Hitchin 34 West Norfolk 12
A much-improved performance on the road by West was not enough as they bowed out of the London and SE Senior Vase Cup in the quarter-finals.
Facing a powerful, well-structured squad in Hitchin in blustery conditions, the visiting West team knew that they would need to come out strongly. Despite a number of injuries and unavailabilities, which have been the bane of West’s selection since the Christmas break, the players arrived in resolute mood.
The visitors were buoyed by the return of Craig Edwards, Jack Hoyles and Ross Biggs in the back line, with Lawrence Savage and Liam Hind coming into the starting pack. The match also saw the inclusion of Stephen Aspery and a debut for William Knox out wide.
Following a bright start from West, disaster struck when Edwards pulled up with an ankle injury with barely five minutes on the clock. Hitchin capitalised with a quickly recycled ball which enabled the hosts to break through and score the opening try.
West hit back when a thunderous run from captain Jamie Williamson saw the No. 8 burst through several defenders to crash over. The Norfolk outfit’s injury crisis deepened further when scrum half Sam Greenwood then went off.
Nonetheless, West continued to fight hard and were looking the more likely to score at this point, using the strong winds to pin Hitchin back. A fine break from fly half Jack Hoyles then released Ross Biggs at full back, who outpaced the home defence to touch down. Knox slotted the tricky conversion to extend West’s lead to 12-5.
However, with some well worked phases from their forwards and centres, Hitchin were able to build up some momentum and score before half time, closing the gap at 12-10.
With the wind now going against West and their hosts able to bring on fresh legs, the visitors were being put under increased pressure from the restart.
A break away try saw Hitchin regain their lead at 17-12.
West regrouped and began to take the game to their hosts in the final third of the game, setting themselves up within the Hitchin 22 area.
The pressure saw the visitors give away several infringements around the break down and two yellow cards were issued during this period of intensive attacking from West.
West came to within inches of retaking the lead again on a number of occasions, but were unable to make it count. Having weathered the storm, Hitchin were able to clear their lines and score on the counter.
A penalty then saw them stretch their lead, before a cruel bounce of the ball from a chip and chase enabled the Herts side to complete the scoring and go through to the semi-final stages.
Although defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, there were several positives to take from this match.
Now West must turn their attentions and focus on hosting Beccles in a crucial league fixture tomorrow, as they look to get back into their winning ways. Kick-off is set for 3pm.
Adrian Flux MoM: Jack Hoyles.