Anyone strolling into the Woodhead ground at 3.45pm yesterday would have assumed Old Brodleians had lost their re-arranged game with Hullensians.
The visitors left the pitch whooping and hollering while their hosts trooped off in silence and with long faces.
The contest finished 20-20 but it must have felt like a defeat for Brods, who had started the day with a strengthened side and high hopes of climbing out of the drop zone at their visitors’ expense.
Brods’ dismay was at their own performance, which fell well short of their recent standards even allowing for the sloppy conditions under foot.
Hullensians are perking up after being in free fall a couple of months ago and what cohesive and controlled rugby there was came from them.
They drew level with their third try almost at the end of 80 minutes but were unable to add the conversion and were also left to reflect on an earlier decision by the referee not to award them a try.
Brods coach Matt Smith, the Yorkshire Carnegie lock, was at a loss to explain his side’s display saying: “We looked a bit lost.”
All eyes had been on the home front row, which included new Aussie arrival Brad Crawford and fellow prop Callum Thompson, back from Cleckheaton.
The pair had contrasting afternoons. The king-sized Crawford was withdrawn after struggling in what must have been very strange conditions for him while the strong-running Thompson was best of a generally poor home bunch.
Kiwi centre Sam Deacon made a satisfactory return from injury but there were some alarming deficiencies for Brods, notably the lineout in which hooker James Ogden’s throwing radar appeared to have gone AWOL.
The biggest pack Brods have fielded for some time was unable to dominate the scrums and their forwards were slow to the breakdown, where they also failed to protect their ball.
In the backs, kicking and passing was a struggle with Danny Wood and Tom Andrews having torrid afternoons while ill Joe Armitage was missed at the base of the scrum late in the game.
Brods faced the slope first and were pinned in their own half for the opening quarter.
Their rush defence served them well and Hullensians, who kicked away some decent possession, were limited to a 3-0 lead through fullback Guy Martinson’s penalty after Sterling Ross had pulled down a maul.
A scrum penalty on half way helped Brods attack for the first time and they twice kicked penalties to the corner but lost the lineouts.
Phil Town made a good tackle on his own 22 after Hullensians had broken dangerously and Brods, under the cosh, got a real bonus on 35 minutes.
Hullensians had created an overlap on their left but home winger Matty Hoyle gambled on the interception and it paid off, enabling him to make a slow-motion 70 metre run to the posts.
Wood converted and then added a penalty after Thompson had fielded a scuffed restart, broke the Hullensians defensive line and made 45 metres.
Leading 10-3 in the closing seconds of the half, two errors in quick succession from Wood handed the visitors seven points on a plate, centre Matt Donkin strolling over at the side of the posts and Martinson converting.
A Wood penalty two minutes after the restart gave Brods a 13-10 lead but an Andrews kick which barely went five yards and an unnecessary yellow card for back rower Kyle Millward at a ruck landed the home side in trouble.
Hullensians kicked a penalty to the corner and showed Brods how to execute a catch and drive, blind side flanker Kev Bates’ unconverted score giving the visitors a two-point advantage.
Brods went 20-15 up on 63 minutes when a Hullensians player was caught in possession and Thompson was unstoppable from short range. With Wood now on the sidelines, Town converted.
Hullensians were in no mood to lie down and although they had flanker Olly Dynan yellow carded for dissent, they pressed hard in the closing stages.
They were denied a try in the corner, when the referee ruled that the ball had been held up.
A little knock-on and then a penalty should have brought relief to the home side.
However, Town’s boot predictably lacked the power to find touch from under his own posts and Hullensians stormed back, impressive No 8 Jason Conroy burrowing his way over from close range to level matters.
When the ball barely got off the ground from Martinson’s goal attempt 15 metres in from the touchline, Brods were relieved to emerge with two league points.