While Saturday at Heath had been cold and blustery, my arrival at Sandal Rugby Club was marked by a downpour which lasted some way into the first game. And it was still cold, still blustery. As I may have mentioned, Yorkshire RFU have kindly sponsored me to produce some photos for an exhibition in the summer, in June, opening first at Bradford Industrial Museum (see swish new website here) and then going on to a number of other venues throughout the county in the period running up to the Rugby Union World Cup in the Autumn. As you probably know, two World Cup games are taking place at Elland Road stadium in Leeds. More of all this in the coming weeks. Anyway, Yorkshire asked me to ensure that the pictures cover all aspects of rugby union in the county - being diverse in terms of race, gender, age and ability. So these two games represented a great opportunity to photograph some of the best younger players around. There were two games, the first being a county 'development squad' containing those players at the younger end of the age group along with those currently hoping to break into the first team. They were playing a similar Lancashire team named as a Lancashire President's XV.
It was still raining hard when the teams kicked off at midday. Almost immediately the mud began to stick, making open, passing rugby difficult if not impossible. Lancashire started brightly, scoring the first try. This seemed to awaken Yorkshire, giving the team a sharp reminder as to what was expected. They began to work through the phases with the ball and effectively cut out any opposition opportunities without it. Several Yorkshire tries followed. Whether it had something to do with playing up the slope in the second half, or whether cold and fatigue had set in, the sides became much more evenly matched. However, the home side had done enough in the first forty and hung on to their comfortable lead with a closing score of 17-5.
Almost immediately after, the two counties' first XVs kicked off, Yorkshire playing in their familiar white with dark blue trim and shorts and Lancashire in their equally well known red and white horizontal pin striped shirts and white shorts. Once again the mud began to dull this colourful display in no time. This time it was Yorkshire who took the initiative, scoring regularly throughout the game, with Lancashire only able to reply late into the second half. The final score seems unclear, judging by the Lancashire RFU Twitter feed. It was either 20 or 22 to 7.
It has to be said that all four sides worked hard and gave of their best in very difficult conditions. If these displays are anything to go by, there's a bright rugby future for both counties. You can see more pics from the Development Squad game here and the full County game here.
Should mention that these pictures were very well received. There's around 150 altogether and they received over 9000 views on the evening of the matches over on Flickr. The following day, Monday, a record (for me) 17000 plus had a look. Each time I photograph a new club or county side, it's a little extension to the audience. If you're new to these pages, have a look elsewhere, both here and on Flickr. And if you should fancy buying a print or two, or even a high res digital download to print yourself, why not get in touch?