West Norfolk rugby players get back on the field - for now
Diss RFC 41
West Norfolk RFC 0
For the first time in 280 days, West Norfolk took to the field after their historic win over Reeds Weybridge in the RFU Senior Vase final in March.
West travelled to Diss on Saturday to play a friendly match which would follow the RFU Covid return to rugby guidelines.
That meant the game would contain no scrums or mauls but would still be full contact tackling and rucks.
West travelled with good numbers containing a mixture of first and second team players with all of them in good spirits and eager to get some rugby under their belt.
But they knew that Diss would be tough opposition having been relegated from London 1 only last season but the early exchanges were fierce with some big hits from both sides in both attack and defence.
Early injuries thwarted West however with young lock Sam Mount succumbing to a nasty knee injury and captain Henry Rust needing to leave the field earlier than he had hoped.
Despite these setbacks, West would defend valiantly and attempt to put phases together when in possession.
Soon the experience and cohesion of the Diss side would tell, with their speedy backs taking full advantage out wide scoring a number of tries around the West defence.
At times West would play patiently and put a number of phases together with the likes of Max Rust and Luke Covell carrying well, but the final few metres would just be too much and an ill placed pass or fumble would cost West a try on a number of occasions.
Diss would continue to punish any mistake West made, but strong tackling from Mike Gillick and vice-captain Will Greenwood would keep West in the game.
In the second half more injuries would set back the visitors but development players such as Rhett Lewis, Conor Tuck and Lewis Rudd would step up and bolster the West line playing their part in the West defence.
Angus Williams, at only 18 years old and starting his first game for the seniors, would control the game at scrum half for West and was named their Adrian Flux-sponsored man of the match.
Despite being under pressure from an experienced Diss pack, certainly played his part and showed he will be an excellent young asset for West in the future.
Late on West continued to attack the Diss line with the likes of Edney Costa and Alex Singleton making vital yards but again finishing in the final few metres would cost West and Diss would continue to pounce on any mistake making the visitors pay.
Despite West being unable to score, all players were in high spirits after finally playing some competitive rugby and will certainly learn from the experience as to what it will take to compete with the best once league rugby returns.
West hoped to host a return fixture with Diss in mid-January depending on Covid restrictions at the time, though that now appears unlikely following the announcement that the county will move into Tier Four rules on Boxing Day.
Head coach Darren Clarke said after the game: “This was a tough return to rugby against a physical and well organised Diss side who were worthy winners, although the score was a little harsh on us.
“We started the game well but a couple of early injuries set us back and we struggled to find any cohesion in attack.
“All the players gave 100 per cent but the lack of training as a collective group clearly showed. At the end of the day this fixture was all about getting rugby back on the park and the players should be proud of their efforts.
“We will look to build in the new year with more training and hopefully more fixtures.”