Team performance to remember as Spartans sparkle
By Andrew Thomson
Diss RFC, 11th November 2018
Squad: Alfie Funnell, Ben Harvey, Billy Evans, Cheu Hung Lo, Callum Sparkes (captain), Conrad Harrison, Freddie Jenner, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Jack Burrell, Jake Garside, James Ketteridge, Joel Holderness, Luke Clarke, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Elsby, Matt Wernham, Oli Reek, Seth Ahier, Toba Oladapo.
Coaches: Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Andy Thomson.
Diss 19 - 50 Wymondham Spartans
Early rain disappears on the drive down to Diss and we arrive in fine sunshine for another Remembrance Sunday fixture at the club. All players, coaches and supporters come together at 11 to observe the Two Minutes’ silence marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. After the Spartans’ visit to the battlefields and cemeteries of the Somme during our tour last month, no reminder is needed of the importance of that core rugby value of Respect.
The Spartans are without a few players due to injury and others had school games yesterday. So it’s a good opportunity to use a fresh side from the off and it’s a gamble that pays off brilliantly. Though not instantly - Diss front up hard from the start, chip through and James just wins the foot race to get the ball down. Diss control the resulting 5m scrum for a pick and go, we try to hold up the maul on the line but change our binds illegally and concede a penalty try.
That concentrates Spartan minds and it doesn’t take us long to even things up. Seth gets us a penalty at the breakdown, we win the resulting lineout and two short carries later crash over with Ben adding the extras with a great conversion from wide. The Spartans are playing with aggression and creativity - we’re much better in the rucks which coupled with more energetic presentation on the ground is giving us good quick ball to use.
Diss’s defence holds firm for a time and we do fumble a couple of chances. The home side force us back into our 22 with a string of effective short carries which keep the likes of Callum, James, Cheu Hung, Conrad and Giles both entertained and busy, but the break comes when Diss take to the boot. It’s a mistake - their long kick is fielded by Joel at full back who then makes a full 70m before being snagged. He gets the offload way to Matt W who’s running support and he just manages to keep his balance to get over the line.
We mess up the restart but recover and Jack makes a series of monster carries, leaving blue shirts scattered in his wake. “That lad’s been missing his rugby” is the sage analysis on the touchline. This is quick and physical rugby with players looking for openings and ready to contest any 50-50 opportunities. Toba steals and break, Matt W carries and Trenners crashes over for Wymondham’s third.
Matt E adds a fourth after more good work from Seth and the forwards, then Jack gets his reward with a fine try built on a turn over. We give away penalties and need to work on discipline, but our defence is solid and the half ends with Cheu Hung leaving Diss in no doubt that his channel is not a wise one to run down.
The restart brings a beaut of a team try with Reeky getting things going before the ball is moved through countless Spartan hands for Joel to score. Brilliant work at the breakdown and great handling mean we’re able to play ambitious rugby - and it’s well-balance team rugby as well. The forwards are going through the phases, attacking around the fringes, keeping the home defence stressed. Ben at 9 and Harry Thomo playing his first Wymondham game at 10, keep Diss guessing and the backs feast on every opportunity. It’s too much for Diss, especially as we start to bring on fresh legs from our larger squad, and we run in a series of scores from Matt E, Reeky, Harry Thomo (thanks to a fine line run by Bill) and Conrad.
Diss have left too many holes to keep us out, but they’re ready to pounce when we make mistakes, scoring twice after charging down a kick and from a quick tap penalty. We’re not done though and run in three more tries before time’s up. It’s been a sparkling performance from the Spartans, and it needed to be as Diss are a much improved squad with a good run of results behind them. But we’ve stopped them playing their game, got the basics of our game right and seized our chances whenever and wherever they appeared.
Men of the Match: on a day of great performances from the forwards, special mentions go to Harry Trenners and Jack for their big shifts, but Seth gets it for his superb work at the breakdown. In the backs, tip of the hats to Matt W and Joel for their powerful and elusive running, but Matt E gets the nod for his constant support running and great finishing. Well done also to the two Lukes, both new this season, who both got properly stuck into the game. A fine day!