No final fairytale as Spartans beaten in Norfolk Cup
By Andrew Thomson
West Norfolk RFC, 5th May 2019
Squad: Aiden Davies, Ben Harvey, Billy Evans, Callum Sparkes (capt), Cheu Hung Lo, Conrad Harrison, Danny Perry, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Isaac Birch, Jack Burrill, Jake Garside, James Ketteridge, Joel Holderness, Matt Elsby, Matt Wernham, Seth Ahier, Oli Reek, Toba Oladapo.
Coaches: Tony Garside, Jim Starling, Andy Thomson.
Last weekend a determined performance won us the Eastern Counties Cup - now it’s time to see if we can settle affairs closer to home. This is the fourth time the Spartans have taken on North Walsham in the final of the Norfolk Cup - they won in U13s, we drew in U14s, we won last year so this is the decider for our time in Youth. The game’s at West Norfolk RFC and it’s the final event in Norfolk’s Big Rugby Weekend.
Wymondham Spartans 15 - 21 North Walsham
The Spartans kick off, gather and attack. We look dangerous but Walsham’s defences are tight and we search left and right for an opening. The Vikings give away an early ruck penalty, we lose the resulting throw-in in their 22 (a sign of things to come) but Joel gathers when they kick clear and nearly finds his way through. It’s a breathless, physical start with both sides putting in hard carries and big tackles.
Bill runs a great line to cut through the green defences and nearly gets the ball away to Jake, but again Walsham scramble back just in time. Then it’s our turn to stand firm as the Vikings use outside pace to get into our 22 for the first time. They knock on, our scrum matches their powerful pack and we kick clear. We’re suffering at the lineout but our linespeed is good and frustrates Walsham’s parries.
When we get the ball back we threaten again with Jack making a blindside break but we scuff it with a knock-on. We’re creating chances though and winning the territory battle, forcing Walsham to take to the boot. They threaten again but throw a forward pass and first Bill breaks from the scrum, then Ben from the ruck, to give us momentum.
We’re briefly stripped but Walsham knock-on gifting us a great attacking scrum seven metres from their line. We spin it wide and Isaac’s nearly in but we can’t get the final pass away. It’s a Walsham knock-on though and we go again from the scrum. Again the Viking defences are quick and we’re bundled into touch - we’re not turning pressure into points.
Walsham don’t make the same mistake. They get a scrum just outside our 22 and go first out, then back inside. We rush up but leave too many holes and a Viking slides through untackled to open the scoring after 28 minutes of hard play.
Again though we build pressure from the restart, penning Walsham into their 22 and running the ball back at them hard when they kick clear. Ben chips through and we chase it down, forcing Walsham to gather on their own line. We get the penalty, are stopped just short for a moment before Cheu Hung reaches out to score.
And it’s a vital score, coming just before the break and keeping us in the game. But five points is a poor return for so much pressure and territory. We’re going to have to be more clinical in the second half.
Giles catches the restart under pressure and we’re away. The Spartans have been heavy-footed at times in the first 35 minutes but now there’s more spark. Jake then Con takes it on, Walsham come back at us but the tackles go in, we rip it back and Jake wrongfoots the Vikings with a clever grubber but it bounces awkwardly and he can’t regather.
Walsham are straight back at us and a cross field kick nearly sees them home. A moment later they do cross when we don’t get our guards in place in time on the ruck. 14-5 down and this is looking serious.
Walsham threaten again but first Jake clears, then we win a free kick at the scrum which is enough to get us back on the front foot. James carries hard, Bill’s next then Harry Thomo dummies and breaks on the blind, off-loading to Isaac who gets to within seven metres. There are green hands in the ruck though so we opt for the scrum, use the full width of the pitch and Matt E scores a glorious try in the corner, making it 14-10 and we’re back in it.
Hard carries again get us back in Walsham’s half. But we’re still running too many times into heavy traffic and our structure lets us down. Walsham bundle us into touch and counter strongly from the line out with only Jake fast enough to bring down their man. Toba snaps up the loose ball and we’re off again, Matt W sprinting down the left wing.
He’s caught but staya on his feet long enough for help to arrive and we recycle. Straight running and snappy off-loading give Walsham no time to cover and Joel scores to give us the slenderest of leads.
And we so nearly extend it. Danny powers down the right off-loading to Jake who gets us back to their 22. We work the phases looking for an opening. When none appears Bill chips over but Walsham hands claim it. When they kick Joel runs it back at them. They rip it and counter, Toba rips it back, Seth fines a hole and the Spartans use quick ball to drive upfield.
And then the killer blow. Walsham are masters at targeting the ball and it’s ripped away from us as we threaten in their 22. In a snap it’s out wide in the hands of their winger and we haven’t got the numbers or the legs to do anything about it. 21-15 down with only minutes to go.
And they’re frantic minutes. Walsham have momentum but Wymondham are determined not to let them through again. The ball goes loose and again we snap it up launching Matt W on the left. Their cover is good and when he’s driven into touch it gifts Walsham back possession. “Take it in!” is the shout as their forwards set themselves to run down the clock but they hold on too long and we get a final penalty. Jake’s off and for a moment it looks as though something’s building but again Walsham rip possession and kick it out to end the game.
As defeats go, this one’s a tough one and while the Vikings celebrate with cheers and backflips the Spartans feel the pain. And the Vikings deserve their celebrations - it may not seem so but it’s been a fantastic game between two very good sides. Walsham deserved the win and it’s great to see them at full strength again.
They did the simple things well, dominated the lineout, were strong enough to soak up our big runners and for the most part fast enough in defence. But Wymondham played with big hearts and belief, got themselves back in front and lost in the end to a breakaway try. It could have gone our way but it didn’t so we’ll dust ourselves down over the summer and look forward to resuming the battle with Walsham in Colts!