Plenty here for Beverley RUFC to take encouragement from but still a hugely disappointing outcome to this opening fixture. For three-quarters of the match it had all looked so promising.
Beverley led 19-12, were well on top, and looked odds-on winners until they fell apart in the last quarter of an hour during which they conceded four tries and ended up with a fairly heavy defeat.
There was certainly much to enjoy in this hard fought encounter between two teams who could both be in the mix for promotion at the end of the season. Neither side kicked for goal with any of their penalties. But despite fielding five debutants and their strong running backline Old Brodleians will probably feel they were slightly lucky to get away with this one, particularly as their poor discipline all match meant they spent nearly half of it with players in the sin-bin.
The game was only two minutes old when Beverley fell behind to a try in the corner by Brodleians wing John Handscome, after Brodlieans had moved the ball quickly left from a scrum on halfway. Beverley responded strongly and ten minutes later were in the lead. New centre Butler made a powerful break on his own ten metre line and surged upfield before off-loading to James Graham who got in at the corner. Phil Duboulay converted from the touchline to make it 7-5.
Beverley several times came close to extending their lead. Luke Hazell and Rob Smith were both hauled down just short of the line, and three times forward drives by the pack from five metres out were somehow rebuffed. With halftime approaching it began to look doubtful if their slender lead would be enough to take into the second half given that they would be playing uphill against the stiffish slope. But in the last minute before the break Hazell burst through a gap in midfield to outpace the defence and touch down allowing Beverley to turn round 12-5 up.
Five minutes into the second half things got better. A Duboulay penalty into touch in the home 22 led to the ball from the lineout being moved quickly across field to Hazell who weaved over for his second try. Duboulay again converted from the touchline and Beverley were leading 19-5.
Brodleians though were straight back in it after Beverley dropped the restart kick leading to Joe Kafatolu stretching out and touching down against the post. Full back Phil Town converted to make it 12-19 but play was beginning to be increasingly centred in the home 22. Beverley had numerous opportunities to extend their lead, and in reality could have put the game to bed. Twice certain tries went begging when the final ball was not released and several sustained periods of forward pressure on the home line all came to nothing.
Brodleians always looked dangerous on the counter attack which they did at every opportunity. Eventually Beverley buckled. Right wing Harris Morris crossed for a converted try to bring the scores level, then Town touched down and converted to put Brodleians 26-19 ahead. Inexplicably Beverley were now all over the place although they did briefly get back to 26-all with a converted try by Joe Picketts.
But it was looking increasingly ominous as Brodleians stepped up the pressure. In the dying minutes number 8 Rob Jennings and substitute wing Andy Clay romped through some wayward Beverley defending for two more converted home tries and that was that.
40-26, not even a losing bonus point, you would hardly have believed it possible after an hour’s play. But in the end there was still much to take encouragement from.
For the first time in recent memory Beverley’s discipline was first class throughout, it was good to see Smith with his pace back on the wing, Butler in the centre looks a useful acquisition, the lineout worked well, and until the final minutes the pack looked solid both in the set pieces and in the loose. It was by no means all doom and gloom despite the final score.