RUGBY: West Norfolk kicked off their pre-season with a solid 33-7 victory over rivals Wisbech on Saturday.
This derby fixture has always been fiercely contested between the two neighbouring clubs but, with Wisbech being relegated into Eastern Counties One and West going up into London North East 3 this season, there was much pride at stake.
West went into the away game with a strong line-up, despite missing a number of key senior members, including last season’s top try scorer Ross Biggs, Jamie Williamson and new squad member Chad Seeley.
This allowed starting opportunities for the young duo of Will Dodds at No.8 and Henry Rust at hooker as well as the welcome return of prop Paul Bridges after over a year away from rugby. The visitors were well aware that Wisbech could pose a significant threat with a large pack and skilful backline, which would set a good marker for West compared to the upcoming schedule of league games.
West elected for Wisbech to start facing the sun. The initial exchanges were tough with both sides going hard into contact.
West were looking dangerous with ball in hand but Wisbech managed to contain their advances and were able counter attack.
A few cobwebs were evidently being blown off as both sides made some simple mistakes at times. Nevertheless, West continued to press and were rewarded when fly-half Monty Maule sliced through to open the visitors account. Joe Butt converting to make it 7-0.
Despite consistent pressure from the Wisbech pack, West’s lineouts worked well with some good catch and drives off Dan Stephenson and Dodds.
This allowed the pacey backline to release the likes of Dave Harrison and Alex Singleton to punch some holes through the centre of the pitch.
The fast play eventually opened up the Wisbech defensive line with Maule jinxing through to secure his second. Butt added the extras to hand West a 14-0 half-time lead.
Wisbech fought back hard after the interval. With West under pressure, the hosts crashed through to close the gap at 14-7.
Wests were undeterred and were able to maintain momentum with some super play from Billy Chilvers and Dodds. A number of penalties were conceded by the hosts and a fast tap and go from Maule saw him touch down in the left hand corner from five yards out to complete his hat trick on the hour.
As Wisbech attempted to gain some pressure, a neat chip and chase from Monty released Jake Richardson to scorch in with Butt converting to extend Wests lead to 26-7.
West could and should have scored a fine push over try as they began to drive the larger Wisbech pack backwards. Instead they opted to go wide again and following a number of crash balls, Alex Singleton took a superb line to power over at pace, adding West’s fifth try. Butt converting to seal a fine 33-7 win.
Tulip Man of the Match: Monty Maule.
Next match is at home to Holt tomorrow in the Cubitt/Maule Cup.
* The 2nds beat Wisbech 22-12 away.