Spartans pipped at the post by Cambridge
By Andrew Thomson
Wymondham RFC, 17th February 2019
Squad: Aiden Davies, Alfie Funnell, Billy Evans (captain), Cheu Hung Lo, Cam Verney, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Isaac Birch, James Ketteridge, Joel Holderness, Luke Clarke, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Pitcher, Matt Wernham, Oli Reek, Seth Ahier, Toba Oladapo
Coaches: Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Jim Starling, John Lenihan, Andy Thomson.
Wymondham Spartans 21 - 22 Cambridge
There’s a battle royal going on over in Cambridgeshire for the U16 bragging rights between Cambridge and Huntingdon Stags. We did have a tasty double bill of fixtures lines up - Cambridge today and Stags next week - but their rearranged Cup game has forced Stags to cancel, so we’ll have to settle for this chance to get the measure of what they’re like out West.
Both squads are short of a few regulars due to half term but some juggling with positions fills the gaps and the Spartans get us underway. Despite a few early fumbles both teams are set on playing expansive rugby and Wymondham have the edge, both for aggression and ambition. Quick ball gives us attacking chances with Matt P on the wing making good inroads. And line speed and big hits - AJ takes down their biggest player - stymies their opportunities.
As ever though we give away too many penalties which gifts Cambridge territory. Bill clears with a 22 drop out and the chase is on. Cam, forgetting his front row credentials, is the fastest Wymondham chaser and puts in a flying tackle, but pays for it, dislocating his right elbow. Showing remarkable grit, he’s able to walk off holding his arm and is packed off to A&E for treatment.
Giles takes over as hooker and we restart. It’s fast and error-strewn, but both sides are playing with tempo and not enough structure. We slip off a few first-up tackles and are again too slow at the breakdown, but strong carries from James (at 9 today), Oli and Billy take back any territory we concede. Joel and Matt P again link on the outside to get us within a hair’s breadth of their line and a clever cross field grubber from Harry T at 10 nearly puts Matt W in on the other corner.
Two minutes later we’re camped on their line again. Patient phase play pays off with a penalty and though Giles is held up from that, Reeky goes under the posts from the resulting scrum with James converting.
Bill has to kick us clear as Cambridge make inroads at the restart and James’s cracking cover tackle nullifies the threat when their backs counter. The visitors are making the running, with better possession and territory and a penalty gifts them a line out ten metres from our line. They can’t hold on to it though and we run it back at them, holding on to possession thanks to Cheuy rolling away their jackalers. Oli crashes it up again and it looks like the way is blocked, but Toba goes blind and is away, sprinting 55m to the line. James, who nails all his kicks, adds the extras and we go into the break 14-0 up.
The restart sees Cambridge throw their big runners at us but we just about swallow them up and force a knock on. The scrum is secure and Isaac makes half the length of the pitch before being snagged just short. He’s got support though and we hang on to possession. Matt W is stopped short but we go again and Billy blasts his way over for Wymondham’s third and the game is seemingly sealed.
Cambridge aren’t having that though. Short carries and far too many Wymondham penalties nearly put them in on the right and when that doesn’t work they have the safe hands to go left and score in the corner. It’s too far out for the conversion though so we restart still feeling comfortable, but loose our own scrum and Cambridge again whip the ball wide and have another try in the corner.
And so it goes on. We get chances but have lost our thinking heads. Players attack on their own with little or no support. Structure has gone, fumbles creep in and we don’t make our tackles or hit the breakdown fast enough. Wymondham mistakes give Cambridge repeated chances to attack our try line. They fluff the first and are thwarted at their second and third attempts. But they’re patient, make good use of their big centre and he crashes over untackled for their third try.
We’re still ahead 21-17 but there’s no question who has the momentum now. And Wymondham still make mistakes right from the restart, again conceding territory. For a brief moment we’re on the attack but it doesn’t last long before Cambridge are back heading rapidly for our corner flag.
They think they’ve got the winner but a forward pass sees the score disallowed. Bill kicks clear and we get a penalty but mess up the line out and Cambridge are back at us. Again we give away penalties, briefly hold them out but we’re knackered, holes appear and Cambridge get the winner.
And they deserved it, having played by far the better rugby for much of the second half. It’s a tight scoreline and a tight game - Wymondham the better attacking side to start with but we conceded too much territory, possession and opportunity to see it out. If this was a GCSE mock, then we need to pull up our Spartan socks!
Men of the Match: Aiden gets it for the forwards for repeatedly taking on and bringing down Cambridge’s big runners and James for the backs for his huge work rate and willingness to step in at 9.