away encounters.

John Horne
Hawcoat Rugby Union

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