Wymondham U16s fight hard for the win at Woodbridge
By Andrew Thomson
Woodbridge RFC, 27th January 2019
Squad: Aiden Davies, Alfie Funnell, Ben Harvey, Billy Evans, Cheu Hung Lo, Callum Sparkes (captain), Cam Verney, Conrad Harrison, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Isaac Birch, Jake Garside, James Ketteridge, Joel Holderness, Luke Clarke, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Elsby, Matt Pitcher, Matt Wernham, Oli Reek, Seth Ahier.
Coaches: Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Andy Thomson.
Woodbridge 12 - 28 Wymondham Spartans
Last week we lost out to frozen pitches so this Sunday’s yellow weather warning and 5 deg C temperatures seem positively balmy. In fact the sun’s even putting in a brief appearance by the time we get to Woodbridge. We beat them 26-5 at home back in October, though that actually makes it one of our lower scoring games so we’re going to have to fight hard here for points.
Warm up done, the hosts get us under way and prove good at hanging on to the ball. They’re strong and quick at the breakdown and we don’t over-commit, choosing instead to leave plenty of defenders to meet them on the gain line. It’s a stalemate with Woodbridge unable to find an opening and Wymondham unable to turn them over. The hosts finally go to the boot and hoist a kick up and over. Joel at full back is ready and takes the catch at speed, finds a hole before off-loading to Bill who in turn feeds Jake to score, with Ben adding the conversion.
It’s enough to get Wymondham sniffing an edge and we attack hard but waste our chances first with wild off-loads and then by being caught offside. Trenners makes a fine steal but we cough it up again and Woodbridge get within 6m of our line before we can bundle them into touch. Billy puts in a monster clearance kick which puts the pressure back on the hosts. They get a scrum but it’s in their 22 and when they try to drive up field with short carries they knock on, hand us the advantage and we carry hard in turn at their line. It’s Cheu Hung who has the power to finish the try and Jake converts to put us a comfortable 14-0 up.
We’re not in control of this game though - hands are cold and there are too many fumbles. Woodbridge attack and our line speed is slow but there are still plenty of individual moments - Cam rips, Matt W pressurises, Isaac breaks but we’re too scrappy to capitalise. Woodbridge use their powerful front three to run hard carries at us and when they get a lucky bounce from a kick into our 22 it’s their tighthead who drives over to make it 14-7 just before the break.
If the first half was as messy as a Spartan changing room, no one is set on tidying up the opening stages of the second half. Knock-ons lead to a succession of scrums which just lead to more fumbles. Both sides are trying to vary their attack and shift the ball but players run back into traffic and Wymondham come off worse too many times at the breakdown. Woodbridge have the wind behind them but when they kick deep Matt P catches and picks his way through serried blue ranks, but again a lack of support chokes off the attack. We begin to fall off tackles until Jake puts in flying, horizontal masterclass to keep Woodbridge in their place and finally Isaac finds the space and speed to get our third try.
The hosts come within a metre or so of scoring one straight back so though we’ve stretched our lead, the game’s not done with the Blues pressing hard in our red zone. Joel flips that on its head with a great, mazy break feeding Conrad and then Sparksy for a captain’s try under the posts. The toing and froing continues with Woodbridge striking back after we fumble a ball close to our line and they score off the resulting scrum. 28-12.
That’s how it stays despite a classic Jake jink and score from a free kick (he’s called back for starting from the wrong point). We play our best rugby in these closing stages, linking better and looking for space. Our lineout’s struggled in the wind but Seth steals one back. Jake and Ben provide plenty of good attacking ball for the backs, Bill runs some great lines while Oli and James make hard yards to put us back on the front foot.
Isaac nearly adds the icing, first getting a great turn over and then nearly scoring in the corner (it’s disallowed, though later photos suggest a TMO might have ruled otherwise). Jake and Matt W put in more cracking tackles to nullify Woodbridge’s remaining threat and Joel breaks again from full back, but again the support isn’t there.
We end up comfortable winners but could have - should have - nailed more points. That’s partly due our errors (too many daft off-loads after crashing into unnecessary contact), partly the weather (it’s bloody cold and this is numbing January rugby), plus the disruption of lots of rolling substitutions (but everyone got game time) - but mostly it’s the strength of Woodbridge in both attack and defence. Our thanks to them for a tough game that won’t win any tiaras in a beauty parade, but was a proper test for both teams.
Men of the Match: Jake gets a special mention for his hard tackling and a beautiful non-try but the backs’ award goes to Joel’s fizzing counter-attacks from 15. And Cheu Hung gets it for the forwards - in part for his try but also his hard carries and dynamic efforts to look after that ball.