Lowestoft & Yarmouth 19 West Norfolk 26
West Norfolk returned home triumphant after a gruelling, full-on encounter against local rivals Lowestoft & Yarmouth in London North East 3 league at the weekend.
The bonus point win sees West maintain their third place spot ahead of Harlow, with just four matches remaining.
West arrived determined to build upon their scrappy victory over Beccles the previous week. The squad was boosted by the inclusion of Conor Tuck starting in the second row and Dave Harrison moving to partner Will Greenwood in the centres, with the return of Olly Denton onto the bench.
In wet and muddy conditions the visitors started off on the front foot, with a series of powerful drives from the likes of captain and No. 8 Jamie Williamson, lock Rory O’Sullivan and prop Paul Bridges. This pressure eventually paid off when fly half Jack Hoyles burst through to score, Harrison converting the extras.
Lowestoft were looking dangerous out wide with their wingers and full back on the counter attack, but West were able to match the hosts’ powerful threat with some stout defensive work. As the first quarter came to a close West broke free with some quality fast ball out to the backs, which set winger Will Knox free to roam in on the left hand touch line.
A third try was almost added when a blistering break down the right side by winger Ross Biggs was halted by a last ditch tackle into touch a metre from the try line.
The hosts then pinned West back effectively with some sustained possession within the visitors’ 22 area. This resulted in their first try to close the gap at 12-7.
A knock to Hoyles then saw the introduction of Denton, who was able to clear West’s line as half time approached.
West were looking to keep the upper hand following the restart, but a lapse in concentration, combined with some strong running from Lowestoft, ended with the hosts notching up their second converted try to take the lead at 14-12 with barely two minutes on the clock.
Determined to make amends for the missed opportunity in the first half, Biggs then split open the hosts’ defensive line to score, making it four tries in four games for the veteran speedster.
Although fiercely contested, the set pieces were proving fairly even. However, when maintaining their focus, the West pack were appearing to be more effective than their larger opponents in attack as they kept pace on the ball distribution. Lowestoft began to give a number of penalties away under the pressure and West came within an inch of scoring their fourth when a driving maul from the line out saw prop Lawrence Savage crash over, only to be held up over the line.
Nonetheless, with their tails up and further reinforcements on in the form of Sam Greenwood and Christian Newton-Walters, West continued to gain momentum. A series of forwards surges resulted in the visitors’ bonus point score when Yousef Edris bulldozed through to grab a try, Harrison adding the conversion to make it 26-14.
With the best part of 30 minutes left to play, West then went into defensive mode as Lowestoft began to throw everything they had into attack.
During a 25-minute period of intense battling near the West line, the visitors showed some tremendous character and teamwork as they held the hosts at bay. In particular, the likes of Ollie Ridout, Will Greenwood and Freddie Playford consistently put their bodies on the line to hold off the onslaught. Lowestoft finally broke through with five minutes remaining to gain a bonus losing point, but a resolute West were able to regroup and close the game out as worthy winners.
Captain Jamie Williamson said: “I’m delighted with the win. Lowestoft have been in the top half of the table all season, so it was always going to be a challenging fixture. Once again, we had guys playing out of position due to unavailability, but those who stepped up did an excellent job.
“There were a couple of periods during the match when we took our foot off the gas but for the most part, we showed great determination and heart.
“After a tough start to 2016, it was very pleasing to see.”
The squad now have a weekend off before they look to an away trip to Harlow on March 5.
Adrian Flux MoM: Dave Harrison.