This Roly Holder Memorial Cup 2014 quarter final between Beverley Braves and Hull Dockers under 12s would have been a good enough match to grace the final, it was a real humdinger, both teams giving everything with some quality play and controversial decisions as well.
This may have been due to the fact the game was also for the ‘Curly Cup’ played for between these two sides for the last few years in memory or former Braves and Dockers player Paul ‘Curly’ Quiney. The consensus was that he would have been impressed with the commitment from both teams with Dockers winning at Longcroft 12-4.
After poor starts in previous weeks, the Braves improved on this when Ethan Rowbotham’s chase of Marcus Walker’s kick on the last tackle of their first set resulted in a fumble from the Dockers full-back on his own try line. This allowed Beverley to build some pressure but were unable to turn it into points despite busy hooker Jack Turner going close after a quick scoot from acting half-back. Both sides then traded sets of six with the occasional down pour making handling difficult, but the increased number of errors just adding to the excitement. With over ten minutes gone, Dockers finally made their pressure tell scoring a try too far out on the left to be converted after finding the Beverley defence wanting on the short side.
Nil-4 it remained with defences well on top, for Beverley both three-quarter combinations defended well – Ryan Deane and Tom Cohen and William Wallis and Tom Newton let very little past them, but this was typical of the whole team performance.
Second row Joseph Dennis and loose forward Oliver Gresswell tackled themselves to a standstill alongside Rowbotham, who topped the tackle count by some distance. In attack the thunder-twins Henry Hughes and George Bennett-Teare repeatedly drove the ball hard into the Dockers defence throughout the game, and it looked like there would be only one try in the first-half until two Braves handling errors within twenty metres of their own try line proved too much to defend. The Dockers try under the sticks was on the stroke of half-time and meant they had a nil-10 lead.
The Braves had deserved more for their efforts and knowing this they went into the second half with renewed vigour and it was only a matter of time before the Dockers defence would give way and if anyone was going to find a way to the line, it would be Wallis, who stepped several times before crashing over. With the score at 4-10, the Braves were now on top, and this allowed half-backs Lewis Egan and Walker the space, whilst both also put in the hard work in defence too, Egan coming second on the tackle count. Things were getting tense – with only a converted try difference between the teams in a knockout cup an error or crucial decision was going to be the difference between the teams.
Full-back William Kirkup returned a kick with interest to set up an attacking position whilst three times Dockers almost caught the slow returning Braves defence out with a quick 20 metre re-start.
The result of the game was probably decided when a peach of a pass from Walker put the supporting Wallis in the sort of space you would always back him to score from – despite being just inside his own half – but the referee blew controversially for a forward pass. Questioning of the decision from the Braves captain resulted in a penalty, and it was then Dockers that were back on the attack. The team spirit improves every week with this team, and this was typified by Dennis, who smashed the oncoming Dockers forward from that tap penalty.
This set the tone for the Braves to defend two sets of six on their own line, only for the good work to be undone with a penalty under the sticks which Dockers duly converted to put eight points between the teams with five minutes of additional time now having mysteriously been played.
Beverley did not let their heads go down and the short kick off was fumbled by a Dockers player, then picked up by a player in front of him, both incidents seemingly missed allowing Dockers to play out the game and gain the victory 4-12 in a tough, uncompromising game that was a credit to both clubs.
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