RUGBY UNION: West Norfolk are just one step away from walking out on the hallowed turf of England RU’s headquarters.
A 19-15 victory over Reeds Weybridge in front of a bumper crowd at Gatehouse Lane not only earned West the London and South East Senior Vase but also put them into the semi-final of the RFU Senior Vase.
After ending the Walton-on-Thames team’s 52-game winning streak, West will travel to Gloucester to take on Chosen Hill Former Pupils, where the hosts are unbeaten in 17 games after defeating Milton Keynes in the Southern England Final.
That match was due to take place on April 11 but will now have to await the coronavirus pandemic clearing up. When it is eventually played, the winners will go on to play either Wetherby or Sleaford in the final at Twickenham.
West, have won all their league and cup games so far this season, were able to field their strongest side and they needed it against a dangerous Reeds team.
The visitors took the game to West in the opening stages but the home defence held strong with big tackles from Mike Gillick and Edney Costa.
Captain Henry Rust led by example and forced Reeds into conceding a penalty at the breakdown to release the pressure from the early onslaught.
In a high-tempo first quarter, both teams pushed hard and defences were put to the test before West struck the first blow when fly half Sam Moses kicked a penalty.
After some bullocking runs from lock Adam Fox and prop Paul Bridges, battering into the Reeds defence, Moses added another penalty after more ill discipline by Reeds at the breakdown.
The RFU Junior Vase holders missed a penalty of their own but some superb quick hands by their backline allowed their winger to dart over in the corner.
Both teams received yellow cards in quick succession before resolute defending by centre Max Rust, No.8 Jamie Williamson and the back row pairing of James Dobbler and Harry Robb kept the Reeds backs at bay.
West looked to their bigger forwards to smash dents into the Reeds defence but it was the quick thinking of winger Jack Trundley who, on his return from a broken arm and university time, snatched a loose pass and sprinted 60 metres to score between the posts to give West an eight-point half-time lead after Moses converted.
Reeds looked to pile the pressure on West in the hosts’ half after the restart.
That quickly told when West conceded a penalty and the Reeds fly half comfortably kicked it, to bring the scores to within a converted try.
Reinforcements for West in the form of Luke Covell, Will Greenwood, Sam Mount and Alex Singleton gave the hosts a fresh feel about their play and aided them to control the pace of the game, starving Reeds of ball throughout the second half.
With West still wary of the danger posed by the pacey Reeds attack, they looked to keep the ball in hand with strong runs from Singleton and Gillick well supported by their forwards.
After a number of phases, West built pressure, leading to two penalties, which the reliable boot of Moses kicked successfully to open an 11-point lead.
Reeds were not down though and fought for their lives, speeding up the pace of the game only to be let down by a couple of handling errors in crucial areas.
With the clock ticking down, West pinned Reeds on their own five-metre line with strong carries from Dan Nunn and Max Rust to keep possession as much as possible.
After a couple of scrums close to the Reeds try line, West eventually faltered and a quick tap penalty for Reeds saw their speedy winger sprint through the West half to score just to the left of the posts.
Thankfully, for the hosts, it was to little too late with the referee blowing the whistle for full time after the conversion, giving West the victory and kicking off a huge celebration by the players and home crowd.
Adrian Flux joint men of the match were Sam Moses and Mike Gillick.