Stuttering Manor overcome fierce rivals
This weeks match report
Having not played a game since October the boys were thoroughly looking forward to dusting off some cobwebs this week, and after hearing that all three pitches at the Manor were submerged we were expecting to wait a bit longer, until our glorious leader Mike gleefully informed us he'd anticipated this in advance and had booked us a pitch at Wanstead Rugby Club just in case, so the game with future title ramifications was on.
We've enjoyed some titanic battles against Westcliff in some big games over the last few seasons both winning and losing, so we knew that we'd need to have a big, strong squad in order to fare well, and this was further underlined when we learnt that Westcliff were bringing a coach down. The team had a familiar look about it in the forwards, but looked a bit different in the backs, notably with the addition of Cushy who fancied hurling abuse on a more up close and personal level this week as he wasn't bound by any managerial duties in the depths of Essex.
The game kicked off and Westcliff had the lions share of possession in the opening minutes and Manor were put to the test defensively a few times, but whenever we had ball in hand we tended to look the more dangerous of the two sides and this was proved true when Adam Mountford went in under the posts after a good break from Mark. (Hey) Adam Reay decided not to put on his kicking boots for the game and managed to hit the post and catch it afterwards for extra effect.
Manor scoring probably galvanised Westcliff a little bit, and they hit back with an unconverted try after hooker Seb fancied reliving his glory days on the wing when he attempted to kick it in his own 22. The kick was sliced straight into the hands of probably the fastest player in the Westcliff side, who proceeded to skin Seb and run in under the posts. We then conceded again shortly afterwards, Westcliff shipping it out wide, this time adding the extras.
The score stayed at 12-5 for the next 20 minutes or so and ill discipline was punishing manor, the ref issuing Mike with a team warning about the number of cynical penalties we were conceding. Luigi decided to heed no warnings and managed to get himself booked for a late (and undoubtedly high) tackle on the small winger, his timekeeping more in line with his moody watch that he procured before Christmas. This was shortly after Brad Cotton had bodyslammed the poor chap, so I think the ref was probably feeling a little sympathetic.
Westcliff kicked for touch and then scored from the resulting line out, however Manor were determined not to go in to the interval too far behind and scored just before halftime. Mark broke the line, managed to offload to Ralph who for the first time in years not only caught the ball, but then passed it too to Cushy, who was in under the sticks. (Cushy maintains this the was the first time that Ralph has ever passed to him in over twenty years of playing with him.) Adam somehow found his kicking boots and managed to slot this one from dead in front of the sticks.
This brought an end to the first half, but having played uphill for 40 minutes and not made the best account of ourselves we felt optimistic about only being five points down so fancied our chances. The interval gave us a chance to make some changes to the team, notably Tinky coming in to bring strength and stability in the second row and Mr Cat at back row for his first appearance for the fours in years (his hairline has rapidly receded in that time).
The second half remained scoreless, characterised by some big hits from both sides, Cushy making endless tackles at ten and in particular Cotton using his head to tackle a Westcliff runner, the opposition player having to be replaced for a nasty gash, Brad obviously taking no damage to his napper.
Still a man down (I think the ref's watch was running as badly as Luigi's), Manor managed to get the first score of the second half, Reay scoring after some good work down the wing by Hollywood Dan (living up to his name) in an unfamiliar position. Extras were missed.
Now back to a full compliment of players, we continued to put the pressure on and a great try was started by Disco Stu. He broke the line, only to find not a single Westcliff player in sight, reminiscent of the view he gets on a Saturday night after he has spun some dodgy tracks and cleared the dance floor. He was tackled, and offloaded to Adam Mountford's toes, he then grubbered on and managed to tap it into touch via a Westcliff players leg. Mountford recovered the ball and took a quick lineout to the straight into the breadbasket of the onrushing Tinky who parted defenders (little bit akin to running through a field of wheat) to go in under the sticks. Reay missed again, somehow, think he blamed the tee this time.
Manor's first lead in about an hour of play didn't last long, as Westcliff broke back shortly afterwards, and made the conversion for good measure which left us two points down with just under 20 minutes to play.Knowing that the next try could well decide the game, both teams pushed for the gainline only to be held back by some great tackling.
The next score was fortunately made by Manor, Adam Mountford putting the burners on and outpacing the tiring Westcliff players. He even had the foresight to touch down under the posts, so Reay had no choice but to make the conversion this time to the delight of the joyous crowd. (I think he might even have done the Owen Farrell celebration for this one).
We were left with just over ten minutes to defend a five point lead, and a titanic defensive shift was put in by every player, Mr Cat was judged by the referee to be in at the side of a ruck giving Westcliff a lineout right on our five meter for the final play of the game.The time eventually run out and the ball was ushered into touch at the second time of asking, the first time Mike managed to boot it into Martins head, followed by his arse and then finally off the pitch(what is it with front rows thinking they can kick, I would have thought the captain had learnt his lesson from previous transgressions, and they say elephants never forget!).
Big thanks to Wanstead for putting us up at short notice, and the food was top notch as well, providing two delicious options, not even Martin moaned.
Next week sees us travel to Ongar who are always up for a good contest so we'll have to have our wits about us in order to carry on our surge for a fourth consecutive promotion.I'd also like to thank the travelling Manor fans who came to support the mighty fours this week and made it feel like a home from home. I like to think they would have all been there regardless of the other cancelled fixtures. Thank you Ladies and Gents & UTM.