Photo L-R: Andrew Wilson (89-99), Iain Hallam and James Flint (00-11)
The 2017 OP social calendar came to a perfect close at Percy Road on Boxing Day as another bumper festive season crowd enjoyed an entertaining 'Town v Gown' game of fluctuating fortunes that ended all square for the second year running; Pocklington and Old Pocklingtonians drawing 26-26 to share the Bottomley Trophy once again.
In a similar vein to Boxing Day 2016, the OPs led 26-7 and looked nailed on winners midway through the second half before Pocklington's big comeback saw them grab three last quarter tries to pull level. And the drama continued to the last blast of the whistle with both sides coming within inches of winning it at the death.
Pocklington were the first to show despite OP jackal Richard Skowronek's (99-10) artful efforts to dominate the breakdown. Pock's early thrusts were held by solid OP defence before the home pack lost a scrum, then won it back and teenager Reece Dixon came off the blindside wing to slice through the middle and score at the posts, Jonty Peters converting for the hosts.
There were good contests and old rivalries across the field, with the opposing front rows in particular enjoying their festive fayre. Experienced loose head Chris Morton led some meaty Pocklington charges with his young lieutenants Lewis Robbins and Charlie Cartwright never far behind. Opposite, OP prop Sam Garvey (08-15) was quickly in the thick of things after his injury hiatus, while his front row colleagues fashioned an immediate OP response – prop Nick Hobbs (99-04) charging down a Pock kick for hooker Guy Brumfield (01-08) to collect and dive over, scrum half Tom Sowersby (05-12) converting.
Having been gifted their way back, the OPs maintained the momentum to cross again in the second quarter. Fullback Sami Eggleston (99-07) is an annual threat, his taking him clear from halfway down the far side to go under the sticks for Sowersby to convert for 7-19 at the interval. And Eggleston's élan plus OP opportunism saw them pull away early in the second period as three-quarters Elliot Adamson (12-17) and Jack Garvin (10-17) stretched over in quick succession, Adamson converting his own score to make it 7-26.
But the OP exertions started to tell. They conceded a series of penalties on the retreat, then left the fringes of a ruck unguarded for Pock scrum half David Davison to skirt round and sprint away to the line, replacement fly half Sam Pattison converting.
With the fitter Pock pack now on the front foot and the backs re-energised as Callum Mooney joined his Colts' colleague Pattison at halfback and former Premiership three-quarter and England 7s cap Rob Vickerman was on for a cameo comeback at centre, the initiative was firmly with Pocklington, though they still trailed 14-26.
Could history repeat itself? Does lightning strike twice? Since the Pock v OP festive encounter was initiated in the early 1980s there has only been one draw – in 2016. But Pocklington's comeback was irresistible as the home backs turned over the ball on the Percy Road flank and fullback Fereti Soloa burst clear to cross for his first try in a blue and white shirt, Pattison converting. Then Pock pinned the OPs in the bottom corner from a long kick downfield and Fereti's scoring instincts again shone through as he scrambled to the line for a second score.
The conversion went just wide to leave it at 26-26 with five minutes to go. Pocklington went all out to win it, drove hard for and over the whitewash but were held up by committed OP defence. Pock came again, the OPs held again, then broke to the other end where they once more charged down a clearance kick - in a frantic dive for the touchdown from both sides the ball just rolled dead to save the home bacon.
The crowd held its breath for the final seconds, but defensive composure resumed and there was no further score leaving the honours even for another twelve months.
(Report by Phil Gilbank 67-74)
Click here to see photos on Flickr.