Sheffield Tigers 14 v 17 Hull Ionians
By Malcolm Knowles
Hurricane Hannah blows in to ruin the day.
Dore Moor. A dark and foreboding place, a place of myths and legend and a popular pub.
Strong winds whipped across the high grounds, bringing squalling rain to soak the faithful gathered to witness the rituals and tribal combat set to take place on the battlefield before them.
Huddled together to ward off the worst of Hurricane Hannah, supporters waited in anticipation because it was I’s versus Tigers, it's the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of their rival and the last time they met it was incredibly tight, so battle on, it’s I’s versus Tigers.
Who would be the victor and who the vanquished? Would it be the brilliance of Broadley or the magnificence of Minikin that would settle the encounter? Could the Tigers pack overcome the formidable forwards of the league Champions? By the end few, if any, amongst the assembled throng cared. They had endured an error strewn contest lacking any real zeal or significance, played out to bring to an end a season of contrasting fortunes; little enough between the sides to suggest one will prosper in the higher league and one should have struggled to remain in N2.
Tigers first useful attack, initiated by a break from Jamie Broadley, should have led to the opening try but Ionians scrambled across to drag down Hart just shy of the line and solid defence permitted Ionians to clear.
Ionians then gave Broadley a second chance; gathering a loose ball on half way he cut through the first line of defence before offloading to support. He continued to follow the flow of the ball and popped up to take a pass and move to ball onto Greg Mellor to dive over. Mark Ireland converted to give the hosts a 7 – 0 lead.
Ionians responded with scrum ball moved smartly to Lewis Minikin. Not one to be overshadowed, Minikin danced past his marker and showed commendable power and determination to drag several defenders over the line to score. His conversion tied the scores.
A penalty on the half hour by Minikin put Ionians narrowly in front and a piece of enterprise from Minikin and Steve Slingsby should have extended the lead, but the unpredictability of a bouncing ball allowed Tigers fullback, Joe Duffy, to get across and clear the danger.
A good deal of grunt and grapple ensued to no great effect and the half closed with Kain shown a yellow card for an inexcusable challenge on Bunting and Ionians maintaining a tenuous three-point lead.
The second period started in a similar vein to the first, endeavour and error matched in equal measure until Broadley intervened once again. A powerful burst up the wing took him past two defenders and as the cover came across an impeccably timed pass put Henri Packard over in the corner. Ireland judged his conversion effort perfectly and Sheffield re-took the lead, 14 – 10.
The Ionians pack began to assert some authority and a regular supply of possession put them close to the Tigers line and the forwards drove over for Bell to claim his 12th try of the campaign. Minikin goaled to put Ionians in front, 14 – 17, with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Sheffield dominated the closing stages and worked the ball up to within 5m of the Ionians line. That was as close as they came with the well marshalled Ionians defence, with James Sanderson continuing with his tackling masterclass, able to keep the Tigers at bay until Ed Falkingham turned the ball over allowing Trueman to launch the ball into the carpark and allow everyone to seek the sanctuary of the clubhouse.