Middlesbrough v Beverley Sat 8th Jan 2022
Against a team heading the table with only two previous defeats this season and having amassed nearly 500 points this was always going to be a tough afternoon for Beverley, especially at a ground where in the past they have seldom enjoyed much success. Nonetheless it was a hard fought and entertaining game played in a fine spirit. Up to halftime there was very little in it but as the game wore on the superior physicality and powerful running of the home side eventually told.
Middlesbrough pounded the Beverley line in the early stages only to be denied by careless handling errors and some stout Beverley defending. Having weathered the early storm Beverley steadily got back into it and took the lead with a Phil Duboulay penalty. It was slightly against the run of play and unsurprisingly Middlesbrough captured the lead with a try in the corner after Beverley had lost the ball from their own scrum ten metres out.
Having taken the lead Middlesbrough never surrendered it and kept Beverley at bay whenever the lead was threatened. But at 5-3 Beverley were still very much in it and so it remained until the stroke of halftime when with almost the last action of the half a determined forty metre run by Aedan Moloney in the Middlesbrough centre brought a second home try which was converted to take it to 12-3.
Thereafter Middlesbrough always managed to keep comfortably ahead and it became something of an uphill struggle for Beverley. Three minutes after the break a splendid try by Jake Boardman sprinting clear down the right and outpacing the home defence from sixty metres out did bring them back to within a try of taking the lead. But it was a false dawn. The superior physicality of the home side up front increasingly began to tell and they stretched their lead with a third try, driving over from a penalty lineout in the corner.
At 22-8 a converted try might still have brought Beverley a losing bonus point. They gave it everything but a Middlesbrough penalty, quickly followed by a fourth try, took the game away from them. Beverley were hampered by the loss of Duboulay with a leg injury midway through the half which somewhat disrupted the fluency of the backplay. The backs today were never allowed to cut loose as they had in the fine win against Old Crossleyans and clean line breaks against a solid defence were hard to come by.
Yet they still continued to play with ambition and ten minutes before time were rewarded with a nicely worked try under the posts by Jacob Holmes which Joey Franklin converted to bring it back to 27-15. Another converted try could again bring them a losing bonus point. As the minutes ticked away they fought hard to get it but a final penalty for Middlesbrough at the death took it to 30-15 and clear water. It was a comfortable enough victory for them although one which reflected somewhat unkindly on the heroic backs-to-the-wall defending which Beverley had produced against relentless pressure most of the afternoon.
So Middlesbrough march on and look odds on to gain promotion. For Beverley it was a disappointing result but a performance from which they can take great credit, not least for their spirited defending. Callum Harvey in the second row had a fine personal day and Aiden Calvert in his first game for the club put himself about to good effect. The pack as a whole fought and tackled tenaciously and throughout were never far short of giving as good as they got against bigger and more powerful opponents. There will be easier games ahead than this.