Dan Bird’s men beat Sheffield Medicals 62-14 at Station View on Saturday, a result which keeps them second in the table and just a single point behind leaders Barnsley with three games left to play.
The weekend’s hot weather attracted a large and boisterous crowd to the Jim Saynor Ground and those in attendance witnessed the home side heave their visitors off their first scrum of the day, allowing Hugh Tatlow to pick up and muscle his way over for the opening score with just two minutes played.
The Pythons forwards continued to try and overpower the students early on, with Will Butler and Nino Cutino making strong initial inroads and the backs benefiting from the space created and playing some expansive stuff.
A Matt Leach carry was quickly recycled and Jed Carr released Tim Evans, who shrugged off several would-be tacklers to score by the posts. Will Clough added the conversion for 12-0 after a quarter-of-an-hour.
The Medics responded with an outside break by their winger, however he was tackled from behind by the covering Harry Parrish.
The visitors came again and quick ball from a ruck saw one of their forwards pick up at the back and show a good burst of pace as he dashed over the whitewash to narrow the gap at 12-7.
With Sheffield enjoying their best spell of the game, quick hands saw them breach the ‘Gate defence once again and take a 14-12 lead in the 24th minute.
The Pythons knew that they had to raise their game at this stage and wasted no time in doing so. Jordan Payne and Jon Pickard started to make a nuisance of themselves, turning over Medics ball and helping to force the away side backwards.
Having disrupted a line- out, the hosts moved back into the lead on the half-hour-mark, Tatlow pouncing on the loose ball to add his second try, which was converted from close to the touchline by Clough.
With Liam Kernoghan looking to bring powerful runners Scott Irvine and Tim Evans into the game and the Pythons’ back-three of Parrish, James Audsley-Beck and Sam Beagrie looking dangerous in wide areas, the Medics began to struggle.
And a sweeping home move saw Irvine collect the ball on the visitors’ 22 before he shrugged off a couple of opponents to score by the posts. Clough’s conversion made the half-time score 26-14 to ‘Gate.
Coach Bird rang the changes at the interval, making the most of his strong bench, which paid dividends immediately as Will Smith and Nathan Wake gave the students more defensive problems.
Another good run from Butler resulted in Evans storming through to touch down, with Clough’s successful conversion taking his points tally to 200 for the season and making it 33-14.
With Smith and Marcus Fotherby making a mess of the Medics’ line-out while their scrum continued to go backwards, the Pythons attacked the blindside and a lovely inside ball from Audsley-Beck to Max Sharp saw the latter step the Sheffield full-back for another try that was converted by Carr.
The Medics then showed their mettle as they produced a sweeping move, which resulted in another try, converted from out wide to narrow the gap at 40-21 after 55 minutes.
The Pythons hit straight back and Andy MacKay picked out a dangerous line by Carr, who put Audsley- Beck clear out wide to roar over and move the scoreline along to 45-21 on the hour.
Next, a Payne turnover went quickly through the hands for Parrish to score on the opposite wing.
From the restart, Sharp combined with Beagrie, who made it to the away 22 with several players hanging onto him,but recovered his feet quickly to take a MacKay pass and batter his way over for a touchdown. MacKay booted over the extra two points for 57-21 in the 70th minute.
And there was still time for another flowing Pythons move to allow Sharp to cross out wide round things off.
The Whitakers Gin Man of the Match Award went to captain Will Butler, who helped destroy the Medics scrum and was dominant in the loose.
This Saturday, Bird and his troops visit struggling Hemsworth.