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Monday, 25 May 2015

Bonus for Tynedale as they draw level in dying minutes

AFTER trailing for 77 minutes, Tynedale had a glorious opportunity to snatch yet another last gasp victory on Saturday.

After sleepwalking to a 19-0 deficit at one stage, somnolent Tynedale shook themselves from their slumbers like hibernating grizzlies to claw their way back into the match.

With two minutes left, they were level with Cinderford, and fly half Gavin Beasley was lining up a conversion attempt which would have won the game.

It was close to the touchline, and it doubtless went through his head that in the reverse fixture in December in the Forest of Dean, he had a similar kick to win the game.

That one failed, and Tynedale were condemned to a 28-27 defeat.

This time, the scores were level, but a successful kick would have secured five points, and almost certainly lifted Tynedale out of the relegation mire.

A cathedral hush descended on Tynedale Park as Beasley went into his familiar crouch, before striking the ball with venom.

It seemed bang on target as the crowd held its breath, but the ball curled away at its zenith, and flashed across the face of goal.

Soon after, the whistle went to ring the curtain down on Tynedale’s first drawn league match in eight years.

Both sides had scored four tries, so picked up a bonus point on top of the two points for a draw.

To say the sides were well matched was an understatement, for in 160 minutes of rugby this season, only one point separated them.

A draw was probably a fair result, but this was a game Tynedale could have won.

Their line out creaked like the Allen Banks bridge, and the absence of specialist jumper Andy Buist was glaringly apparent.

For all his hirsute heroics around the field, a night in the lambing shed had taken its toll on piratical hooker Stephen Ridley’s throwing arm, and Tynedale duly lost more line-outs than they won on their own throw.

Despite their lowly league position, Cinderford were a force to be reckoned with, thanks in part to the links with Premiership Gloucester.

In dual registered winger Andy Bulumakau, they had probably the speediest player seen at Corbridge all season.

And wily skipper Adam Balding, another ex Gloucester man, knew all the tricks of the trade in winding down the clock, with his dying swan act after every scrum worthy of Les Kellett in his prime.

Tynedale were without 10-try winger Sep Visser, away at a wedding, and injured hooker Dave Nelson, and they lost influential full back Craig Willis at half time with a knee injury.

They seemed down and out at the interval, but a half-time address Chubby Brown and Winston Churchill would have been proud of exhorted them to higher endeavours.

The match began in desultory fashion, with both sides kicking away possession into the arms of grateful opponents in the infuriating modern manner.

After three minutes though, Bulumakau gathered a Tynedale kick on his own 10-metre line under no pressure, and ran the ball back at Tynedale with pace and purpose.

He blazed through a couple of ineffectual tackles to make good ground and the ball eventually found its way into the arms of centre Jack Adams who slithered over the line for the opening try.

Fly half Mike Wilcox added the extras.

Tynedale were finding it hard to get going, but on seven minutes, scrum half Greg Illingworth tried to take a quick penalty on the edge of the Cinderford 22, only for flanker Will Keelan to illegally slap the ball out of his hands after five yards.

Keelan hardly stopped on his way to the sin bin, and rather than taking the easy three points, Tynedale opted for the penalty scrum.

Few packs have been able to live with the Tynedale eight since the turn of the year, but the Cinderford seven had few problems in holding the shove, and the ball was comfortably cleared.

For the next 10 minutes, Cinderford used every delaying tactic in the book, but referee Marcus Caton, who didn’t have the best of afternoons, seemed oblivious to their trickery.

The men from the Forest of Dean also defended well and were quick on the counter attack.

The visitors were still down to 14 men on 17 minutes when one such thrust included a pass which was forward by at least four feet – a fact which escaped the attentions of Mr Caton and his touch judges.

Outraged Tynedale were forced to concede a line out close to the line, and the well drilled Cinderford pack drove over the line, hooker Tom Bozzard getting the touchdown.

Wilcox again converted, and Tynedale were in trouble at 14-0 down.

Another pounding drive on the half hour saw Tynedale going backwards for 25 yards, and this time is was Balding who claimed the try.

The kick failed, but Tynedale faces were glummer than that of a man who had lost his winning lottery ticket.

Hope flared briefly on 34 minutes, when the excellent Dan Temm picked up from a line-out 35 yards out, and ploughed his way to the line with Cinderford men all round him.

Beasley landed the conversion, but Tynedale still trailed 19-7 at the break.

A chastened Tynedale came out for the second half with more urgency, and after just three minutes, another exchange of kicks produced an eccentric bounce in the Cinderford 22 which allowed winger Dan Rundle, in for Visser, to twist over close to the posts.

The conversion should have been a formality, but Beasley placed the tee too close to the try line, and with the hot breath of the charging Bulumakau in his face, he hurried the kick , and the ball cannoned to safety off the post.

A deft kick ahead by Hamish Smales looked threatening, but the ball bounced to safety off the corner flag.

Soon after, a superb run by flanker Matty Charters seemed sure to bring a try, but a desperate ankle tap brought him down.

Delighted by the let-offs, Cinderford responded well, a 25-metre forward drive ending with a try for replacement George Mills to make it 24-12 with 20 minutes left.

After good Tynedale pressure, Temm got his second try five minutes later from a scrum, and Beasley converted to narrow the gap to five points.

However, hopes sank with 10 minutes left when with Tynedale screaming for a penalty in front of their own posts, Mr Caton obliged – but gave it to Cinderford.

Any player on the field could have kicked in with bare feet, and Tynedale shoulders drooped as they realised they would now have to score twice to salvage the game. Wilcox had kicked impeccably all afternoon – but unbelievably put the kick wide to leave the score at 24-19.

More lost line-outs followed, but two minutes into injury time, scrum half Greg Illingworth broke right from the base of a scrum, and slid in for the bonus point try.

Then came the drama of the failed kick, but a draw was a fair result.