Sherwood Wolf Hunt bounce back to pip in-form Birmingham Bulldogs

Brett Leivers thwarts a Bulldog surge forward - Pic by: Richard Parkes
Brett Leivers thwarts a Bulldog surge forward - Pic by: Richard Parkes

Sherwood Wolf Hunt bounced back from two straight defeats to beat an in-form visitors Birmingham Bulldogs team 26-22 in their Midlands Premier Division rugby league clash on Saturday.

Bulldogs had run up 86 points the previous week, but the Wolf Hunt turned in an aggressive, clinical performance to hold onto to a four-point lead at the end.

First team coach Carl Hardwick said: “This was our best performance yet.

“We came into the game after two poor defensive efforts. The lads stepped up and took control both in attack and defence.

“All credit to Birmingham for coming back, but in the end our ferocity in the first 65 minutes won us the game, with some great back play gained on the back of excellent defence.

“After having 50 lads turn up over the two games, we are in a good place. Lots to do, lots to learn and lots of successes to come.”

Co-chairman Richard Tempest-Mitchell, added: “This win is just of one a many to come.

“The introduction of a development squad with more games to play, brings competition in numbers, brings new and experience players together and brings a real feel good factor to us and the excellent facility we have here at Debdale Park.”

The game started in bright and breezy conditions, the Wolf Hunt starting with a spring in their step and a game plan of straight hard-running rugby in attack and uncompromising four-man tackling in defence.

Birmingham were shocked from the off as the Wolf Hunt battered the Bulldogs in both aspects.

Once again the Wolf Hunt were first to score 10 minutes in with a brilliant left winger’s try by Jonathan Richardson from 35m out after excellent centre play from Michael Allen.

This was Richardson’s third try in three games, in what is becoming a very good left side partnership with Allen. The try was converted from 25 yards out and the home side looked confident.

The next 25 minutes were clinical from the Wolf Hunt. Hard running from forwards, Gav Saxby, Chris Wright, Francis Appleton, matched aggressive defence from young hooker Luke Walters, captain Adam Bates, Declan Dykes and Brent Leivers, to allow the Wolf Hunt to keep the pressure on the Bulldogs, who rarely got into the home side 25. When they did, they were tackled out as the Wolf Hunt defended their line heroically.

On 30 minutes home pressure brought a second try, Aaron Wycherley finishing off a great forward-led build-up. then long passing from Bates and stand-off Matt Upton led to Wycherley beating two wide defenders to go in the right corner.

The wide conversion was missed, but the Wolf Hunt were 10-0 up with eight minutes to go to the break.

At this stage the Wolf Hunt were riding high, keeping it tight and the Bulldogs looked shocked, battered and bruised.

The game went back to its pattern of hard running from both teams, the Bulldogs focusing on getting it wide.

Excellent defence from backs Hardwick, Allen, Richardson and full back Jamie Davidson saw the Wolf Hunt hold out several times, taking the Bulldogs into touch, on the line three times.

However, one slightly missed tackle right on the half-time mark, allowed the Bulldogs to stretch out of the tackle to score close to the sticks and the try was converted.

The second half started as the first. Hard four-man defence from the Wolf Hunt stemmed the Bulldogs’ attack.

Great running from young prop Matley Brain and the ferocious Francis Appleton pummelled the Bulldog pack.

The Wolf Hunt were winning the forward battle hands down as Bulldogs heads dropped.

A couple of injuries to Bulldogs’ big forwards came from hard-hitting in a tireless Wolf Hunt defensive effort.

In particular, eventual ProCook Doncaster Man of The Match, hooker Luke Walters and Francis Appleton tackled relentlessly, putting the Bulldogs on their backs several times and the visitors’ forwards were looking down and out.

This slowing of the opposition allowed time for great handling from Upton, Bates and Walters to let the home team backs test the tiring Bulldogs defence.

This led to two great tries from Mason Hardwick and Appleton following very strong running from the forwards. The first one was converted and the scoreline was 22-10 with 15 minutes to go.

However, the Bulldogs rallied and threw the ball around. The Wolf Hunt defence tired a little and this saw two tries score in quick succession in both corners.

One was converted, leaving the score 22-18 with just five minutes to go.

The Wolf Hunt did not give up and the brave forwards once again battered the Bulldogs. Their heads went down and easy yards came. The Bulldogs gave away several penalties leaving the Wolf Hunt in the right 20m line.

Great long passing from Upton and Bates saw flying young prop Matley Brain power over in the corner through a planned move and Debdale went wild, though Walters could not convert.

Fingers were crossed with three minutes to go. The Bulldogs had been tamed - or so everyone thought.

A couple of tired missed tackles gave them chance to put the pressure on in the Wolf Hunt half and one slight mistake close to line saw Birmingham sneak over in the corner. The kick was missed and the gap was four points with two minutes to go.

From the kick-off, the Bulldogs were chomping at the bit, but they were tired and a quick dropped ball from a big Appleton hit, gave the Wolf Hunt the ball.

With one minute to go, Walters and Bates steadied the play and the whistle finally went for full-time.

The Bulldogs were done for, having come expecting a walk over, against new opposition.

The Wolf Hunt players and crowd of nearly 150 were celebrating a great hard-fought win from the new boys to the Midlands Premier Division.

ProCook Doncaster Man of the Man Luke Walters will be representing the Scottish U19 team later in the summer, having attended several squad selection sessions in Bradford and Edinburgh.

Second rower Declan Dykes will travel to Greece to represent the England Midlands Lionheart later this month.

The Wolf Hunt entertain Derby City first team at Debdale Park this Saturday (2.30pm).

Anyone wishing to join the Hunt can contact the club on their website, Facebook page or email: sherwoodwolfhuntrlfc@gmail.com.

Saturday started with a development squad game against Derby City seconds, who included several first teamers.

The Wolf Hunt had 30 lads, new and experienced, and interchanged every 10 minutes, to give new development team coach Darren Yorke the chance to see everyone play.

Stand out performances from Aaron Bainbridge, Marcus Fisher, Sam Butler and several others saw the Wolf Hunt compete well in their first game together.

Many new players were playing their first rugby league ever and the final score of 54-18 to Derby was immaterial.

Yorke said: “This has been a great first experiment. The lads pulled together very well and there were some great first performances from some new and older players.

“To have 30 lads to choose from was a luxury and a curse as we had to give everyone the opportunity.

“The lads did really well together, particularly in the second half. We have learned lots and look forward to our next double header. Today will help us develop the club as a whole.”