Reeds 52 Match Unbeaten Run ended by West Norfolk
WEST NORFOLK 19pts, REEDS WEYBRIDGE 15pts
Reeds preparations for this game ran like clock-work and coaches, players, and supporters turned up to in fine spirits with confidence levels high despite the fact that their hosts, West Norfolk, had only lost once at home in the previous 18 months. The hoped-for victory however did not materialise despite the sterling efforts of the team in defence and of the Reeds pack who were up against a very big, physical, and well drilled home eight. Indeed, the seeds of defeat lay in our attacking play with Reeds reserving perhaps one of their poorest attacking performances of the season for the Regional Final. In part that was due to the uncompromising defensive efforts of the home side who relentlessly tackled everything that Reeds could throw at them and which was founded on a clever back line selection designed in part to thwart our threat out wide, and in part due to a litany of unforced Reeds errors, particularly in the first half, including missed touchline kicks, conversions, and crucially a number of intercepted passes which resulted in ten points for the home side at a key stage of the game. Onto the game itself….
The signs that Reeds were not going to have it their own way were there from the start with the first quarter being a cagey affair with Reeds enjoying plenty of ball and going through the phases but with the home side coping well with that early spell of pressure and coming back at Reeds with some pressure and good plays of their own. With both defences on top, a Reeds infringement for offside at the ruck resulted in an early 3-0 lead for West Norfolk following a well struck penalty by their fly-half. Reeds looked to strike back quickly but a good spell of pressure was absorbed by the home side and with their defensive line up fast, an interception in mid-field by the home side’s inside centre almost resulted in a try were it not for a great covering tackle by fly-half Pete Davidge that resulted in a yellow card for him. The ensuing five metre scrum to West Norfolk was repelled and came to nothing but another offside decision resulted in the home side kicking an easier penalty to take them into a 6-0 lead.
With just over twenty minutes gone, Reeds responded with an incisive back line move that saw winger Joe Moriarty gather the ball, bulldoze his way over his opposite number, and get to within fives metres of the try line with a nice off-load to outside centre Tom Mcclean allowing him to stroll over for the first unconverted try of the day. 6 – 5 and game on. Reeds were now starting to enjoy more of the ball, secured another penalty which resulted in the home side going down to 14 men, but again missed the kick with their first-choice kicker still warming his heels on the touch-line, and were pressing strongly in attack in midfield. At this point the signs were looking very positive when yet again a flat pass was picked off by West Norfolk, this time by the left wing, giving him an easy run in from 50 meters out to take the score to 13-5. The scoreboard remained like that until half time.
The half time team talk was positive and focused on the need for accuracy, continuity, and a reduction in the error count. The first score would be key and it went to Reeds courtesy of an infringement from the home side and backchat which saw them marched back 10 meters allowing Davidge to knock over a long-range effort to close the score to 13 – 8. This score however seemed to galvanise West Norfolk and long spells of pressure by them and two subsequent infringements from Reeds allowed West Norfolk’s metronomic kicker to extend the lead to 19 – 8. With the final quarter approaching Reeds were understandably keen to keep the ball in hand and coach Connell in an effort to rejuvenate the team began to empty the subs bench. Reeds were now starting to play catch up rugby but the home side had their tails up with every tackle being cheered on by a large passionate home crowd. For long spells Reeds were struggling to get out of their own half but finally a clever short line and offload by hooker Toby Blyther tight to the ruck allowed flanker Joe Wastie to run in a converted score from 50 meters out to take the score to 19-15 with the clock in the red zone. Game over, and with it Reed’s chance of reaching Twickenham for two consecutive years.
Man of the Match – Will Ambidge, the pocket rocket, for his all-round display and great tackling performance which in no small part kept West Norfolk from scoring any tries of their own making.
Some post-match reflections:
Firstly, congratulations to West Norfolk – we wish them all the best on the road to HQ – they were the best side on the day and they deserved their win.
Secondly, thank you West Norfolk for your hospitality – everything went like clockwork (apart from the result!!) good to see another thriving traditional junior rugby club doing well.
Finally, one result does not make a season and the goal now must be to finish the remaining league campaign unbeaten (corona virus permitting) and to also take on board from our defeat and which will be key as we climb the leagues.
Next week: Reeds are scheduled to play at home against Trojans in the league – 3pm kick Off. Updates on whether this game goes ahead will be provided over the course of the week.
Mark Sukiennik 14/03/20