West Norfolk 82
West blasted Upminster by 14 tries to one to reach top spot in London North East 3, as they produced an exciting display of attacking rugby in front of a packed Gatehouse Lane.
As Epping Upper Clapton went down 7-5 at home to Old Cooperians, the win means West will maintain their position over the Christmas halfway point, even if Epping close the gap by winning their game in hand.
Despite their current standing in the league, West were expecting a tough match against their visitors as recent results have shown some solid defensive performances. However, due to some unavailabilities, Upminster arrived with just 15 and had no replacements on the bench.
West were able to field a strong squad in comparison, despite the absence of players such as Lewys Weaver and Alex Singleton from the back line. The line up saw a centre pairing of Craig Edwards and Jack Hoyles, with Dave Harrison maintaining his spot at full back. Up front, Christian Newton-Walters and Paul Denton started alongside vice-captain Paul Bridges at the head of the scrum.
With the conditions damp and muddy, Upminster chose to go with the wind in the first half. Nonetheless, West got off to a flying start when Hoyles jinxed through the defence to open his senior West account within the first couple of minutes. This was shortly followed up on the quarter of an hour when Sam Moses slipped past the Upminster tacklers to claim his first try of the afternoon.
Already down to 14 men from an early injury, Upminster’s cause was cut another blow when their dangerous winger was sin-binned for a silly infringement.
West capitalised to the full as Edwards sliced through to score after a classy side step from winger Ross Biggs. Moses then notched his second, before Denton crashed over from a driving maul.
Quickly recycled ball at the ruck then enabled West to stretch the visitors’ defensive line once more as Biggs then outpaced his opposite man to hand the hosts a healthy 30-0 lead as half-time approached.
Some enterprising play from Upminster from the restart was rewarded as their winger ran in up the right touchline to cut the deficit to 30-5.
Following the interval West upped their game and began to take advantage of the tiring opposition. Flanker Will Greenwood burst over for the hosts’ seventh try after a fine piece of ball clearing up off the ground from Denton.
Upminster continued to battle hard and looked to spread the ball out wide, but with the wind now and fitness of their hosts against them, West were able to counter attack with ease.
Some fast hands from the backs and neat offload from Edwards set the fresh legs of AJ Edwards free to slide over. Leading try scorer Jake Richardson then pounced after a flowing move to touch down, Denton adding the conversion, as West passed the half century.
With Neil Thurston and Lawrence Savage now on to add extra impact to the forwards, the latter crashed through from another perfectly executed lineout drive to make it 56-5.
The home back line cut open the defence again as Biggs completed his brace of tries. Following a number of thunderous runs, Yousef Edris was finally rewarded for his endeavours with his first senior try as he powered over from the 22-metre line.
A second yellow for the Upminster winger after an altercation off the ball meant the visitors had to finish the match with a two-man disadvantage. A barnstorming phase of play that saw forwards and backs interlinking brilliantly ended with captain and No. 8, Jamie Williamson, bursting up the centre to score.
With only a few moments to go Thurston was given a yellow card for a silly infringement, but West hit back with a final try from Richardson in the corner.
The squad now have a break over the festive period, before returning to host local rivals Swaffham in the Norfolk Junior Cup on January 2.
Adrian Flux MoM: Yousef Edris.