RUGBY: Wisbech welcome old faces to produce impressive comeback in Eastern Counties League

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:00 02 March 2020

Wisbech lock Nathan Goodale powers his way over the try line. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

Wisbech lock Nathan Goodale powers his way over the try line. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

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Wisbech put in a performance to remember in the London 3 Eastern Counties League on Saturday to earn their second away win of the season with a 31-27 victory over Crusaders.

Wisbech's Jack Malkin lining up the conversion. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALWisbech's Jack Malkin lining up the conversion. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

The Men in Red put in a performance to remember on Saturday when they beat Crusaders 27-31 at Little Melton Road.

On the back of two disappointing results in previous weeks Wisbech can take great heart from gaining only their second win away from home of the season on Saturday in wet conditions at Crusaders. Wisbech welcomed back some old faces in a team line up with four enforced changes from the previous week.

A hard first half when the Men in Red had to play into the elements, on what was a stinking night weather-wise where underfoot conditions were should we say rather moist.

Wisbech enjoyed most of the territory and large amounts of possession despite playing against the element, but I'll discipline around the breakdown lead to the home side kicking two penalties in quick succession taking an early 6-0 lead.

A triumphant Wisbech applaud Crusaders off the pitch at the final whistle. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALA triumphant Wisbech applaud Crusaders off the pitch at the final whistle. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

Wisbech then built the phases and grew in confidence as they pushed deep into the Crusaders 22, second row Nathan Goodale with a strong run tipped the ball onto his fellow second row Henry 'the action man' Lankfer who got stopped a meter from the line, Goodale on hand picked and ago and with a powerful drive force his way over the whitewash to register Wisbech's first point. Jack Malkin kicking into a strong breeze slotted over the conversion to give Wisbech a slender 6-7 lead.

Further infringements from Wisbech around the breakdown allowed Crusaders to use the strong wind advantage to secure field position deep in the Wisbech half from where the host hit back with a try of their own to reclaim the lead 13-7.

The visitors were looking for a response as they heaped the pressure on the host, after some strong line breaks by the tight five found themselves on the attack deep in the Crusaders 22. After several phases in the 22, returning prop Kerrie McMullen picked from the base of the ruck to power his way over the line to for an unconverted try reduced the Crusaders lead to 13-12.

Again using the wind advantage Crusaders replied with a converted try to extend their lead to 20-12 going into the break.

Solomon Prestidge was named the Wisbech Round Table man of the match in his team's victory over Crusaders. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALSolomon Prestidge was named the Wisbech Round Table man of the match in his team's victory over Crusaders. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

Wisbech were quickest out the blocks after the break, and with the wind in their favour started to assert dominance over the Crusaders.

Wisbech full-back Harry Newman was assured under the high ball provided a solid base from which the backs could attack the Crusaders defence, after some sharp interplay by the Wisbech centres unlocked the tight Crusaders defence to release the ever present Henry Lankfer who crashed over for an unconverted try, cutting the hosts' lead to 20-17.

But the host replied in true Crusaders manner dominating play resulting in a converted try to put them 27-17 up and Wisbech appeared to be losing their grip on the game.

It was at this point that Wisbech found the form they had shown glimmers of earlier this season to stage a remarkable comeback.

Wisbech under 16s prop Billy Wizz epitomised the heat of battle with a blooded nose. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALWisbech under 16s prop Billy Wizz epitomised the heat of battle with a blooded nose. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

Lankfer and Prestidge showed some sharp handling and offloading which led to Prestidge going over under the posts for a try, Malkin added the extras once again to reduce Crus lead to 27-24.

Wisbech continued to apply the pressure and through Malkin and Wessels manage the game well in the final fifteen minutes and they rounded off a strong performance when quick ball from Zac Lakey and soft accurate hands from Malkin, Prestidge Lankfer found skipper Dave Wadsley released veteran right wing Shane Vickers for another Wisbech try, Malkin's conversion added the extras, the Men in Red now in the lead with nine minutes to play.

The home side through everting they had dominating play while Wisbech defended resolutely. The nine minutes became sixteen as the referee was in no hurry to end the match, Wisbech would have been forgiven for losing hope of holding on for victory.

But the Wisbech defence stood solid as the fought to hold on to their lead before Malkin relieved the pressure with a kick to touch to end the game 27-31 to win an incredible victory.

The Wisbech under 10s team. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALThe Wisbech under 10s team. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

Notable performances from veteran Mark Goude, Thomas Case and Gerhard Wessels in what was truly a team performance but the outstanding performance from Solomon 'the god Titan' Prestidge earned him the Wisbech Round Table Man of the Match award.

Captain Dave Wadsley said: "I like the muddy rough and tumble and we just wanted it that bit more today."

Director of Rugby paid tribute to Wisbech coach Nico Steenkamp and said: "I am so happy for the boys, they went out there and they put our game on the park. They rode out some periods where we were under some heavy momentum from a good powerful Crusaders side.

"Nico kept patiently working and rectifying those small margins at training which have cost us in previous matches and today is came to together for us.

The Wisbech under 9s team with coach Ian Warby. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAALThe Wisbech under 9s team with coach Ian Warby. Picture: LEONARD VEENENDAAL

"We held them out and then obviously we took our chances when they came up. I'm really happy for the boys after the disappointments of the last two matches, they were really strong today and we came out on the right sides of the fine margins of London 3 Eastern Counties.

"We take a lot of confidence from boost of the returning players from injury and our new charges, the competition for places should bring the best out of the squad as we go into our three final matches which are all at home, we must make the most of them in our fight to avoid relegation."

Wisbech face Ely at home in the first of their three final league matches. Unfortunately the Wisbech Wildcats match was cancelled due to waterlogged Harecroft Road pitches, and will now be rescheduled for this Saturday when they travel to St Neots, 2:30pm.

* Wisbech under 16s beat St Neots 22-7 away, scoring four tries to one. St Neots started the second half hungry for victory and with the wind in their favour, scored their first try, but Wisbech dug in with strong defence going on to score two further tries against the elements.

As we had the wind, we camped in the St Neots half scoring two tries through Jake Cavill and Carlo Gigola.

In the second half, St Neots were camped in the Wisbech half and scored an early try. The rest of the half saw some of the finest tackling of the season and counter-rucking. Wisbech counter-attacked, scoring two more tries thanks to Ryan Pain and Josh Sandal with Jacob's one conversion.

Charlie Loates also made his debut for the Fenland side.

Wisbech coach Paul Ludlow thanked the players and parents for their commitment. He said: "It's the best team performance of the season by far."

Wisbech under 9s and 10s teams fielded strong teams at the Deepings festival.

The under 9s display left the parents and coaches bursting with pride after an outstanding display of rugby against some tough opponents.

Kesteven were their first opponents who fielded a team with some fast runners, but it was clear to see the Wisbech team wanted to win.

Strong fast breaks were met with crunching tackles forcing turnovers, allowing Wisbech to score and take the win.

The second game against St Ives on a wetter and muddier pitch, Wisbech held their own to take the win after being dominant for most of the game.

The third game against Peterborough where Wisbech showed real strength with early effective tackles, great passing and lots of well-executed tries.

The final game was against Stamford. Wisbech were determined not to end the day with a loss stepped up the big tackles, driving back their opposition forcing turnovers allowing Wisbech to take control and win the game.

Coach Ian Warby said: "The under 9s are gelling more and more as a team each week and it's starting to show in there strong dominant performance. A fantastic effort from the whole team."

The under 10s also produced a perfect display, beating Peterborough (5-4), Deeping (7-1), Peterborough Lions (7-4) and Oundle (6-1).

James Cox's team arrived at Deeping seven strong and right off the bat came in with enthusiasm.

The opposition agreed to play 7-a-side for our games, and with a short warm up Wisbech's first game against Peterborough A began bumpy, with both teams getting accustomed to the winds and the pitch conditions.

Wisbech led the first half 3-2, and in the second half began to burn out after playing at a high intensity during the first half, where Peterborough slipped their last two tries through our wings.

But Wisbech retaliated appropriately with a final try lead scored with the last play of the game.

Wisbech approached the second game with enthusiasm for a chance for victory in the festival. This match ended up being a 6-a-side rugby match so that the under 10s could have an even game to balance it out and make the game fair.

We ended up still managing to play with a large advantage with a 6-0 lead within the first half.

But our lent player becoming Deeping breakaway to score their try in the second half with our lent player making a break past Wisbech's defence to bring Deeping five metres from our try line for it to be tried by a Deeping player.

With one minute left of the game, Wisbech made haste to start and return the try with a heavy blitz on Deeping, but Wisbech managed their seventh try for this game.

Against the Lions A, Wisbech played the same strategy as they played against Deeping due to its success as reflected in the final score of a 7-4 victory, with the first half resulting with a 5-2 advantage.

During half-time, the winds truly picked up and caused complications which the Lions A team capitalised upon, pressuring Wisbech to cause them to drop balls, misplaced passes and giving away free passes.

When Wisbech started to feel that Lions A were catching up, they changed their strategy that minimised their drop balls, and missed passes and focus on driving through Lions A's defence.

With Wisbech's ball carrier having a teammate assisting in driving them forward to the try line, this ended with a three-point advantage and the game ending with a final play ending with a tackle to the touch line and Wisbech with a cheerful attitude.

With three games and three victories, Wisbech were riding high with the potential of winning their final game.

Wisbech prepared themselves as to not underestimate their last opponent and lose their winning streak.

When waiting for their fourth match against Oundle, we ended up starting with a player advantage due to an Oundle player being late.

Oundle agreed to start the match and that when their player returned that they would join in, and with the time being of the essence, we agreed with Oundle to have a 10 minute game.

This resulted with two intense halves with Wisbech meeting Oundle every step of the way, playing a hard blitz on every line defence and heavy drives through Oundle's defences.

With Oundle's emotions running high, Wisbech kept a calm head and kept playing, pressuring Oundle to make drop balls, panicked passes and in the end resulted with 5-0 score in the first half.

After the high speed game in the first half, Oundle managed to make a break by working on our wing which allowed them to get a try and with the rush of Oundle trying, Wisbech retaliated with a blitz through their line and tried with their final score of 6-1.

Unfortunately Wisbech had the possibility of gaining another try but with this being the last play of the game, our player attempted to perform a showboating finisher try, which subsequently resulted in him dropping the ball before he could try the ball.

This ended the game with a good-natured laugh at the sceptical, and with Wisbech and Oundle meeting in the middle and congratulating one another.

After the festival, Cox said: "It is a massive improvement from the team's last festival results."

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