BARLA won the opening Great Britain Community Lions Selection Festival to record their third consecutive victory over an eleven day period when the squad has been tested to the full with the players having to also fit league fixtures in as well.
The Combined Services took an early 8-0 lead before two converted tries, one minutes before half time gave BARLA a 12-8 lead. They took command in the second forty with a further three unanswered tries in an all-round team effort.
In a tough physical encounter the deadlock was broken on nine minutes following a ball and all tackle by the Services Darryl Cooper on Tim Sutcliffe and as the ball was dislodged Cooper broke away. He was stopped but two plays later with the BARLA defence trying to get back in position stand off Chris Lodge went through a wide hole to give the Combined Services the opening try. His half back partner Scott Partis added the extras and six minutes later added a penalty to make it 8-0.
It knocked BARLA back but on 26 minutes following consecutives sets of six they scored their opening try of the game. From the play the ball stand off Stuart Coates passed outside to centre Andy Dobson who carried on the movement to Matt Jefferson who dived over in the corner. Craig Holmes added the extras with his first of five conversions out of five with a magnificent touchline effort.
This gave them a big lift and they took the game to the Combined Services who put in a big tackling effort. Their defence was breached though three minutes from half time when BARLA were awarded a penalty in a good position. They declined the two points ran it and were rewarded as ball went though a number of hands before being finished off Holmes.
The Services continued to drive forward and prop Ryan Hepworth continuously put in some big hits as did the outstanding Martin Wood. Partis took the Services side forward as they tried hit back but they were undone again on 55 minutes.
BARLA stood their ground during this period and then put pressure on the Services with another back to back set. BARLA ran at the defence keeping the ball down the line and prop Kevin Thompson took the ball full on to crash through the Combined Services line.
The side began showing the attacking flair of their previous games trying to keep the ball alive at all times and this was illustrated with their fourth try on 68 minutes. It was started off by scrum half Kevin Brown and finished by Danny Smith as he went twenty meters down the touchline after Dobson passed outside to him.
The victory was completed two minutes from time after further BARLA pressure on the Combined Services line and Hooker Joe Elliott saw a chink in the by now tired defence to force himself over from close range from the play the ball.
After the game BARLA coach Chris Middlehirst said, "The lads have stood up to be counted today we were carrying a few with little knocks and a couple of lads came in at short notice and they all performed admirably. We have got a great team spirit and camaraderie between the lads and when we went 8-0 down we hit back quickly.
"The Combined Services were a little bit physical earlier on and we expected it from them as they had some big lads in their side but we stuck at it got back in the game and never looked back after our opening try. We kept pecking away and came away with the victory. It always was nice to score just on the break it gave us a physiological lift and set us up for the second half rather than being two points behind. The first half performance was pleasing and we played some good football in the second half even though the troops were out on their knees at times.
"It was good to keep them out tryless and [pointless in the second half but all credit to the Combined Services they gave it there all out with a hundred per cent effort.
"We are going to start planning for South Africa soon and we will be taking twenty six to twenty eight players for two Test matches and two provincial games and we are building a squad together. We will get together once a month up to the end of this season and we will try to get then together for a bit of bonding over the Christmas period. Barring injury ninety nine per cent of this squad will be going to South Africa if we can keep them together. Some are going to get knocks between now and the end of the season who we will who is available then for the tour."
BARLA Chair Spen Allison, "Absolutely superb, I think the programme that the lads have gone through over the last two weeks has been tremendous. On top of the international callings they have played league games and fitted in training for their respective Counties. A couple of the players today have left straight away after this game to get to their clubs to turn out for them in the second half's. It is tremendous and the BARLA spirit is unbelievable."
BARLA: Craig Holmes (Thornhill Trojans), Danny Smith (Shaw Cross Sharks), Andy Dobson (Blackbrook), Tim Sutcliffe (West Bowling), Matt Jefferson (Barrow Island), Stuart Coates (East Hull), Kevin Brown (Eastmoor Dragons), Kevin Thompson (Wath Brow Hornets), Anthony Atherton (Wigan St Pats), Trevor Penrose (Skirlaugh), Gary Lumb (Sharlston Rovers), John Eccles (Hull Dockers), Anthony Broadhead (Thornhill Trojans). Subs: Joe Elliott (Barrow Island), Andy Gargan (York Acorn), Kevin Dickson (Sharlston Rovers), Matt Myers (Shaw Cross Sharks), James Foley (Thornhill Trojans)
Tries:Jefferson, Holmes, Thompson, Smith, Elliott
Goals: Holmes 5
Combined Services: Lee Innes, Lee Haggerty, Chris Gordon, Darryl Cooper, Ben Seru, Chris Lodge, Scott Partis, Jamie Goss, Steve Lockton, Ryan Hepworth, Jim Barnes, Matt Lodge, Martin Wood. Subs: Lewis Taylor, Al Blewitt, Carl Harrison, Kieran Cagney, Karl Craven, Scott Fanning
Goals: Partis 2