Rugby rivals land a blow on West Norfolk title aspirations

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West Norfolk 8

Old Cooperians 12

West Norfolk’s title aspirations took a blow at the weekend after a narrow defeat at the hands of league rivals Old Cooperians.

Having picked up a losing bonus point, West have now dropped into second place with Epping Upper Clapton having a superior ‘points for’ advantage, with third placed Old Cooperians closing the gap on West to just two points.

With a strong side available following the festive break, West were confident that they could overcome a formidable threat that their Essex opponents would pose and it was the hosts who started the stronger in rainy conditions.

A number of well-placed kicks saw West put their visitors under pressure and were able to pounce after just seven minutes when a loose ball was gathered by captain Jamie Williamson, who made a bullocking charge up the right hand side of the field, before off-loading to winger Craig Edwards, who scorched home to go over.

The conversion attempt just drifted wide of the posts.

This set the tone for the first period with West setting themselves up in the Old Cooperians half. The hosts strung together a number of attacking moves from the set pieces, but just as they looked to spread the ball wide the phases broke down by either missed passes or stout defending from Old Cooperians.

With 15 minutes on the clock, West extended their lead with a penalty kick from centre Lewys Weaver.

Old Cooperians looked to counter on a couple of occasions, but West were able to scramble their defence effectively and prevent their opponents from breaking free completely.

Unfortunately, a couple more prime opportunities to add to their try tally before the interval fell by the wayside as the first half closed out with West 8-0 up.

Knowing that they needed to step up their game in the final 40 minutes, West’s lead was cut dramatically straight from the kick off as a loose ball put them under pressure. Old Cooperians capitalised immediately with some strong ball carriers from their fly half and centres, sucking in the West defenders to set their winger free to crash over. The conversion closed the gap at 8-7.

In a near role-reversal to the first half, West then proceeded to defend for most of the half, with only temporary excursions into Old Cooperians territory. The hosts’ tactic of kicking out from deep meant that visitors were able to regain possession and counter attack with relative ease, pinning West back in defence for prolonged stretches of the game.

Disaster struck for West when a promising back move was stopped short with a nasty leg break to fly half Sam Moses. However, reinforcements from the bench came in the form of Neil Thurston and Dave Harrison.

In the final quarter it was looking like West might be able to hold back the continuing momentum from Old Cooperians, until a couple of missed tackles allowed the visitors to burst over down the right hand side, the conversion missing to give them a small 12-8 lead.

West threw caution to the wind and sought to counter attack with ball in hand from deep with the likes of Jake Richardson, Jamie Williamson and Ross Biggs threatening to break through. An attack from a close range lineout almost paid dividends in the final play of the game when second row Yousef Edris split open the defence at pace on the 22 metre line. Alas, with the ball now slippery, a knock on in the process denied West from finishing on a high.

In truth, the game was won by the better side on the day, but West will be rueing the chances not taken earlier on in the match and that the change of tactics didn’t happen until it was too late.

Nevertheless, with the Christmas cobwebs blown away, they will now be looking forward to making amends as they now travel away to May & Baker tomorrow.

Adrian Flux MoM: Christian Newton-Walters.