Wednesday, 30 April 2014

MATCH REPORT Sheffield Thunder v Huddersfield Rams

Karl Haigh kicking his 1st goal. © Matthew Jaggar 2014
The Huddersfield Rams first game of the 2014 season was a gripping game against local rivals the Sheffield Thunder at Burnage Rugby ground, home of the Manchester Mosquitos, writes Anthony Brown.

Both Huddersfield and Sheffield fielded a strong squad, with the pre-season recruitment paying dividends for the Rams who were also able to field a development squad on the day. This was the culmination of a number of year’s hard work of the development of the game in local schools through a number of the Rams players who are PE teachers. 

The game started with a minutes silence to honour Anzac Day. The action then began at a brisk pace with a lot of play through the middle of the pitch with both teams struggling to find their front men. The Rams in particular failing to deliver the final ball through to full forwards Dave Durrance and Karl Haigh. 

The Rams scored a couple of behinds, but it was Sheffield’s Garth Nevin who grabbed the first goal of the game with a good solo effort. The Rams quickly responded with a well taken goal for James Clayton. The first quarter continued to be played in the middle of pitch with Rams Captain Matt Whitley seeming to be everywhere. 

The scoreboard continued to tick over with the first quarter ending 16-14 in Sheffield’s favour. The second quarter started at the same brisk pace, with Ross Shirtliffe at the back for the Rams playing some excellent football and spoiling a lot of Sheffield's attacking play with some good interceptions and some strong tackling. Huddersfield continued to play well and were pressuring Sheffield’s goals with a couple of behinds before Matt Whitely continued his excellent game with Huddersfield's first goal of the quarter.

© Matthew Jaggar 2014
The game was then halted for 20 mins after an unfortunate injury to a Sheffield player. When the game continued Sheffield took advantage of some poor man marking from the Rams to pressure Huddersfield's goal and grab a couple of quick behinds. Brandon Fletcher showed some of his great experience and skill and managed to disrupt a lot of the Sheffield attacking play. At the halftime break Sheffield were leading 31-24. 

The 3rd quarter showed a renewed and different Rams, they started to move the ball more freely and with a lot more confidence. The first goal came for Karl Haigh after the ball was moved through the hands from the back line starting with some excellent play from Graham Bickerdike. This was quickly followed by a second gaol by Dave Durrance after the Ram’s started to dominate more of the rucks and managed to capitalise on their possession. 

The Rams also started to switch the play more and this led to some great passages of interplay that allowed them to move the ball quickly up the pitch. Alex Overton continued to show a great deal of coolness around the ruck and put Sheffield under pressure whenever they had the ball. This helped Huddersfield's attacking line to continue to score some well-crafted goals. With the Rams upping the tempo of the game, this enabled them to come from 7 points behind to lead 54-48 at the end of the 3rd quarter. 

© Matthew Jaggar
The final quarter again started with the Ram’s competing fiercely for every ball. The continued pressure made it difficult for Sheffield to get out of their half for the beginning of the quarter. As the Rams became more and more confident the midfield and defence began to interchange around the pitch more freely and they also started to pick out some good long passes to their front men with some confident guided kicks. 

This enabled the Rams to keep the scoreboard ticking over with several behinds. Sheffield to continue to attempt to play a good passing game, but with Graham Bickerdike smothering what should have been an easy goal for Sheffield then moving it smoothly up the pitch with the help of Luke Booth, the result never seemed in much doubt that the Rams would win. There were more goals for Karl Haigh, Matt Whitley and Dave Durrance with the final score 85-57 for the Rams.

This was a solid all round performance for the Rams, who showed the benefit of a lot of hard training in the off season. The Rams will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

By Anthony Brown

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