Brave Wisbech are beaten by rugby high-flyers in first match of New Year
LONDON 3 EASTERN COUNTIES
Wisbech 19 Stowmarket 24
Wisbech restarted their London 3 Eastern Counties campaign with a narrow defeat at home to second-placed Stowmarket.
The hosts were rewarded with a losing bonus point after a fine game of attacking rugby and resolute defence.
Both teams had selection issues because of injury and work commitments.
Wisbech welcomed back full-back Harry Newman after a knee injury, winger Craig Ruegg, home from university, and a gave a first start to young winger Harry Smith.
Raimondas Vinksna showed his willingness and versatility to play by starting at centre. Stowmarket’s scrum-half won a foot race to the Wisbech try line to open the scoring against the run of play.
Spurred on by this, Wisbech’s Nathan Goodale, captain Solomon Prestidge and Vinksna gave Stowmarket real problems, while scrum-half Dave Brodie used his left boot to give his team field position.
The reward for Wisbech’s attacking ambition was two penalties – both kicked by Harry Newman.
Stowmarket’s defence was breached when Newman joined in to pick up and drive over for an unconverted score.
The visitors added an unconverted try and, just before the break, Stowmarket’s number 8 took advantage of a missed tackle close to a ruck to put his side 17-11 in front at the interval.
After an inspired half-time team talk, James Napier, Newman and Jack Malkin made crucial tackles in the early stages of the second period.
Despite a despairing dive from Newman, Stowmarket, who had a one-man advantage at the time, increased their lead further.
Going into the final 20 minutes, Newman kicked his third penalty of the match to reduce the deficit to ten points.
Even a lapse in discipline that reduced Wisbech to 14 players did not diminish the ambition to attack and a combination of both forwards and backs attacked with slick passing to allow Newman to score an unconverted try in the corner.
There were several contenders in red shirts for the Round Table Man-of-the-Match award. These included Newman’s personal tally of 19 points, Vinksna for his direct running, Smith putting in some big tackles, Brodie and Malkin for their smooth half-back combination.
But it was Goodale’s forceful ball carrying and determined tackling that earned him the award.
Wisbech travel to West Norfolk RFC next Saturday. Kick-off will be 3pm under West Norfolk’s floodlights.