Charity rugby match pitchs hunts against each other

Action from last year's game when Middleton (gold hoops) triumphed over Holderness (navy blue).  Pic: rfmequine
Action from last year's game when Middleton (gold hoops) triumphed over Holderness (navy blue). Pic: rfmequine
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IT WILL be turf war of a different kind this afternoon when two local hunts meet - on the rugby pitch.

This is the second annual inter-hunt rugby match between The Holderness Hunt and The Middleton Hunt and this year Holderness are determined to win.

Last year saw Middleton claim a decisive victory on the pitch, although Holderness ladies managed to save some dignity by winning the boat race.

Teams consist of people involved in the hunt in some way from farmers and landowners to jockeys and feed merchants.

Farmer Guy Ellerington, who has helped to organise the teams, said: “The idea of an inter-hunt rugby match came about and we planned a kick-about with borrowed shirts. It grew into a big event once we realised how enthusiastic people were, to come and watch and to play.”

The teams are competing for a bespoke trophy created by local farrier Garrie Lazenby. Garrie, who plays for Holderness and has crafted tiny horseshoes into a rugby ball to make the one-off piece.

Tom Mason, Middleton team captain, said: “Last year we raised more than £3,700 which was a tremendous amount.”

The players will be raising money for both hunts and for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Joanna Mason, organiser of the Middleton team, said: “We really wanted to do something for the Air Ambulance as it is a cause close to all our hearts. It does help horse riders and farmers, but actually anyone who drives or lives in the countryside.”

Joanna added: “Traditionally we’ve all got on very well and worked closely together, but that will all change on Saturday when we’ll be pitching neighbour against neighbour.

“We chose Driffield Rugby Club as it marks the border between our two areas, so it’s neutral territory.”

Both teams have players of a wide range of ages from 17 to 50-plus and with varying levels of experience.

Guy said: “We have some who are currently playing but others who haven’t played for decades. It’s amazing who comes out of the woodwork and the things you learn about people.”

Among those on the pitch there will be assistant racehorse trainer David Easterby and hunt master Tim Rose as well as local farmer Sam Beachell and his 17-year-old son Charlie.

Sam said: “It has always been my lifetime ambition to play on the same pitch as one of my sons, but due to injuries and the logistics of playing I never thought it would happen. Last year the inter-hunt rugby was the first time we’d played together which was a special moment.”

Each team will also field sets of brothers, with the Holderness lining up the Norman brothers and the Rook brothers, and Middleton playing Tom and James Mason alongside three Wainwright boys.

The Middleton team has been training at Malton Rugby Club with Holderness using the Driffield ground.

Guy, captain of the Holderness team, admits that team selection has been a headache: “We chose our players based on what position they preferred to play, but after training we’ve had to have a shuffle about.”

Kick off is at 3pm and with rolling substitutes the team captains are going to ensure every player gets some time on the pitch.

Middleton captain Tom said: “It’s not just hunting people taking part, there are lots of local farmers, farm workers and those that live in the countryside. It’s about us all coming together to have fun and raise money for a worthy cause.”

Fundraising will include entrance money and a sweepstake on the match itself.

Shirts have been ordered so both teams have an official “strip” and programmes include light-hearted information about the 23 players listed for each side. The Holderness team will be playing in navy blue with light blue collars and the Middleton team in yellow and black stripes.