RUGBY: Wisbech in high spirits after first home Eastern Counties League win of the New Year
- Credit: Archant
Wisbech 1st XV secured their first London 3 Eastern Counties home win of the New Year with a 28-17 bonus point win over Thurston Rangers at Harecroft Road on Saturday.
With both sides heading into the game with huge expectations, Thurston were set on doing the double over 10th-placed Wisbech, having beaten the Men in Red 50-7 in October.
Thurston had come into this match of an impressive 32-all draw with high-flying Thetford, who humbled Wisbech 25-0 two weeks ago. Rangers travelled with intent, looking to build on last week's performance against Thetford with a win.
Wisbech took heart from the reinforcements to their squad with key players returning from injury as they looked to build on their hard-earned 10-8 away win at Beccles last week.
Tries from Henry Lankfer, Raimondas Vinksna, Mickey Watts, Marius Steponaitis and Jack Malkin with a perfect kicking display ensured Wisbech came away with the win to keep above the relegation zone.
In the first four minutes, Wisbech dominated the ball and, after an inspired pass from Malkin, Lankfer running a perfect angle scored a try. Malkin converted to give the hosts a 7-0 lead in the early stages.
But the visitors hit back on 13 minutes through their outside centre Edward Ballam. Wisbech's Shane Vickers' miss after a speculative intercept allowed Ballam to exploit the space, before dancing through the Wisbech defence to score under the posts.
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Fly-half Jack Rae converted for Thurston to draw the scores level.
The home side continued to look dangerous from the scrum and were making life difficult for Thurston.
That showed when a dominant Wisbech scrum in the visitors' 22 led to a flurry of attacking phases for the Men in Red, Mickey Watts powering his way over the line from five metres out before Malkin added the extras to restore a 14-7 lead.
Wisbech had another try minutes later when another dominant scrum earned them a penalty. A quick tap was moved through the hands to release right-wing Vinksna to cross the whitewash, Malkin again successful with the conversion increasing Wisbech's lead to 21-7.
The windy conditions made it a scrappy start to the second-half and with Wisbech now playing into the wind, it would be their defence that would shine as Thurston's ability to bounce back saw them pressurise the hosts for most of the second period.
Within 20 minutes of the restart, he away side struck, Rae sticking a penalty in front of the post just outside the Wisbech 22 to reduce the arrears to 21-10.
It got even better for Leonard Veenendaal's side when they secured the bonus point through Marius Steponaitis in the last minute of the match.
Some stunning powerful phases by the forwards put the Men in Red into a good position for the backs to strike. The ball was quickly spun out wide before replacement left-wing Steponaitis finished off the move as he stepped his way through for a valuable bonus point try.
Jack Malkin converted from the tightest of angles to earn Wisbech an emphatic win.
Henry Lankfer, Vitalijus Truksinas, Andrius Baltuska and Nattachit Hunt all put in big shifts, tighthead Nico Steenkamp making his first appearance this season was hugely influential and skipper David Wadsley led from the front.
But this was truly a team effort, and the Wisbech Round Table man of the match was shared by Mickey Watts and Luke Green.
Wisbech enjoy a much-needed rest before returning to league action at Ipswich YM next Saturday, while the Wildcats host leaders Mildenhall in Division Two West of the Eastern Counties League.
On Sunday (February 2), Wisbech hosted Spalding across under 7s, 8s, 9s, 10s, 11s and 12s age groups.
The Wisbech under 7 squad formed two teams, Tigers & Panthers, to play the visitors from Spalding. All the young players from both clubs deserve praise for coping with the heavy pitches and very muddy balls.
The Wisbech youngsters continued to develop their teamwork in defence working hard to make tags.
Despite the wet conditions there was lots of good passing which led to team tries and impressive individual efforts.
The squad has welcomed two new players in recent weeks and the regulars deserve praise for helping them feel part of the team.
Coach Dave Dobson said: "Many thanks to all the supporters who applauded good play by players from both clubs, and thanks to the Wisbech parents for their help in running the team."
After a week off and a brief warm up, it soon became clear that Spalding were a much improved side compared with the last time these two sides met.
The Wisbech players were taken aback by Spalding's initial hold on the game, and this solid start allowed the visitors to score first.
Wisbech soon started to find their feet with good ball retention and rapid runs, with accurate passing and offloading helping them to win the first match by five tries to three.
The second game started badly for Wisbech when poor decision-making led to Spalding scoring the first couple of tries.
The hosts soon picked themselves up and scored three terrific tries, where good rucking made a significant difference in the second half to win by three tries to two.
Special mention to Emily for getting under the opposition's skin. Zeeve and Jacob were noticeable for their committed and effective tackling while Alfie, our newest player, had his best game yet, scoring his debut try.