Somewhat miraculously, Old Crossleyans were able to host this fixture despite the torrents of rain that have beset our county over the previous week.
Beverley kicked off the first half playing from right to left and slightly uphill on a pitch in remarkably good condition.
Opening exchanges were predominantly amongst the forwards, with a series of scrums awarded by the referee for handling errors from both sides brought about by the wet conditions and powerful tackles by both teams. No quarter was given and it was evident from these early exchanges that the packs were evenly matched.
Not until the 10th minute did the referee award a penalty within kicking distance to Crossleyans for a Beverley offside which was ably converted by Crossleyans number 10 Joe Gallagher. (3-0)
Almost immediately from the kick-off, the penalty opportunity was reciprocated for playing the scrum-half without the ball. A challenging kick from the wide right saw the attempt drift past the left upright.
An extensive period of challenge and counter challenge ensued with both defences maintaining the upper hand until on the 30th minute a penalty was awarded to Beverley for Crossleyans not rolling away. Phil Duboulay slotted the opportunity from just right of the posts. (3-3)
The style of rugby played by both teams was so different to the free-flowing, open tactics normally adopted by Beverley but the game was no less enthralling for it and full credit must go to the Beverley players for adapting their techniques to keep them well and truly in the game.
On 37 minutes, 30metres from the Crossleyans line a gap opened up in the Crossleyan defence Duboulay pounced, accelerated through the gap, broke two tackles and slipped the ball to Jacob Holmes 10metres out. He, in turn, evaded two desperate attempts to prevent him from scoring but to no avail and Holmes touched down under the posts. (3-8)
Duboulay steadied himself for the conversion and cleared the bar straight through the middle (3-10).
A disjointed first half dominated by forwards and plenty of referee involvement could not spoil an absorbing encounter.
The second half began with Beverley repeatedly giving away hard-won possession at the lineouts for a variety of errors and mishandling. In a game as close as this, retaining possession was a priority and these errors could lead to the visitors being punished and so it proved.
The ensuing pressure from losing ground saw a penalty awarded to Crossleyans on 46minutes for Beverley not Rolling away which Gallagher once again slotted (6-10)
Lineout performance continued to be Beverley’s weak point and once again they were pinged for offside. The grateful Gallagher stepped up to the mark and on 57 minutes nudged the ball over for another three points (9-10).
Beverley supporters were left wondering what might have been if set-piece errors had been avoided as when in possession Beverley, as always, looked threatening and so it proved, on 60 minutes an immaculate line out saw the ball spin down the backs as the ball travelled from right to left only for the final pass to end up in touch 5 metres from the Crossleyan line.
The battle of the defences continued until the 72nd minute. A high tackle by Crosslyans just inside their own half presented a difficult kicking opportunity to Beverley. The damp and heavy atmosphere held the ball up and it fell just short and to the left of the sticks.
Beverley pressure was building and forcing errors from the tiring Crossleyan’s defence. 74 minutes another penalty to Beverley once again just inside the Crossleyan half but this time more central. Duboulay now had his range and the kick sailed over the bar to extend Beverley’s narrow lead. (9-13)
The home team somehow mustered the energy to exert increasing pressure but the Beverley defence stood firm until in the final minute a skirmish 5 metres from Beverley’s line. Crossleyans needed 5 points to take the honours but Beverley kept them out for an enthralling and hard-won victory. (9-13)