Spartans make a parrot poorly in a game of two halves
By Andrew Thomson
Wymondham RFC, 14th October 2018
Squad: Aiden Davies, Ben Harvey, Billy Evans, Cameron Verney, Cheu Hung Lo, Conrad Harrison, Elliot Moore, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Isaac Birch (captain), Jake Garside, James Ketteridge, Joel Holderness, Luke Clarke, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Elsby, Matt Harrison, Matt Pitcher, Matt Wernham, Oli Reek, Seth Ahier.
Coaches: Neil Davies, Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Andy Thomson.
Wymondham Spartans 26 - 5 Woodbridge
The Spartans put the band back together for this one - Billy, Cam and Matt W back from injury and both Jake and Oli playing after light duties for school rugby. Mind you, Sparksy, Jack, Josh, Alfie and Toba are still on sick notes so it’s going to be while before we’re up to full strength, but it’s a decent turn out to face a very decent side. We beat Woodbridge last year to revenge their U14s’ win, but the opening scores of the season suggest they’ve built strongly so an interesting tussle is in prospect.
A delayed start puts the worst of the rain behind us, but it’s wet enough to produce a scrappy opening with plenty of handling errors. Woodbridge look the sharper though - more fired up and quicker to pounce. They’re playing clever rugby too, kicking deep for territory, and their rucking is controlled and effective. It gets the visitors into our 22 but Wymondham are up for the challenge and James leads the defence before Jake kicks clear. When we get the ball we try to use it but slips frustrate us and Woodbridge are well organised. Their reward comes with the first score - we’re caught off-side, they land a great kick to the corner, win the line-out and get the ball through the hands and over the line.
Frankly they’re much the better side in the first half. We put them under pressure - Conrad chases the catcher at the restart and forces a forward pass - but their scrum is low and strong and they win far too much ball at the rucks. It gives them the lion’s share of the attacking fun and their kicks keep us pinned back in our own half.
When we make breaks they bring us down and too often snaffle possession. Things don’t get better when a blood injury forces Oli off, we give away penalties and Cam gets a yellow. Woodbridge nearly double their lead but finally we get our act together - Ben offloads from the floor, Jake gathers and 75m and a couple of jinks later has levelled it. Ben slots the conversion to give us the lead and enough confidence to see out the half with our noses just - and unjustly - in front.
A few home truths spelled out by Neil and then by Sparksy at the break focus minds on upping the intensity. The Spartans have been lacklustre and we’re not going to win this unless we step up. Cam, Conrad and Aiden lead the way with powerful tackles and Bill dabs through a left-foot chip for Jake to chase and score.
The game’s swinging back in our favour, though Woodbridge are too good to let us apply sustained pressure. They keep us out when we get to their 5m line and mount their own counter, off-loading to constantly change the point of attack. It’s fast moving and frenetic. Woodbridge are cool-headed and controlled, but they can’t make the break they need. Elliot brings down their winger and Jake again scampers away, but he’s snagged just before he’s free. It’s a high tackle though and we use the penalty to get back to their 5m. We work the ball wide for Bill to carry hard and open the way for Matt H to score.
Jake converts to put us 19-5 up and steady a few fast-beating Wymondham hearts on the touchline. In truth though there’s not much in it. It’s taking a big effort from both the team and individual players to gain any sort of control on the game. Everything we throw at them - and Joel’s the next to break beautifully - they absorb and throw back at us. Isaac and Matt P pounce on a loose ball but before we can use it Woodbridge steal it back and only a flying tackle on the far touchline from Matt H stops them scoring.
A penalty plants them back in our 22 and this time it’s their forwards on the charge. They cross but Harry Trenerry and Giles have locked on and hold the ball up. Woodbridge attack again from the scrum but we’re fast out of the blocks and force the knock-on. There’s only five minutes left on the clock but had Woodbridge scored it would have been a properly squeaky five minutes.
As it is, it’s Wymondham who add points: Ben kicks clear, Elliot chases, we secure possession and work fast offloads - the last brilliantly from Matt P - to set up Ben for both the try and the conversion. That wraps it up and gives the Spartans what looks like a comfortable win, though it felt very different at ground level. We struggled at scrum and breakdown and lacked intensity early on, but we’ve disrupted their line-outs, tackled non-stop and been the better at turning half-chances into points. Credit to Woodbridge, this was a tough game and we were fortunate to get the win.
Men of the Match: it’s joint honours for Matt H and James in the backs. James for his tackle count (which helped keep us in the game in that tough first half) and Matt for his composure at 9 against sharp opposition. And Aiden gets it for the forwards - with a special mention going to Harry Trenerry - for his great work in the lineout plus some fantastic steals, and their quick-witted defence against Woodbridge’s big ball carriers.