West Norfolk 42 Harlow 12
A well-earned bonus point home victory was just reward as West Norfolk fought off the challenge from Harlow in London North East 3.
The hosts knew they were in store for a stern test as their opponents have been on a run of impressive league performances, including a win over high flying Cantabrigians.
However, West were in buoyant mood with the return of forwards Jamie Williamson, Max Rust and Harrison McNaught to the squad, alongside the exciting back Alex Drewery, who was making his first senior league debut from the bench.
Nonetheless, Harlow started strongly with a series of powerful scrummages. This resulted in a try from a close range drive (0-5) with just eight minutes gone.
West needed to work to their strengths by getting quick ball out to their pace men. A flowing backs move saw full back Ross Biggs touch down, Monty Maule converting to take a 7-5 lead.
With Harlow now on the back foot, West countered again with some fine footwork and turnovers at the break down. Alex Singleton, who was looking good in his new centre role, sliced and accelerated through to score. This was shortly followed by Wests’ third try, when Monty Maule burst through the trailing defenders before adding another conversion (21-5).
With the forwards working some quality ball from the set pieces, the backs were looking continuously dangerous via the likes of Ed Maule and Ollie Ridout. Another sublime running line from Singleton then broke past the defence, enabling him to pop the ball out to winger Jake Richardson, who finished clinically (28-5).
Harlow began to give away penalty infringements. Monty Maule’s kick drifted wide of the left upright.
A Harlow surging driving maul from the lineout saw them score to reduce the deficit to 28-10 by half-time.
Following the restart West were caught up in a forwards battle. A yellow card meant the hosts were a man down in the pack for ten minutes.
With Harlow gaining some hold in the West half, the hosts then pieced together a fast counter attack from deep that produced a superb try that has to go down as one of the best team scores ever made at Gatehouse Lane. The phase of play saw the ball worked across the pitch through 14 pairs of hands, with both forwards and backs interlinking expertly, finishing with Ross Biggs cutting a line to slide over. Monty Maule converted to make it 35-10.
Harlow picked up a deserved third try as their back row crashed the ball up and through the home pack.
Following some half breaks from the likes of Max Rust, Jamie Williamson and Paul Denton, a penalty kick to touch gave the forwards an attacking lineout from close range. The resulting catch and drive ended with captain Lawrence Savage crashing over the line, Monty Maule converting.
Some top class defending enabled West to hold firm.
Coach, Chris Bird, said: “This was a terrific result for us. The attacking rugby we produced was simply scintillating at times. We made a good side look ordinary throughout large parts of the game. The key for the lads is to keep this momentum building. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. The next two games before Christmas demand big performances.”
West now travel to Old Brentwood’s on Saturday.
Tulip Man of the Match: Henry Rust.
West 3rd XV beat Norwich Union 2nd 39-22 at home.
Tulip MoM: Tom Courtney.