The match last Christmas was called off due to the lockdown, and this year's concerns meant some OP stalwarts did not travel back to Pocklington for the weekend. Nevertheless, the OPs led by captain John-Paul Kelly (89-98) had a strong nucleus of big game players, and after a morning of torrential rain the main event got underway in light drizzle with both sides challenging from the off.
The OPs had won the Bottomley Trophy for the last two years it had been contested and they were straight onto the attack. The old boys had the territorial advantage for the first quarter of an hour, only to be undone by being unable to secure lineout possession in sight of the Pock line.
Pocklington then turned the table to open the scoring with their first attack after 17 minutes. Paradoxically, they kicked a penalty to the corner, won the lineout cleanly and drove it to the line for hooker David Birch to get the touchdown, Christian Pollock converting.
The contest stepped up with big tackles from both sides, OP centre Joe Holbrough (97-04) spurring his side on with the biggest hit of the day. The OPs had a brief spell of territory without being able to retain the ball in the difficult handling conditions, then Pocklington gained the initiative, drove another lineout and elusive fullback Pollock took the ball to the line and his offload out the back put centre Jed Jackson over, Pollock again converting for 14-0.
It was end-to-end stuff as the OPs dropped the ball over the whitewash at the Burnby Lane end, then Pocklington went upfield only to be unable to hold the ball five yards out. But the OPs' next raid got them on the scoresheet, as their big forwards pounded it up and No 8 Tiger Brash (08-19) plunged over under the posts, though they somehow contrived to miss the easy conversion to leave it 14-5 at the break.
Pocklington stretched ahead again within two minutes of the resumption thanks to another penalty kick to the corner, another clean lineout take and another Birch finish from the pack drive, Pollock kicking his third conversion. And Pocklington pulled away with their fourth score, the pack pressing on the right then big passes left finding back row Albert Onelei taking a break on the left flank to run in the try.
Having spent the first quarter of an hour on the offensive the OPs repeated the act in the last quarter; and eventually got their reward when scrum half Graham Pickering (96-05) darted to within a yard and half back partner Jonty Goddard (11-19) followed up to score, once again conversion negotiations resulting in a big miss.
There was still a minute to go and the competitive and entertaining encounter ended in fitting style as home wing Michael Gilbank broke on the last play then offloaded to prop Euan Walker who was tackled into the corner flag by the OP stalwart John-Paul Kelly to the sound of the final whistle.
Pictured: Pocklington captain Christian Pollock holding the Bottomley trophy alongside OP captain John-Paul Kelly surrounded by players from both sides after the game.
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