Yorkshire Division Four Premier: Wibsey 10 York RI 3

SIMON Birkbeck was chuntering on a Beldon Lane touchline that had become a quagmire.

“What are we playing this match for?” said the Wibsey prop as he looked out over a sodden scene as the Yorkshire Division Four Premier leaders hosted their third-placed visitors on the infamous sloping pitch.

Birkbeck, who had been forced from the field after a second high tackle hit him on the same place on his chin, added: “We have loads of our best players missing and Northfield Road (their normal home venue) is unplayable.”

However, Birkbeck need not have worried as his team garnered another four points on the path to what they hope will be the title.

Although chasers Ossett clawed back a point on them with a 29-6 home win over Bramley Phoenix, the Villagers now only want six points from their last two matches to be certain of the silverware.

One of the missing players for the hosts on what is their reserve pitch was player-coach Andy Robinson, who suffered a rib cartilage injury the previous weekend in the vital victory over Ossett.

He said: “I was delighted with the way that we kept possession in the second half for five minutes at a time, which ran the clock down.

“We were determined in the second half up the hill after scoring two tries down the hill in the first half when maybe we should have had three or four tries, and James Brown, John Bradbury (who was man of the match) and Michael Kite were excellent on what was a day for the forwards.”

Wibsey and Ossett have already been promoted to Yorkshire Division Three, and Robinson said of his troops: “They are all capable of playing at that higher level.”

On an afternoon when it never stopped raining, referee Patrick Smith (West Yorkshire Society) started the match seven minutes early, and no-one in an understandably sparse attendance was complaining.

Brown set the tone for Wibsey with an early attack but RI were the first to get points on the board after a strong run by a familiar face to Bradford rugby in former Bees centre Richard Tafa.

That charge was in the 16th minute, and two minutes later Wibsey lock Dave Wilkinson was penalised for a high tackle, visiting fly half Chris Jones’ penalty from just inside the 22 on the angle just having enough legs to go over the bar.

The lead only lasted until the 23rd minute, however, as Wibsey broke blind from a scrum and scrum half Kyle Carter kicked ahead for full back Carl Walker to touch down in the left-hand corner.

Centre Robson Moore missed the difficult conversion but he scored their second try 12 minutes later after a kick ahead by fly half Luke Helliwell.

Only leading 10-3 at half-time, Wibsey turned round to face the slope and the wind knowing that they would need a strong defensive stint, and that’s just what they produced.

Keeping the ball in the forwards, with Kite setting a good early example, Wibsey had enough steel without the ball to keep out York RI, who were also missing several of their regulars.

Moore had an early chance to add to the home team’s lead but the penalty attempt always looked beyond his range, and it proved so when his attempt smacked into one of the post protectors.

Even Tafa could not engineer a try for the visitors, and referee Smith had to talk to skippers Kite and Frazer Land, who was RI’s man of the match, on more than one occasion in order to either explain his thinking or keep control.

One of RI’s most dangerous forays was ended by a flying tackle by Carter on full back Chris Piercy in midfield, but the potential try-saving effort came at some personal cost as he dislocated a shoulder which then popped back in, leaving the scrum half in great pain.

In the end, however, RI were foiled and must now concentrate their efforts on trying to be promoted next season, which, given an even wind, they could well achieve.

Meanwhile, Wibsey’s chase for silverware resumes with a tricky trip to fourth-placed Mosborough next Saturday.