Bonus point victory despite an indifferent performance
Manor welcomed league new comers South Woodham Ferrers (SWF) to the New Wilderness this week knowing that their opposition had made a good start to life in the higher league, the Manor team again showed a number of changes from the one that had performed so well in defeat at Amersham. The game was preceded by a minutes silence following the recent death of club stalwart Terry Ward and this was impeccably observed by all the players from the first and third team matches and supporters.
SWF kicked off the game but soon won possession back through a Manor penalty which they kicked for an attacking lineout. They won their throw in and attacked Manors defence, but as in previous weeks, this proved a solid wall of blue shirts which eventually turned the ball over allowing Callum Mckie to clear the danger to close to halfway where a scrum was awarded to Manor. With the pack holding firm McKie again kicked the ball, this time deep into SWF 22 leaving the defence no option but to kick the ball out into touch just outside their 22.
From a pre planned move, Manor won the lineout freeing up Ollie Waugh to drive the ball into the oppositions 22, here he fed the supporting Alfie Hutcherson who from 18 meters out had it all to do as he handed off the first attempted tackle on him then had the pace to get over the try line to score despite the attempts of SWF defenders to stop him. The conversion from out wide was missed but Manor had opened their account after 6 minutes leading 5 – 0.
From the re-start Manor continued to boss the game capitalising on a number of penalties given away by the visitors which saw play back inside SWF 22 where Manor again won a lineout. This time with the ball secured through Frank Sullivan Manor set up an unstoppable drive towards the line where, with ball in hand Misiona Evagelia drove over the line only for the score to be disallowed by the ref for obstruction.
SWF now had a period of attacking play using their forwards to good effect driving at Manors defence then either offloading in the tackle or setting up quick recycled ball, yet again Manors defence stood firm and the attack was finally halted when Nick Sheppard ripped the ball out of the grasp of an attacker allowing Manor to clear the danger.
SWF still continued to have their fair share of attacking play and soon capitalised on some Manor loose play when a needless penalty was given away. From 30 meters out the SWF kicked the penalty through the posts registering his teams first points of the day and bringing the score to 5 – 3 after 19 minutes of play.
Manor again reasserted themselves when they stole a SWF lineout which allowed Reece Reed to set off on a jinking run beating five or six players before being brought down a few meters short of the line, with the ref now playing a penalty advantage McKie spotted Moe Alothman unmarked on the opposite side of the pitch but his cross field was just a bit too strong for Alothman to gather otherwise Manor would have been in for another try. The ref brought play back for the penalty which Sheppard struck between the posts to increase Manors lead to 8 – 3 after 23 minutes.
Manor were still in control of the game with their forwards including Garth Tucker, Waugh and Sullivan all making powerful runs, which again saw play centred in and around SWF 22. Here Manor disrupted a SWF scrum turning the ball over which allowed their backs to attack bringing in Rhys Davis-Horne into the line where he beat a couple of players before feeding John Ewers who drove forward then set the ball up, this was quickly fed to Michael Eghan out on the wing who despite attempts to stop him , from 20 meters out proved too powerful and too quick for the covering defenders and went over the line in the corner for Manors second try. With the difficult conversion missed Manor had increased their lead to 13 – 3 after 35 minutes.
Manor finished off the half strongly keeping the pressure on SWF, firstly John Robinson and George Cosma combined to take the ball up field then Davis – Horne again joined the attack making space for Reed to beat a couple of players before feeding Horton who made space for Alothman before putting him away through a gap in SWF defence allowing Alothman to scamper over from 10 meters out to score his first try for Manors 1st team. With Sheppard adding the extra points from the conversion, the ref blew for half time with Manor leading 20 – 3.
Manor were on top in most aspects of the game and it looked like that they were going to win by a big margin, the only problem was that no one had told the opposition this and the second half was a different affair with SWF upping their game and proving that they can compete in this league.
Manor kicked off the second half and soon found that they were facing a different side, almost immediately SWF put Manor under pressure and although the home side defended well, they were being penalised by the ref giving SWF the opportunity to play deep into Manors half. From here after a number of forward drives the visiting open side drove forward through a couple of weak tackles going over to score SWF first try and although the conversion was missed with the score at 20 – 8 SWF had got themselves back into the game, which gave them confidence.
SWF were now having the better of possession but still found it hard to break through Manors defence again. As the visitors passed the ball along their line Davis-Horne spotted an opportunity to intercept a long pass, taking the ball cleanly he was 40 meters from the try line, and set off but didn’t have the pace to go all the way so linked up with the supporting Sheppard who then fed Hutcherson who drove towards the line but was brought down a few metres short. Manor were there numbers and won a penalty which they opted to take a scrum. With a solid platform Barney Newbury was able to pick up from the back of the scrum and drove towards the line, but was stopped just short, Manor recycled the ball and after another couple of drives Evagelia picked up from the back of a ruck and dived over the line for Manors fourth try. With Sheppard successful with the conversion Manor had increased their lead to 27 – 8 after 15 minutes of the second half.
Manor were now the more dominant team with Luigi Martelletti and Eghan linking up well before Manor were awarded a penalty and the SWF second row was shown a yellow card for a dangerous clear out at a ruck. Manor kicked for a lineout which they won and set off on a 25 metre driving maul before feeding their backs allowing Davis-Horne to make a break before linking up with Reed who was brought down a few metres short of the line, Manor continued to attack the SWF line but good defending kept them at bay and eventually Manor gave away a penalty allowing the visitors to clear the danger.
The game became a scrappy affair with neither side playing well, but SWF were putting up a good fight taking the game to Manor. Manor did attack again, this time from deep inside Manors half when at a scrum Nick Horton saw a gap down the blindside and set off at pace making 30 metres before passing to Eghan who came in off his wing before setting up Newbury to take the ball into SWF 22 before a knock on brought the attack to a halt.
SWF hit back at Manor and worked their way into Manors 22 after a series of powerful runs by both their forwards and backs. Once here, they again laid siege to Manors line and after a patient build up going through a number of phases of play they scored a well deserved second try, this time the extra points were added bringing the score to 27 – 15 with 5 minutes of the half left to play.
For the remainder of the game SWF continued to attack Manors line, but on this occasion, they couldn’t find a way through and when they were penalised Manor gratefully kicked the penalty into touch signalling the end of the contest.
Manor had achieved what they had set out to do, a 5 point victory, and whilst they will be satisfied with their first half performance, the same can’t be said about the second half. SWF to their credit upped their game in the second half outscoring Manor by two try’s to one. Manor should have responded to their opponent’s improvement, but did not and this is something that will need to be addressed as the season progresses. With a welcome break in league action next week Manor will have the opportunity to work on different aspects of their game as well as being able to welcome back some of their injured players who are close to recovery and will be available for consideration for the long trip to Diss in two weeks time.