Late try seals an away win for the Spartans
By Andrew Thomson
Holt RFC, 2nd December 2018
Squad: Aiden Davies, Alfie Funnell, Ben Harvey (captain), Cam Verney, Cheu Hung Lo, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Jack Burrill, Jake Garside, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Elsby, Matt Wernham, Seth Ahier plus Joe, Harry & Joe from Holt U15s.
Coaches: Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Jim Starling, Andy Thomson.
Holt 27 - 35 Wymondham Spartans
For the first time in a long time the Spartans are short of numbers - other rugby commitments, other life commitments, a handful of injuries and at least one girlfriend leave us one down on a full team and several down on a full squad. But Holt sportingly come to the rescue with the loan of two Joes and a Harry from their U15s and we have a game!
Holt start us off and do a damned good job of keeping the ball. The Spartans get barely a whiff of possession in the opening stages and as our line speed is laggardly we have to tackle hard - AJ, captain Ben, Jack and Matt W leading the defensive set with solid hits. The break comes though when we knock on in our 22 and the hosts score on the blind side off the resulting scrum. They don’t have the lead for long though with Jake scoring a scorcher from the line out and nailing the conversion.
The Spartans are a little off kilter with the absences but the instincts are all there - we try to work the ball through the hands and Matts W & E make a fine break but the support isn’t there in time and we can’t finish it. Holt too have their slips and a crunching hit, again from Matt W, leaves a spilled ball for Jake to scoop up for his second, and this time it’s Ben adding the extras.
It puts us a full score ahead and with Jack and Harry Trenners making powerful carries it looks like we’ve got the upper hand. The other Harry T confirms it with an interception try that leaves us 21-5 up so we begin to relax. Which is not a good idea - we keep on smashing the tackles, Alfie leading the demolition act this time, but Holt have much more in their kitbag and come back hard.
And again we give away penalties at the breakdown, lose territory and Holt get their second when we miss a tackle. They scuff the conversion though and Jake nearly puts us back in the comfort zone when he crosses but he’s held up and then it’s Holt’s turn to intercept and score. We go into the break 17-21 up, three tries apiece and only Ben and Jake’s conversions giving us the edge.
Wymondham press hard on the restart with the forwards fighting to gain an upper hand. Seth and AJ’s speed around the fringes is a constant threat and Cheu Hung, Giles, Jack and Trenners wrestle for possession. We fumble a couple of chances before landing a fine team try after shipping the ball out for Harry Th to finish in style. Jake again adds the conversion - he and Ben finish the day with 100% success from the tee - but Holt suddenly hit their stride with a series of hard carries.
We put in the hits but holes are opening up in our line and they get the off-loads away - the momentum’s back with the hosts and they score the try of the match thanks to great support, and darned nearly a second. We strike back but get turned-over and then penalised which gifts Holt a lineout just shy of our line. They set a maul which goes nowhere as Spartans pile in, but Holt dig the ball out just in time, zip it to their rejuvenated backs and are in at the corner. Crucially though, it’s too wide for their kicker and that leaves the game poised tantalizingly at 27-28 to Wymondham.
Rather than hang on and wind the clock down Jake again punches deep up field and we get a penalty. For a moment it looks like we’ve clinched it but the last pass goes awry and we have to go again. A Holt knock-on gifts us a second chance and this time we nail it - the scrum delivers, our first parry is blocked but we switch the attack and Seth deservedly lands the winner.
It’s been a fine game played in good spirit - and one that could have swung either way. The second half saw both teams play some excellent rugby - strong defence and the accuracy of our conversions gave Wymondham the edge and, though we struggled at times to find our fluency, we did seal the win. New man Luke H got stuck in, gaining valuable game time experience, and the one downside is that Cam’s work in the trenches left him with a concussion - he’s fine but will have to rest up for three weeks. Thanks again to Holt for the fixture, the hospitality and the loan of three very sporting and talented players!
Men of the match: Seth’s well-deserved try capped off a very strong performance that gets him the nod for the forwards this week. And for the backs, it’s split between Matt W’s fantastic and aggressive defensive work and Jake’s mercurial attack.