West Norfolk 8
West exited the second round of the Senior Vase when they played host to Watford-based Fullerians on Saturday.
With a number of regulars away, West fielded a development squad, with forwards Christian Newton-Walters and Rory O’Sullivan, plus centre Edney Costa and winger Mitchell Anderson making the transition from the second team, alongside exciting newcomer Lewys Weaver, who stepped in at fly half.
The match also saw first team debuts for prop Sam Hilton and back-rowers Tom Courtney and Yousef Edris, as well as Toby Rust, Elliot Otis and Alex Drewery in the backline.
Having been relegated from London North West 2 last season, West knew they would be facing a tough, well drilled opponent.
With a driving wind behind them, West started positively and were able to put the visitors under some pressure.
Unfortunately, just as the hosts were looking to settle into a series of attacking phases, an off-the-ball reaction in the 14th minute saw Anderson red carded, meaning West would need to play the majority of the game with a man short.
Then second-rower Will Dodds was forced off via injury. Fullerians took full advantage of this as they scored a well-worked try 25 minutes in. Undeterred, West regrouped and a Nic Bull penalty closed the gap to 5-3 as the first half came to a close.
The home side came out on the front foot after the interval and, thanks to some nifty footwork and running lines from the likes of Weaver and Drewery, winger Tommy Windibank broke free to score in the corner, handing West a narrow 8-5 lead.
West were looking threatening with Costa making a series of thundering runs. Fullerians were having the better of the lineouts, but good work off the scrums and rucks saw captain Sean Brundle, Sam Hilton and Henry Rust make good yards.
The extra man advantage started to tell as West began to tire. Despite some stout defending and crunching tackles from the hosts, Fullerians were able to break the gain line and go over for three additional tries, converting two to take a healthy 24-8 lead. West kept fighting hard, but the visitors added a final penalty kick.
“This was a great learning curve for our younger players. It was a tough challenge, especially when facing such a well drilled opponent. However, the guys stuck to the task and performed well under the pressure,” said manager, Nigel Richardson.
West now return to league action as they host Billericay tomorrow. Kick-off is 3pm.
Tulip Man of the Match: Lewys Weaver.