Tuesday, 05 July 2022

Forwards dominance wins day for Rams

RAMS’ director of rugby Seb Reynolds believes supporters more than got their money’s worth as his side ended on the right side of a thrilling 36-32 National 1 win against Darlington Mowden Park, writes Richard Ashton.

The away side blasted their way into a 12-0 lead inside nine minutes as Ben Frankland and Brandon Asher-Wood touched down, only for Connor Hayhow and Robbie Stapley to cross and cut the gap to two points.

Despite losing Ralph Appleby to the sin-bin for repeated scrummaging offences, a brace of Garry Law penalties made it 18-10 to Darlington at the break, but Rams rallied in sparkling style.

With Darlington scrum-half Euan McKirdy carded for an off-the-ball tackle on Drew Humberstone, Stapley firstly doubled his tally at the back of a dominant scrum, then Michael Dykes scored a stunning try from 45 metres and Jak Rossiter went over inside 13 minutes during the third quarter, Rowan Grundy slotting all three conversions to make it 31-18.

Yet Darlington responded as Law added the extras to Callum Mackenzie’s score, only for the magnificent Rams’ scrum to earn a third pushover try, this time finished by replacement number eight James McRae.

The visitors had the final word when McKirdy crossed with a minute to go, Law slotting the kick, but Rams held on for a seventh win in eight games.

And the variety of play showcased by Rams pleased Reynolds, who said: “We’re not just all scrum and maul. What supporters got was two sides who wanted to play some rugby and you got your money’s worth if you came along.

“They did a good job of not allowing us to maul — I’d argue there’s a fine margin of whether they were sacking our jumper or if they were just bringing it down – so we had to go to other areas and we played some really good stuff, although so did Darlington. After a slow start we established some dominance with field position and put the squeeze on the opposition, bringing ourselves back into the game.

“But we then slipped off again which allowed them to come back into it and get ahead.

“At half-time and 18-10 down, we had a really tough job on our hands because these guys can score another three or four tries in rapid order, so you have to be really careful.”

A feature of the comeback was the sensational effort from the hosts’ experienced pack — who went into the game with more than 1,000 caps between them — and the scrum directly led to three tries as the hosts took control.

Reynolds added: “It was brilliant. It starts with the front five, but all eight are great scrummagers. We started with Ant Marris, Ben Henderson and James Baker in the front row, but then brought on young Paul Englezos who has been working under James for the best part of 18 months and it was still so strong.

“It’s a huge credit to him and he’s done so well since coming into the side — he came on and did the business and I’m so pleased for him.”

While it was the forwards’ dominance which laid the cornerstone to the victory, the highlight of the afternoon was Dykes’s sublime score, created by some quick hands off the top of a line-out and through the backs.

Paying tribute to the London Irish loanee’s performance, which came off the back of a couple of excellent displays for the Titans, Reynolds said: “I was so glad he got the try — he’s got some serious pace on him. He took it beautifully with a lovely gliding run and it was nice to watch.

“But to compliment that, he also put in a fantastic try-saving tackle in the first five minutes of the game, which shows he’s tough as well and he’s got good tackling technique.”

Another five match points keeps Rams in fourth place in the table, although they did leave their fans biting their fingernails towards the end.

And Reynolds concluded: “It got a little nervy at the end because of a combination of things — they’re a good side who can hit you from anywhere and then when we added to that by giving away penalties and handing them field position, it brought them back into the game. But in the end, we closed it out well.”

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