10:35am Thursday 2nd February 2012
By Andrew Mills
North Ribblesdale’s frailty on the flanks and their inability to stop the rolling maul were enough to give Pontefract the edge.
However, there were a lot of plusses for Ribb with the biggest being the display of a reinvigorated Graham Newhouse who had his best game of the season in the front row.
Richard Lynn, who replaced Newhouse late on, also gave his opposite number a torrid time.
Will Thwaite had a hardworking game and centre James Wallbank was solid in defence and broke the gain line whenever he got the ball.
Despite all this, Pontefract were worthy winners due to their ability to convert chances in to points, although a crucial score early in the second half was controversial.
Following Ribb’s opening penalty from Will Davidson, Ponte got a good try after quick ball created an overlap for Simon Spears out wide.
Ponte then got a further try when they put a penalty into the corner, won the line-out and drove over for another unconverted score.
Ribb then came back as Simon Chapman fielded a high kick and put a superb kick into the corner gaining 50 metres. Ribb forced a scrum from the line-out and drove for the line on their own ball.
The referee Doug Chapman, who had an excellent game, went under the posts after a collapse for a penalty try converted by Davidson.
Ponte scored early in the second half by using their powerful back and second rows to puncture the midfield defence before working an overlap that put Spears away for his second try.
Ribb were still not out of it. An easy overlap was spurned and a drive close to the line was repulsed.
Then came the controversy. Ponte’s winger got the ball inside his ten-metre line and brushed off the first tackle and made ground.
He then appeared to have been missed by the Ribb cover, but they had stopped because they thought he was clearly in touch.
The only people who missed this was the touch judge and referee, as he scored a converted try. Ribb were now 24-13 behind but were still in it.
They were winning ball against a tiring side but they did not have the ability to break through.
Dan Watson and Wallbank probed but were repulsed. David Fox ran and made ground from a couple of penalties but Ponte kept Ribb away and then kicked a penalty for offside.
Ribb need to look at some of their tactics. With a kicker like Davidson, who kicked two penalties and a conversion, there are a lot of options.
They could put up more high balls as the absence of Moon, Bolland and Moimoi has left them with limited attacking options.
The defending of the maul needs addressing as Ribb's defensive strategy for this does not work.
However, despite a much reshuffled team, Ribb looked a capable side and it will not be long before they get back to winning ways.
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