With the sun shining and spring finally here, it was a great day for anyone out playing rugby. With the salt air of the East Coast whipping in their faces, the Hull players knew from the outset they faced an uphill task, facing league high flyers Bridlington RUFC on their own patch. The reverse fixture at the YPI had been a close encounter, with smart kicking from the Mariners proving the difference. With a hastily assembled team featuring several key absentees, Hull expected a much tougher ride this time around. With team captain Johnta Nkonjera missing, Hull fielded recent addition Rob Watts at 10, who took immediate charge of the kicking duties. Hull’s pack was also heavily depleted, with props Rob Featherstone and Ed Cole both unavailable, as were back rowers Dane Campbell, Jack Wadsworth and Johnny Lister. The latter at least can be forgiven, his wife having just given birth – congratulations big man! No such excuses can be afforded to Dane Campbell however, who remained tucked up in bed with man flu…
The game kicked off with Bridlington on the front foot. Their powerful No.8 made some strong running, and as expected the Blues support play showed the organisation of a team that knew each other’s game inside out. In contrast, Hulls defence was scrambled, immediately on the back foot. No one could fault the work rate of forwards, with Harry Hodgson, Alex Neave and Ryan Fox all putting in big shifts. When the ball was spread wide the Hull backs proved equally as busy, with Andy Angell putting in some great shots in defence. Whilst no one could fault Hull’s work ethic, the quick recycling of the ball soon saw the first cracks appearing. Hull’s defence scrambled, repelling multiple goal line threats without ever properly clearing their lines. Eventually the inevitable pressure told, and Bridlington opened the scoring.
From the restart the pattern was much the same, with Hull struggling to get hold of the ball. When they finally did, it was cheaply squandered through a combination of poor decision making and bad handling. It took 15 minutes into the half before Hull started to find their own rhythm, slowly edging a foothold into the game with strong running from Jack Deeming, Reece Cook and Damo Radke. Then, on the stroke of half time the key incident of the match struck. With winger Connor Hamilton limping off having been nursing a knee injury throughout, young winger Jacob Walton came on for his second team debut. Jacob has been a long-standing member of the club, having represented the youth teams at U14, U15, U16 and Colts levels. After a year or so out with College studies, Jacob was keen to get into the fold and kick start his rugby progression.
When the referee blew two minutes from half-time for what looked to be an innocuous incident, the game was halted without much immediate concern. It was only when Walton stayed down in some obvious discomfort that the severity of his injury became apparent. Jacob had suffered a horrible double break of his left forearm, and the team were left on looking helplessly as the players waited for the ambulance. This is something no player wants to see on a rugby pitch, and thanks needs to be given to Bridlington’s playing physio and coaching team who quickly took charge, helping to keep Jake comfortable whilst monitoring and talking to him throughout. With Jake safely on his way to hospital the second half got underway, but truth be told the Hull players lacked something from the restart. With the time spent waiting for the ambulance and minds still reflecting on Jake’s injury, the players were caught cold, epitomised by Bridlington scoring within one minute of the restart. Further insult was added as Bridlington showed their teeth, their play ruthless against a Hull side still stunning. Three tries in quick succession followed.
For all their faults, and there have been plenty over the course of the season, this Hull side have never lacked heart. It took some time to get themselves together, but in the final 10 minutes put the Mariners under some concerted pressure on their own line without ever managing to get the breakthrough. It didn’t matter, the game was already gone. In the final reckoning no-one gave much thought to the score line. Hull had been well beaten, but sometimes there are bigger things at stake. Both teams shook hands at the end in a well contested and entertaining, if one sided game of Rugby. The home team were left to celebrate, but the thoughts of the Hull players were fixed on their team mate Jacob Walton. To a man everyone at the Club wishes him a full and speedy recovery.
Seconds: Damo Radke, Jack Deeming, Reece Cook, Jason Williams, Harry Hodgson, Alex Neave, Ryan Fox, Evi Uriubu Gray, Oli Gomes, Rob Watts, Brandon Stead, Joe Wignall, Andy Angell, Connor Hamilton, Jordan Ambrose, Jacob Walton, Steve Cook