Players and supporters came together with shovels and brushes on Saturday morning to make sure Halifax Vandals’ pitch was free of snow for the visit of Stocksbridge.
They were rewarded with a 27-13 win as player/coach Jamie Bloem’s men maintained their promotion drive in Yorkshire Three ahead of next week’s rearranged derby at Halifax RUFC.
The home side’s first half display built on the previous week’s impressive work at Baildon.
Controlled, powerful forward play and excellent positional kicking from Joe Gallagher helped them built a 20-0 interval lead.
The second half was a frustrating affair as Vandals attempted to play a more expansive game in difficult conditions.
Stocksbridge took advantage of numerous errors and threatened to snatch a share of the spoils before a late Vandals try settled the match.
In glorious sunshine, Vandals started in dominant fashion down the hill. Joe Greenwood produced several rumbustious drives and aggressive support play from Richardson and Jowett led to a penalty which Crowther kicked with ease.
The Vandals pack was dominant and only exceptional Stocksbridge defence kept the hosts at bay.
On 17 minutes, however, strong close quarter work from Sutcliffe and Hamer led to the impressive Ben Burnside crashing over in the corner for his 12th try of the season. Crowther converted brilliantly for a 10-0 lead.
Stocksbridge were having most success competing for turnover ball on the floor and following impressive back row play only a strong cover tackle from Sutcliffe prevented a try.
Vandals then surprised everybody by moving the ball wide at pace. Excellent handling from Binns and Bryson put Jordan Bloem into space and the young winger was held just short of the try line.
After several strong forward drives space was created on the blind side for Bloem to dive over for a well deserved try. Crowther’s touchline conversion made it 17-0.
The rest of the half saw relentless pressure from the ever improving Vandals pack and exceptional defence from Stocksbridge. Vandals added another penalty on the stroke of half time for a 20-0 lead.
If the large home crowd thought the game was won they were soon in for a rude awakening.
Stocksbridge came out with fire in their bellies and their scrum half stormed through a gap for an unconverted try.
Vandals persisted in trying to play a more expansive game with little success and Stocksbridge gained confidence.
A penalty kick on 54 minutes closed the gap to 20-8 and after a mundane passage of play the South Yorkshire team created a try from nowhere, their lock sprinting over to set up a thrilling last 10 minutes.
This galvanised Vandals. who reverted to the game that had proved so successful in the first half.
Craig Sim and Frazer Carrington led the pack in impressive style and after multiple phases of strong forward play Carrington dived over to the left of the posts. Crowther completed another 100 per cent kicking display.
Coach Jamie Bloem said: “Stocksbridge seemed very determined and confident but they didn’t factor in the improvement we have made since our last meeting and our will to win.
“Make no mistake, the game was in the balance late on. We thought that 20-0 at half time meant we were guaranteed a win but Stocksbridge rallied and made the game very interesting indeed.”
Meanwhile, Halifax picked up their first win of the season in a shock 15-8 home win over Baildon.