Hellfire retain their 2nd position in Division Two
Over the weekend 16th-17th January 2016 Canterbury Hellfire retuned to Stoke-on-Trent for the second round of Division 2 Super Series 2015/16 and after their magnificent showing during the first round nerves were tense and expectations high. Had they shown their hand too early during round one and would the more experienced teams come back at them to put them back in their newbie box? Only after the final game of the weekend would they know.
The first match of the weekend at 09:00 was against the Ospreys; the team that Hellfire had beaten by 1 try in round one. Everyone was tense and true to form both teams put out their strongest line-ups. Both teams traded tries for the first quarter then Hellfire managed to secure a three goal lead in the second quarter as a result of stout defence and forcing several turnovers. During the third quarter the Ospreys rallied, and through great defence and unforced errors by Hellfire brought the scores level. As in round one the last quarter was nerve racking as structured defensive work from the more experienced Ospreys frustrated Hellfire and again going into the last 20 seconds the scores were level. Unfortunately Ospreys pounced on a loose ball and ran in the winning try with thirteen seconds to go taking the game 43 - 44. Yet another nail bighting encounter, with the teams sharing the honours after two rounds.
After a short rest Hellfire faced off against the other new team in Division 2; Gloucester. Again both sides fielded their strongest line-up for the tip-off but after winning the ball from the tip-off and running in their first try Hellfire did not look back. Gloucester started rotating their line-up almost immediately and through excellent pressing and defensive work by Hellfire, pinning Gloucester in their own half for 5 minutes, forcing numerous turnovers and making Gloucester take 3 of their 4 allotted time outs, the Canterbury squad soon opened up a 10 – 1 lead which just kept growing as Hellfire continued to pile on the pressure. At half time the Canterbury team were 36 – 8 ahead. The second half didn’t affect the final outcome, but allowed Coach Steve Brown to rest his first choice line-up and allow the rest of the squad to finish Gloucester off. The final score 56 – 24 to Hellfire
The final game of the day for Hellfire was back to back with the Gloucester game against the league leaders, North East Bulls, a very experienced and well drilled team. This was always going to be a toughie. From the start the Bulls pinned Hellfire in the own half, focussing on Ollie Mangion and John Parfitt, Hellfire’s high pointers, forcing a number of turnovers and allowing the Bulls to open an early lead which Hellfire were unable to close. Hellfire were spirited in both attack and defence and while players were rotated, the squad never got the best of a team that went on to be unbeaten this season. The final score 49 – 26 reflected the difference between the two teams and the gap Hellfire need to close if they are to eventually move into Division 1.
Day one ended with 1 win and 2 losses, but on reflection the losses were against two top teams and Hellfire will continue to learn and improve: Bring on Day 2.
After a cold awakening, snow having fallen overnight, Hellfire were back on court at 09:30 for match 4 against West Coast Burn. Burn are a very experienced side unfortunately, for them, they were not at full strength. Even so they caused real problems for Hellfire’s Ollie Mangion constantly picking him out of the game and preventing the team going on a try feast. At half time the scores were 19 – 14 in Hellfire’s favour; the try difference not enough for the team to relax. Hellfire’s ability to field more points against any line-up Burn had didn’t allow Burn to gain any advantage and while they played with spirit and determination the die was cast from the outset and Hellfire eventually ran out 46 - 27 winners.
West Country Hawks were the final opposition of the weekend and are again a very experienced team so no relaxing for this fixture. After the disappointment of Day 1, Hellfire were determined to make it 2 out of 2 on the second day and retain their overall league standing. Their determination showed from the start with a number of well-orchestrated presses forcing errors from the Hawks and giving turnover ball to Hellfire, allowing them to open a lead half way through the first quarter. For the first two quarters the game was fairly open, but the Hawks had no real answer to Hellfire constant pressure in defence and complete dominance in attack. By half time Hellfire were ahead 31 – 19 and looking to finish the weekend off in style. But the Hawks thought differently; they changed their tactics to defence and frustrated Hellfire time and time again with well drilled key defences and Hellfire making unforced errors. With line-up rotations the Canterbury side were never going to lose, but the Hawk’s experience showed especially when Hellfire’s main ball carriers were rested. But the result was inevitable after such a strong first half from Hellfire and Hawks were never allowed to get back into the game: Hellfire eventually winning 54 – 37.
Competition for the weekend had come to an end and it was down to the GBWR officials to announce the results. While Hellfire came third over the weekend with 3 wins and 2 losses, they have retained their 2nd place league position, although the Ospreys have eaten into their lead. The Bulls remain unbeaten at the top of the league and the scene is set for the final weekend in April. In addition to the team results personal achievements were awards to Dave Goddard and John Parfitt who were both voted best in class for the weekend. A good end to yet another very successful weekend for Canterbury Hellfire.
The team: Dave Goddard (Captain), Brian Pitchford, Tim Scott, John Parfitt, Omar Foster, Ollie Mangion, David Barber and Harry Langley. Coach: Steve Brown. Coach Assistant: Rachel Bowen.
|11||Bury St Edmunds||30||64|
|12||London Irish Wild Geese||30||56|
|W||22 Apr||Bury St. Edmunds||14-13|
|L||25 Feb||Bishop's Stortford||30-46|
|W||11 Feb||London Irish WG||21-17|
|L||4 Feb||Taunton Titans||5-30|
|D||21 Jan||Bishop's Stortford||0-0|
|L||17 Dec||Old Elthamians||14-18|
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