Yorkshire Division Two: Old Grovians 10 Pontefract 28

LEADERS Pontefract have lost two of their 17 games this season in Yorkshire Division Two but head of rugby Hugh Gumbs was adamant after this match that this was their hardest test of the campaign.

The former Baildon and Old Otliensians coach said: "This was our toughest game so far."

Home fans were certainly scratching their heads as to how the hosts trailed 21-3 two minutes into the second half when they had had so much pressure and skilful Pontefract had only had three opportunities and taken them all.

Gumbs added: "They (Grovians) are a very good side – they could be a top-four side – and have a lot of ability.

"Their 15 (replacement Pad Burns after Jason Wright went off with concussion) and 13 (Jack Hartley) were strong runners but as a team they pick up injuries – maybe they lack conditioning due to their training facilities – and they haven't got a second team."

Grovians' head coach Dan Nulty said: "I was proud of the performance against a very good side, and things could have been very different if we had taken our chances in the first 20 minutes but we couldn't break them down.

"Now we need to put that level of performance in at Thorne next week."

Anyone on the touchline at Elm Tree Farm who didn't know which side was which would have assumed that Grovians were the leaders and Pontefract the mid-table side such was the balance of play early doors.

Pontefract, who have only lost at Wath and at home to Goole this season and won the reverse fixture 64-20 against Grovians, were pinned in their 22 as the home side laid an assault.

Prop Alex Dodd-Jones was held up over the Ponte line, and centre Harry Garforth went close, while another promising move was ended by a Hartley knock on.

Eventually the hosts won a penalty when full back Wright was high tackled on the jaw, with fly half Ben Brown accepting the easy chance to knock over three points.

However, Pontefract then scored with their first attack of note via winger Stewart Sanderson, who crossed the line on the left and ran behind the posts to make full back Liam Kay's conversion simple.

If missed tackles in conceding that score frustrated Nulty, his team responded well, with Burns carving his way through the middle before prop Joe Garforth, Burns and Hartley again threatened the visitors' line.

But when Sanderson scored again from their second opportunity of note in first-half injury time, with Kay again converting, Grovians must have been feeling that there was no justice as cries from the sidelines for high tackles and offside went unheeded by referee Warren Rimmer (West Yorkshire Society).

That feeling only intensified two minutes after the interval when Sanderson's clever cross-kick held up in the breeze and bounced kindly for centre Richard Hossack to score a try that was improved by Kay.

Burns and right winger Matt Lloyd then went close before flanker Tim Jones was injured, but hopes of a losing bonus point were revived when Harry Garforth showed strength and determination to score a try from a short, neat Brown pass in the 67th minute.

Brown converted to make it 21-10, and for a while it looked as if Pontefract would be denied their fourth try.

However, a Brown pass was intercepted by Sanderson in the 78th minute and the winger duly bagged his hat-trick, with Kay again converting.

Nulty added: "Jason will not be able to have contact now for 19 days as he has been showing signs of concussion, while we will probably rest No 8 Joe Sowden, whose shoulder is sore following it being dislocated the previous weekend.

"However, we are hopeful that lock Ollie Pratt's sore knee will be okay."