Unlucky defeats for both West Norfolk sides
West Norfolk 17, Shelford 2nd 27
West Norfolk welcomed the league leaders to Gatehouse Lane on Saturday knowing that they would need to pull out one of their best performances of the season to beat a side who had so far only lost once and already had eight try bonus points to their name.
With both Lewis Rudd and JJ Hart unavailable in the forwards from the previous week, West welcomed back Nic Bull and Alex Miles. In the backs, George Lemon’s absence meant captain Wicks moved back into the centres and Olly Denton started at fly-half.
A competitive first few minutes saw both sides tussling for possession. West’s scrum operated much more efficiently and this provided quick ball for Denton to feed Wicks who made numerous dangerous runs into the Shelford half. A short period of possession for Shelford resulted in West conceding a penalty just inside their 10m line which the Shelford fly half easily kicked over for three points.
Shelford certainly showed why they have the most try bonus points in the league with their attack looking dangerous at every opportunity. The defensive effort for West led by No 8 James Dobbler absorbed the pressure for a number of phases before a dominant counter ruck by West’s Jacob Chapman forced the Shelford fly half to kick over the West back line only for the visitor’s winger to fumble.
With ball in hand, full back Hayden Revell and centre Sam Landles linked up, running the ball back deep into the Shelford half. With Shelford scrambling they gave away a penalty at the ruck and without hesitation a tap and go from Dobber saw him driving over the try line from 5m out to open West’s account for the afternoon, Wicks converting.
The try lit a fire in West who began applying pressure to Shelford’s defence all over the field. Penalties began to flow for the hosts, Wicks narrowly missing one from out wide before cooly kicking one at the seconnd opportunity to open the gap to seven points.
With Stewart, Jones and Bull carrying hard for West, Denton took to the boot to put pressure on the Shelford back three with a number of spiral bombs testing the league leaders’ handling.
Eventually, a mistake came and scrum half Bateman pounced on the ball only to be held in the tackle, the referee awarding West a penalty just inside the Shelford 22m line. Bateman opted to tap and go down the blind side, offloading to Denton in the tackle and the experienced No10 calmly stepped two defenders and scored 15m in from the right touchline, Wicks adding the conversion.
With half time looming, Shelford were by no means going to lay down and allow West to have an easy ride. Using their pace out wide, Shelford began to test the fringes of West defence and build momentum with a number of strong phases.
Taking their time eventually the league leaders found themselves close to the West Norfolk try line and with a sense of panic, West gave away two penalties in quick succession which Shelford would opt for the scrum. On the second attempt, Shelford’s no 8 picked up from the back of the scrum and using his strong physique crashed over the line for a try.
The final few minutes before half time saw both sides battling for territory with Denton continuing to pepper the Shelford back three with kicks. Unfortunately, a tackle in the air allowed Shelford some breathing space and eventually the half time whistle sounded with West 17-8 up.
After the break Shelford went on to show why they are in the position they are. With a largely quiet third quarter the back trio of Burgess, Crewe and Revell nullified the Shelford threat out wide forcing the visitors to carry hard up the middle of the park.
As the half ticked on eventually a Shelford lineout which initially was fumbled created quick ball for the Shelford centre to hit a smart line splitting the West defence and touching down just to the left of the posts.
With now a two-point gap in the scores, the game was in the balance but it was the leaders who tipped the scales in their favour. Despite great work from Chapman, Nunn and Newton-Walters in the front row of West’s scrum, they didn’t get the rub of the green from the whistle and Shelford capitalised on a quick tap penalty to take the lead with minutes to go.
From the kick off, Shelford continued their onslaught and marched their way back down to the West 5m line. With the hosts seemingly trying to cling on for a losing bonus point a huge defensive effort from Stewart, Dobbler and Wicks denied Shelford any easy scores and eventually West were rewarded with a turnover and a kick for touch to relieve the pressure.
However, in the final few minutes, West were cruelly put to the sword with a smart interception following a West lineout resulting in an easy run-in for a Shelford back and another bonus point win for the league leaders.
Adrian Flux man of the match was James Dobbler (sponsored by Trundley Design).
Head coach Darren Clarke said: “For the third week running we were competitive with a team currently in the top three in the league but once again we came away with nothing to show for our efforts.
“We are currently lacking some belief and confidence, and we need to react better when opposition sides have a good period of play or when decisions don’t go our way.
“Having said that there were plenty of positives to take away from the game and the performance was once again a step up from the previous week. Squad depth is improving and hopefully, with more players returning in the next few weeks we will see more cohesion moving forward.”
West Norfolk 2nd 8, Crusaders 2nd 10
A scoreless but evenly fought first half saw both teams fight for possession and territory before things heated up in the second half.
Crusaders opened the scoring with the visitors’ prop crashing through from short range but this did not deter West who continued to search for a score.
Eventually, West fly half Stewart Rigby stepped up and cooly slotted over a penalty for three points. West continued to dominate possession and search for their second score.
Smart footwork from Phil Towers saw him weave his way through the Crusaders’ defence dotting down for a try and opening up a three-point lead for West.
In the final few minutes, Crusaders patiently made their way down to the West 5m line and West conceded a penalty. A quick tap by Crusaders allowed for a short-ranged carry, crashing over to steal the win with moments to spare.
West 1st now have a week off before travelling away to Cantabrigian whilst the West 2nd travel to Norwich Medics, both fixtures to be played on Saturday, December 2.