Huddersfield Rams Australian Football Club v Nottingham Scorpions match report (19th July 2014)
The Huddersfield Rams travelled to Burnage Rugby Club, Manchester, to face the Nottingham Scorpions in the semi-final of the Central & Northern England Australian Football League this last weekend. Huddersfield had finished the regular season in third position and was subsequently due to play against the league runners-up, Nottingham, in a straight knock-out contest. The Rams had succumbed to Nottingham 105-87 earlier in the season in a game that the Huddersfield side felt they had the opportunities to be victorious in themselves. Head Coach Jason Battye had revenge on his mind as he named the season’s strongest squad of sixteen for this vital clash that would determine which of the two clubs would play in their first Grand Final since 2011. The Rams team was a mixture of youth and experience as it featured six Under 17 players as well as seven international players.
Experience from Cub Founder Karl Haigh and Captain Matt Whiteley would be vital throughout this contest, and it was their control and calmness that gave the Rams the initial impetuous as they supplied full-forward Danny Armitage with clean and calculated ball. Armitage and his partner Luke Booth would be thorns in the Scorpions side all afternoon, and it was their goal kicking that gave the Rams an eighteen point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Scorpions, fielding a number of very experienced members of their last Championship win, when they beat the Rams in 2011, came back in a very determined frame of mind. Their main threat was supplying their own full-forward colossus Martin Kearney with constant high balls from midfield. The Rams were aware of this threat with their own midfielders of Graham Bickerdike, James Clayton, and Alex Overton putting immense pressure on every opportunity the Scorpions had of getting a clean kick away, Clayton being particularly prominent when smothering kicks. Kearney was expertly shackled by Rams full-back Brandon Fletcher who competed effectively for every high ball throughout the clash. It was Fletchers’ ability compete and the contests and muscle Kearney out of the game which enabled the Rams to keep the Scorpions score down to just 22 at the end of the first half, with the Rams going into the break 59-22 up. Booth, Armitage and Whiteley kept the score ticking over for the Rams.
In their last meeting the Scorpions won the game with a third quarter comeback, and Coach Battye was aware that this next period of play would be a pivotal 20 minutes that would determine who progressed to the Grand Final. The Scorpions came back very strong with Rich Lucas seemingly covering every corner of the pitch as he tried to drag his team back in to the game. Kearney snagged a few goals, and Nottingham was very much in the ascendency. Their England players Ash Swift and Keith Farr started to show their prowess, but this was repelled effectively by the Rams players who were determine to get the victory. The Rams’ midfielders had to once again dig deep. Sam Gill, who was prominent in the rucking contest throughout the game for Huddersfield, grabbed himself an excellent goal when he gathered a loose kick in a congested pack, burst through his would be tacklers and then guided a smart kick through the posts from distance. He was able assisted by Overton who put his body on the line for the team on numerous occasions. The 17 year old engineered a number of goals for the Rams simply by his desire to be the first to the ball, and his sheer persistence and determination to be on the winning side. Booth and Armitage were both the beneficiaries of this hot young prospect’s efforts. The Scorpions reduced the deficit by only one point in this third quarter and with only the one period left the Rams weren’t going to let this game slip away.
The Scorpions needed a big final quarter to stand any chance of making the Grand Final, but again the Rams prevented Nottingham from gaining any kind of momentum. The Rams supplied Armitage and Booth with good ball, creating and scoring some of the best team goals that this club has seen for a number of seasons. Whenever Nottingham threatened to get a run of points together Captain Whiteley and his defence of Lewis Ozanne, Ross Shirtliffe, and Fletcher repelled all such opportunities, breaking up play and distributing the ball effectively to their own midfield and attack. And as time ran out on the clock Booth picked out Armitage under the posts for Armitage to put the icing on the cake and send Huddersfield through to the Grand Final with an extraordinary banana kick from a tight angle. The Rams extended their lead in the final quarter by ten points to see them head to the Grand Final with a 112-76 victory, with Armitage top scoring with 8 goals followed by Booth with 7 goals. The Rams stand out player was Brandon Fletcher for the way he shackled the Scorpions main threat Martin Kearney throughout the game.
The Rams will now play table-toppers and hot favourites Manchester Mosquitoes this Saturday in the leagues’ show piece finale which will be held at the home of Sheffield Tigers Rugby League Club. The game will be another highly competitive fixture as both teams field what could arguably be the strongest two sides in England at the moment, with the Rams looking to grab their first Premiership since their inaugural season in 2009.