Yorkshire Division Three: Baildon 13 Leeds Medics & Dentists 7

WITH Baildon yet to trouble the scoreboard after a lacklustre opener against newly-promoted Hemsworth the previous week, an under-strength Leeds Medics & Dentists gave the Jenny Laners a chance to beat their early-season blues in Yorkshire Division Three.

It is always good to face the Medics before the university term is fully underway, and several influential players were unavailable, including George Veall, who had terrorised the Baildon centres at Weetwood, and the influential Phil Gardiner, who is globe-trotting.

Despite their selection difficulties, the Medics always offer a challenge, playing with passion and intelligence, and they are a team who can score from almost anywhere on the pitch.

The early exchanges were error strewn on both sides, although if we are charitable we can blame the drizzle, the wet ball and the poor handling conditions.

The Baildon line-out faltered and stuttered, and when they did string some phases together, they kicked poorly, often finding the dangerous Medic strike runners.

However, strong running from Guy Price in the forwards and Luke Hope-Robertson in the backs gave some penetration to Baildon's attack.

The ambition was there, but sometimes the execution let the home team down, with forced offloads and, on occasion, moving the ball into areas where the defence was strongest.

When Matty Robinson took a ball into contact and won a penalty for a Medic player failing to release, Baildon were offered a kick at goal and their first chance of points in the 2017-18 season.

Matty Robinson calmly stroked the ball through the uprights to make it 3-0, and the points may have settled some nerves for the home side now played their best rugby.

The line-out started to fire, Will Craven appeared to grow into his role at scrum half and, while the scrummage was not dominant, Dan Cookson took control at the base of the scrum.

Even when the Medics got their hands on the ball, they could only run laterally and had trouble retaining the ball.

Dan Fletcher had a run to the line and was taken into touch, but moments later Baildon were on the ball again.

This time Tom Cluett and Matty Robinson combined to send Dan Fletcher over in the right corner to make it 8-0, and Baildon finished the half in the ascendancy with some great runs from Price and Josh Strauss.

In the final play of the half, Robinson went over in the corner, only for the score to be disallowed for a knock on.

The Jenny Laners started the second half brightly, working their way up the pitch and pressurising the Medics’ try line.

Imprecision in the last five metres hit again, however, as the ball was turned over and the Medics ran in a length of the pitch fora converted try.

This was the signal for Baildon’s confidence to waver, and they began to concede penalties, many of them in the silly or coach-killer category - for example, the back line encroaching the offside line at the set-piece.

Medics might have pressed home the psychological advantage at this juncture by taking their points.

Instead, the yips appeared contagious. with the Medics not immune. On at least two occasions, they turned down the chance for easy points with a penalty in front of the posts, instead taking the scrum option.

Baildon showed great heart in defence, and their commitment and patience could not be faulted.

Dan Cookson picked up the ball, which was recycled, Matt Withers standing in the pocket ready to take the pass and put his siege-gun boot to the ball.

As good as Craven had been up to this point, however, he chose to delay the pass to Withers, whose options were reduced by three onrushing Medics when the ball eventually came back.

With no space or time to put in a kick, Withers brilliantly drew the would-be tacklers and passed to the willing Luke Strauss, who cut inside his man and had a length-of-the-pitch run for the try line.

Although caught by the last defender, the ball was kept alive, and moved quickly to a point of attack on the other wing.

Fletcher looked to have the pace but was tackled short, but got the ball away and Hope-Robertson crossed to score.

But the hosts were guilty of coming up too quickly, and Withers could have no complaints when he was shown a yellow card with ten minutes left.

Once more, however,  the Medics lacked composure and, instead of taking the points, they opted for the scrummage.

However, Baildon's defence was up to the task, and again it was Luke Strauss who capitalised on their defensive efforts, running from deep only to be denied one metre out.

Robinson then took the full minute over a penalty attempt, only to miss, and Medics dropped put and reclaimed the ball, only for Baildon to turn it over and kick it dead to seal victory.