Yorkshire Division Three: Aireborough 18 Baildon 25

WITH under 15 minutes left of this Yorkshire Division Three derby on a surprisingly firm Nunroyd Park pitch, it looked as if hosts Aireborough would climb out of the bottom two and dump visitors Baildon there instead.

Aire, who had played with more energy and purpose up to this point, were leading 18-6 but long-time Jenny Lane rivals strengthened their sinews to score three late tries, with the last of them coming two minutes into injury time, to snatch the spoils.

“It makes a lot of difference when you have a strong squad,” said Baildon’s player-coach Robbie Hill, backing up his comments made prior to this vital clash.

Hill, who gave Baildon direction from scrum half when he came on late in the match, added: “We were able to rotate players and they (Aire) tired a bit towards the end.

“We defended well in the first half as well as creating some chances that we didn’t take.

“Let’s enjoy this win and not only take confidence into our match next week at home to Skipton but for the rest of the second half of the season.”

Aireborough’s head coach Simon Davies said: “We had a lot of territory and possession in the first half and should have been leading by a lot more than 8-3.

“We had a good first 20 minutes of the second half, but we then suffered with an injury to Nick Holdsworth and a yellow card to Liam Cree for a team offence and fell away.”

Aire started with plenty of intent on a pitch that benefited from the dry summer and the addition of 60 tons of sand in the autumn, and were ahead via a penalty by skipper Ollie Catherall in the second minute.

The experienced Nicky Lister ran the ball back well from the subsequent kick-off, and Aire right winger Lewis Myers then spilled a bomb by Baildon fly half Matt Withers.

However, the home side extended their lead in the sixth minute when a Withers kick was charged down.

Holdsworth collected the bouncing ball and, although Withers got back to bring him down, Myers made up for his earlier error to score a try, making it 8-0.

Baildon won a penalty in the tenth minute, which Withers kicked to Aire’s right-hand corner in front of the hedge.

Although Baildon won the line-out, they did not profit from it, although they soon won a penalty, which right winger Matty Robinson popped over to reduce the deficit.

A kick almost put home right winger Jamie Sykes over in the 19th minute, and Baildon had to defend sternly three minutes later when flanker Chris Chapman was shoved into touch on the left after good work by livewire hooker Nick Jackson.

Catherall then hit the near upright with a penalty in the 27th minute, and then put another effort wide nine minutes later after full back Harley Stevenson-Cocks was tackled high.

Aireborough must have been disappointed to have only been 8-3 ahead by half-time, and it was 8-6 four minutes after the interval when Matty Robinson landed a penalty.

However, the hosts made Baildon pay dearly for losing centre Luke Strauss for a deliberate knock-on in the 48th minute, with Stevenson-Cocks being held up short for the home side two minutes later before Nick Jackson got a deserved try.

Catherall missed the conversion – his inaccuracy from the tee cost Aireborough 12 points in all – but it didn’t seem to matter when Sykes went over for a try on the left in the 55th minute to make it 18-6.

Aire seemed to have the better spirit and verve but the result was back in the melting pot in the 68th minute when Hill dummied outside and went over himself for Baildon to make it 18-11, with Matty Robinson then adding the conversion.

With the home fans’ baiting of Baildon prop Adam Hewitt reaching a crescendo, the whole match took on a rather frenzied air as both sides knew how important the win was.

It is fair to say that referee Hugh Sterndale-Smith was not Aireborough’s favourite whistler six minutes later when they claimed that he missed three knock-ons in the build-up to Baildon’s second try.

Replacement forward Chris Peel got the touchdown and, although Matty Robinson missed the conversion, Baildon were still level at 18-18, with Aireborough losing Cree to a yellow card in the aftermath for a team offence.

Aire went close to what could have been the winning try right on time in Baildon’s left-hand corner but the heartbreak belonged to the hosts when the visitors got the vital score two minutes into injury time.

The momentum seemed to have been lost when a pass bounced in the lead up, but some neat footwork by replacement Jonny Fawthrop proved decisive as he scored.

Matty Robinson then nailed the conversion from the right touchline, but the losing bonus point that Aireborough still gained was enough to take them off the bottom above Leeds Modernians.

Baildon now have 17 points, with Aireborough on 13 and Mods, who have played a game more (15 against Baildon and Aireborough’s 14) on 12.

Hill praised their man of the match Harrison Strauss, plus the experienced trio of Lister, Marcus Dracup and Peel.

However, if Aireborough felt miserable afterwards it was nothing compared to that of Australian referee Sterndale-Smith, who discovered that his valuables had been stolen from the referee’s changing room and his hire car pinched from within the club grounds.