Old Otliensians 27, Rotherham Phoenix 12

On a pleasant afternoon at Pool Road, Old Otliensians booked a home Yorkshire Silver Trophy semi-final this Saturday against old adversaries Castleford (3.00), who they will be meeting in SSE Yorkshire Division Three next season.

Ensians entertained Rotherham Phoenix in last Saturday’s quarter-final, who they will also meet twice in league matches in 2014-15, and a challenging contest was therefore anticipated by a good crowd.

Also a first for the ‘Ensians was a lady referee in charge, and she acquitted herself well, ensuring an interesting and entertaining game for players and spectators alike.

Playing against a light breeze in the first half, ‘Ensians attacked from the kick-off, quickly achieving a turnover and opening out play.

After seven minutes, the ball was passed to Luke Cowdell, who beat three players to score an unconverted try to open the scoring.

Rob Lofthouse and Kristian Keinhorst were combining well at half-back and Luke Freer was also making good headway.

‘Ensians continued to play their fast, open rugby which Rotherham Phoenix found hard to contain, despite having the bigger forwards.

In particular, the home front row of Tony Myers, Jim Dyson and Greg Jones were controlling the visitors in the scrums.

After a move starting in the home 22, winger Declan Jackson nearly scored, and after winning a scrum against the head ‘Ensians finished up just short of the line.

It was all ‘Ensians, and after 16 minutes the ball was opened out from a scrum and Ben Hatton scored an unconverted try to make the score 10-0.

For the rest of the first half, much of the play took place between the two 22-metre lines but ‘Ensians seemed to have the upper hand and Rotherham did not look like scoring.

Lee O’Donnell was outstanding with his tackling and hard work in the mauls and rucks, and Jack Smith was to the fore as well as half-time arrived with no change to the score.

Rotherham had a change of plan in the second half. They realised that the only chance they had of winning the game was to keep the ball away from the home backs and use their heavier forwards to make ground.

This tactic earned dividends and, despite good ‘Ensian defence, with Sam Featherstone outstanding, Rotherham battered the home try line to score an un-converted try after eight minutes and another converted try two minutes later to take a 12-10 lead.

The visitors continued to pressurise the home defence, with their forwards on top for the next ten minutes, but they were unable to get over the line.

The tipping point came after 23 minutes. The visitors tired and ‘Ensians’ superior fitness came to the fore.

Fitness has been key to ‘Ensians success this season, due to the efforts of coach John Walker and fitness trainer Pat Cowdell, and it told again.

’Ensians broke out of defence into the visitors’ half for the first time since the early minutes of the half, and in the following five minutes the ball sped across the backs, only for Callum Doherty to be tackled into touch.

Ben Hatton was just wide with a 40-metre drop goal and Steve Wade then made a telling break.

A score was inevitable and a brilliant try ensued. Featherstone took a good line-out ball, captain Rob Arbuckle took the ball forward and Kristian Keinhorst made the initial break to pass to Cowdell, who scored a superb unconverted try to give the hosts a 15-12 advantage.

However, better was to come after 34 minutes. A move again started by Rob Arbuckle led to the ball being passed to Kristian Keinhorst, who made an inch-perfect cross kick to be taken at speed by Jackson who raced over to score an unconverted try.

As in the first half, it was all was ‘Ensians again, and in a move started by Jones the ball crossed along the line for Jackson to score his 32nd try of the season (one short of the club record), Hatton converting to make a final score 27-12 and put ‘Ensians into the last four.

To their credit, Rotherham did not give up and spent much of the last five minutes battering the home try line but the defence held firm.

’Ensians had won an exciting, attractive and entertaining game but will have a tougher task in the semi-final against Castleford in a pointer towards next sesason.