Title may be gone but promotion beckons
By Jim Morgan at Castle Fields on Monday, 8th March 2010.
EASTERN COUNTIES LEAGUE DIVISION TWO: Haverhill 20 Mistley 3, match report.
With Harwich putting 88 points on Dereham, the difference in points scored between the top two sides is now 140 against, making winning the league Harwich's to lose.
But Haverhill only have to win two of their last four games to gain promotion to Eastern Counties League Division One.
The Mistley side started well against a Haverhill side missing their inspirational captain Ryan Raffell due to the injury he sustained the previous week.
Stalwart Paul Bergin captained a strong side that was slow to start. Mistley turned over Haverhill ball twice in the early stages as the Haverhill side settled into their stride.
A superb line-out by Haverhill, with Carl Anderson dominating the aerial ball, saw, very quickly, the change in plan to move the ball out across the three-quarter line.
In lightning time, man of match Simon Lester had the ball, penetrating deeply into the Mistley 22, then laying off a great ball to Mike Woods. The move finally broke down, but we had seen some play we had been hoping for all season.
Mistley won a scrum, but from the move, the forward kick went dead and Haverhill worked from the 22m line. Again, quick ball saw Lester moving up the wing, and a clever chip kick over the defence put huge pressure on the Mistley full back who touched the ball out for a Haverhill throw on 22 metres.
The throw was not straight, but Haverhill turned over the resulting scrum and Adam Hunt broke to five metres out, but was just pushed into touch.
The resultant play saw Mistley infringe 35 metres out, and the Plumridge kick hit the upright and Mistley made safe.
On 15 minutes, another Anderson take in the line-out saw the ball quickly across the line to Lester on the wing. Good ground was made, and at the point of tackle, Lester laid off the ball to Plumridge, to Hunt and then to Mike Woods, who scored in the corner, unconverted for 5-0.
On 23 minutes, Brodie Patrick, not to be outdone on the other wing, produced a nice chip kick that put the Mistley defence in all sorts of trouble, and they only just managed to clear.
On 31 minutes, Haverhill were lucky not to pick up a card for tackling a player without the ball, and Mistley took the three points on offer to make the score 5-3.
From the restart, backchat to the referee by a Mistley player, led to a turn over of the decision and gave Haverhill a penalty.
The pressure was now really on the Mistley defence, and on the third phase, Patrick crossed the line in the far corner to make it 10-3 on 35 minutes. The Plumridge kick missed.
The injured Ricky Harris was replaced by Gavin Hope, returning after 18 months out from a knee injury.
The restart saw the newly-invigorated Kevin Carr catch and drive back at Mistley to half way. The ball was recycled out to Lester, who again took out the defence with a chip kick.
The forwards pressured and Tom Chambers, newly returned from New Zealand, picked the ball up at 30 metres and darted through the stunned Mistley defence to score, unconverted, for 15-3 on 37 minutes.
After some sustained pressure by Mistley, Haverhill cleared the line to take the half-time whistle.
From the break, Mistley came back strongly, but a Haverhill move that would have led to a try broke down when the final pass was not made.
A line-out on the Mistley ten-metre line saw the only yellow card of the game going against Mistley for foul play in the line.
On 50 minutes, a big Garryowen from Plumridge saw huge pressure from Hunt, forcing the knock-on error from the Mistley fullback.
The immense propping of Grant Deeks and Luke Dore in the front row again inspired Haverhill to win good ball, and a nice blind side move by Hope to Plumridge saw the full speed Hunt receive the perfect pass to cross the line after a 45-metre run. The Plumridge boot was not firing again, leaving the score on 20-3.
Coach Price had the luxury of replacing winger Patrick with Joe Brown and prop Dore with Alex Wong to give the players a run out.
Pressure by Haverhill did not turn into any more points, and Haverhill took the whistle to seal a solid win.
Coach Price said after the game: "Last week was a bad day in the office, but a change of game plan, by playing the ball wide, led to four tries scored in the backs, and some very good expansive play.
"We are concentrating on getting our promotion and look forward to our Norfolk trip to Lakenham Hewitt next week.
"If you had offered me 13 wins from 14 games at the start of the season I would have taken that. We continue to work on the rest of the season"
Our picture shows Haverhill Rugby Club first XV. Back row, left to right: Price, Woods, Plumridge, Cooper, Wong, Dore, McDonagh, Ransome, Anderson, Harris, Chambers, Patrick, Raffell. Front row, left to right: Carr, Hope, Lester, Hunt, Brown J, Bergin, Brown R, Deeks, Muggeridge.
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