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1st XV - Match centre

Saffron Walden
Eton Manor
Sat 2 Sep 15:00 - London & SE Division - London 1 North Full time

Manor ease to opening day victory

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Manor travelled to Saffron Walden for their first league match of the season, with good weather Manor were hoping to be able to play a fast, expansive game, but this was somewhat negated by the pitch that looked as though it needed a good cut.

The home side kicked off the game playing up the slope and had the better of the opening exchanges, it wasn’t long before they created the first scoring opportunity. From a scrum 30 meters from Manors line Walden won the ball and moved it along their backline where they chipped the ball ahead into Manors dead ball area and although it appeared that Manors covering defence had won the race to the ball the ref decide otherwise and awarded the first try of the match to Saffron Walden. The conversion from out wide was successful and after 4 minutes Manor found themselves 0 - 7 behind.

Manor pressed from the kick off with newcomer Ollie Waugh winning the restart allowing Frank Sullivan to drive the ball powerfully on. He then linked up with John Robinson and Harry Reid who set the ball up, from the ensuing ruck new captain Nick Horton went blind and fed the returning Michael Eghan on the wing, he had the pace to run around his man and danced along the touchline to score in the corner. Although the touchline conversion was missed, Manor had opened their account bringing the score to 5 – 7 after 6 minutes.

EM v Saffron Walden 02/09/2017
67 photos

It wasn’t long before Manor scored again, from the kick off a period of kicking from both sides eventually saw the ball in Manor hands just outside their 22, from here they launched a flowing attack with a number of players taking the ball on, it was eventually moved out to Ollie Phillips on the wing who cut back inside and ran to the middle of the park before feeding the supporting Ben Lockyer who drew his man before feeding Horton who had the pace to beat the covering defenders and go in under the posts for Manors second try. With Nick Sheppard successful with the conversion Manor now led 12 – 7.

As with last season’s game the two sides were taking it in turns to score and it wasn’t long before Walden worked the ball into Manors 22 and with quick ball along their line they created a hole in Manors defence to score a well created try under the posts. With the conversion successful the home side re-took the lead 12 – 14.

Manor now upped the tempo and soon won a penalty which Horton kicked to touch for a lineout close to Walden’s 22. Reid won the throw in and the ball went along the backs to Reece Reed who joined in the attack from fullback, when he was brought down 8 meters short of the try line Garth Tucker took up the charged, broke through a couple of tackles then went over the line despite a last ditched attempted tackle. With Sheppard again successful with the conversion Manor again took the lead 19 – 14 with 20 minutes played.

Manor then gave away a simple penalty soon after the re-start when Phillips took the restart and attacked but was not supported by his teammates and was penalised. The hosts fly half struck a well taken penalty over the bar from 30 meters out to reduce the deficit to 19 – 17.

Manor again upped the tempo with good breaks from Eghan and Reed and Phillips showed great pace down the touchline only to be tackled into touch as he was in the process of touching the ball down behind the try line.

Manor continued to have the better of play with both Tucker and John Robinson stopped just short of the line, as the half drew to a close Alfie Hutcherson joined the game, his first match after spending nearly two seasons out injured. There was still time though for Manor to score, this time Hutcherson won a lineout on Walden’s 22, the ball was fed to hooker Tony Sweeney who broke a couple of tackles before feeding Callum Mckie who sent out a long pass to Reed who broke through two tackles and although going to ground, got up gathered the ball and continued towards the line crossing over and dotting the ball down despite the attentions of two Walden defenders. With the conversion again successful Manor went into halftime leading 26 – 17.

Manor kicked off the second half knowing that their first half display had not been at the level expected and it wasn’t long before Manor scored the first points of the game. From a lineout 25 meters from Walden’s line, Manor drove the ball forward before it was fed along the backline where a couple of miss moves saw the ball in the hands of Sheppard who had too much power for the defence as he broke through a couple of tackles then handed off the next would be tackler before going over the line. He also added the extra points and after only 4 minutes of the second half Manor had increased their lead to 33 – 17.

From the re-start Manor attacked again through their forwards eventually winning a penalty that was kicked to touch outside Walden’s 22. Reid won the throw allowing the ball to be taken on by the backs, when the attack broke down Misiona Evagelia took on the attack before feeding Sweeney who brushed away the first attempted tackle then raced over the line from 20 meters out despite a last ditched tackle from Walden’s fullback. Sheppard was again successful with the conversion taking Manor further ahead 40 – 17 after 10 minutes of the second half.

There then followed period of sustained pressure from Walden as they camped inside Manors 22, Manor gave away a number of penalties which resulted in Robinson being shown the yellow card for repeated team infringements, but with 14 men Manor defended well and helped by lineout steals by Hutcherson and Reid, eventually broke out of their 22 with good interplay between Evagelia and George Cosma allowing Eghan and Reed to combine to take play deep into Walden’s 22, here Manor set up a ruck where the on rushing Sheppard took the ball at pace breaking through and over the line only to be brought back for a forward pass.

Manor continued to have the better of things as they soon returned to Walden’s 22 where good defence stopped Sullivan crossing the line but the ball was soon recycled to Reid who was out wide and had enough pace and power to dive over in the corner for another Manor try. Although the difficult conversion was missed the score had moved onto 45 – 17 with six minutes of the game left to play.

To their credit Walden came back at Manor, who must have thought that the game was won as they dropped off their intensity allowing Walden to score two quick, well taken try’s giving them a try scoring bonus point and taking the score to 45 – 29.

Manor did eventually wake up and had the final say as they won the re-start allowing Cosma to barge his way up field before feeding his fellow prop Brad Burrell who took the play on before being taken to ground and setting up a ruck. The ball was quickly recycled and after a couple of driving runs the ball found it’s way to Sheppard who again broke through a number of tackles before going over in the corner. Although the conversion was missed Manor had now reached the 50 point mark and with just enough time to restart the game before the ref blew for full time Manor had secured their first victory of the season by 50 - 29.

There were a lot of positives to take from the game, in particular the attacking threat that Manor showed but also there were a number of aspects of the game that will be worked on before they face what will be a very stern test from last years league runners up Chingford who themselves enjoyed a high scoring victory in their first game of the season.

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EM v Saffron Walden 02/09/2017
67 photos

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# Team Pl Pts
1. Chingford 7 35
2. Amersham & Chiltern 7 30
3. Brentwood 7 27
4. Eton Manor 7 25
5. Colchester 7 23
6. North Walsham 7 22
7. Diss 7 17

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