Wanderers grind out win to take the league title
St Josephs 10
“We ground out a victory against a tough opposition. It wasn’t pretty at times but we got over the line and secured the points necessary for us to take the league title” commented Martyn Fowler. “Losing 3 key players to injury in the first half made it harder but this squad has battled through adversity before and they got the job done” he added.
On a bright afternoon with a keen nip in the air early pressure came from the visitors but it was the home side that got the scoreboard moving first. A high tackle advantage was neatly moved down the blindside. Several phases later and with good support and offloading the “Joes” raced away to score the first try of the day. The conversion went just wide 5-0. The Wanderers were spurred into action with Josh Sheehan, who was at the heart of most things the visitors did, leading the way by regaining the kick off but after several phases the ball was spilled. The home side had certainly settled well and at this point they were the far more accomplished team with the pressure of the occasion possibly preying on the Wanderers minds somewhat. Fortunately, the combination of Teddy Williams, on debut, and Sheehan meant that the visitors ruled the roost in the lineout as all afternoon they prevented any decent possession from that set piece, allowing the “Joes” a limited platform. It was from a lineout steal that the Wanderers took the lead. Moving the ball into midfield Josh Male powered through the defence to break clear. As he was hauled down Max Cunnington was on hand and with a neat step he wrong-footed the would-be tacklers and raced away to score under the posts. Luke Fish converted 5-7. The game ebbed and flowed and the game was punctuated with several penalties. The home side choosing to kick for lineouts only to see the ball stolen by the visitors. Eventually a lineout move worked and they took full advantage. After a little nudge by the pack the home side forwards broke clear and with the defence in disarray they raced away to score the second try and to put themselves ahead again 10-7. Back came the visitors but try as they might they could not break down the dogged defence from the home side. With the half entering its final minutes the Wanderers were forced into a series of changes. First Cameron Gibbon departed closely followed by centre partner Josh Male and second row Tom Penry Ellis. This meant a major reshuffle with Callum Bricknell and James Loxton forming a new centre partnership. The Wanderers continued to look all at sea with the possession being wasted as they struggled to get to grips with the home side. Fish did add a penalty to make the scores all level at 10-10 and the sides went into the break with the Wanderers coaches delivering some harsh words of advice to the squad.
The half began with the strong home side scrum starting to exert some pressure but they could not build any decent spell of pressure on the Wanderers. Both sides continued to look for something decisive but try as they might neither side could put together enough decent phases to make it count. From a scrum Penalty Fish put the Wanderers ahead 10-13 but there was still nothing between the sides. An up and under from Ioan Lewis gave the visitors a chance. Bricknell chased well and regathered the ball. He put Fish away and after the ball was recycled wide Dan Apsee found himself with space out wide. With the line beckoning and best beknown to himself, he decided that instead of scoring he would hoof the ball onto the nearby railway line much to the amazement of onlooking supporters. The advantage was certainly swaying the Wanderers way and soon afterwards they put together a move that increased their lead. Recycling the ball well in the home side 22 Sheehan found a superb line to bust the defence and despite several players hanging on to him he forced his way over. Fish converted 10-20. Back came the “Joes” and they had a chance to reduce the arrears but a penalty shot went just wide. Both sides starting to look to more fresh legs in order to bring something extra to the game and as it entered its final minutes it was still all to play for. The Wanderers were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when Ioan Lewis deliberately knocked the ball on but again when the home side decided the to kick the penalty for a lineout they lost the ball and the Wanderers cleared. The visitors moved back upfield and when they had a penalty of their own Fish took advantage of the play to drop a goal to increase the lead to 10-23. The home side now needed to chase the game and the visitors, for the first time, looked in control. Stringing together the phases they put the home side under pressure and when a fortunate bounce handed Rob Evans the ball he put Will Adams Jones away. He rounded the defence and scored under the posts. Fish converted and all of a sudden the Wanderers had a chance of a bonus point and the league title. Breaking out for defence from deep Loxton set up an attack and when a penalty was awarded the visitors set up a series of attacks. There followed a frantic final few minutes of injury time and the Wanderers thought they clinched the title when Adams Jones put Michael Owen in for a score only to be hauled back for a forward pass. A last attempt by the visitors to drive over a lineout followed but the attack was foiled and the final whistle sounded on the Wanderers win 10-30.
Tries: Josh Sheehan, Max Cunnington, Will Adams Jones
Cons: Luke Fish (3)
Pens: Luke Fish (2)
Drop Goal: Luke Fish
Wanderers Management man of the match: Josh Sheehan
Wanderers Massiv man of the match: Josh Sheehan