Wisbech lost their position at the top of Eastern Counties I in a tight game on Saturday.
However, courtesy of the losing bonus point, they are only one point behind Cantabs who are the new leaders.
As a result of overnight frost an area of the main pitch at Cantabs remained frozen and so it was decided to move the game to the smaller second pitch.
Cantabs kicked off facing a low bright winter sun which made seeing the high ball very difficult. The tight early exchanges were typical of how the game would develop as both sides battled to gain an advantage.
As a result of some excellent Wisbech pressure the visitors were awarded a penalty inside the home 22 metres and Mark Laws slotted over the kick. A long range attempt a few minutes later narrowly missed the target.
As the half developed the Wisbech scrum again came under pressure and, although there was an improvement on previous weeks, scrum half Andy Claydon showed great skill dealing with the ball under pressure of a retreating scrum.
Cantabs boast an number of overseas players and physically looked to be a bigger unit. However in the loose play Wisbech were dynamic and their ferocious tackling prevented the home team from settling on the ball.
A burst through the centre by Jon Turner a created a gap for Phil Martell but excellent covering defence thwarted a try. Shortly after Cantabs levelled the score with their own penalty. Wisbech came under pressure but the defence held out.
Cantabs continued to pressure forward in the early exchanges of the second half and caught Wisbech on the back foot, they took control of the game with three successful penalty attempts before Wisbech rallied again.
The pivotal moment in the game happen when Turner again broke through, splitting the defence. Before Shane Vickers could receive the pass he was tackled without the ball when he would have been clean through. The guilty player was yellow carded and the referee decided not to award a penalty try.
The pressure applied by Wisbech in the final minutes of the game was rewarded with a penalty which Claydon converted, this gave Wisbech the losing bonus point.
Manager Cliff Humphreys said: “It is always disappointing to lose a game but on this occasion Wisbech to a man can be very proud of their performance, We always knew that our scrum would come under pressure but the front five of Lamacraft, Humphreys, Comben, Chapman and Brownlow battled to the end. Brownlow was excellent in the lineout.
“It is difficult to say if the narrow pitch was a deciding factor in the game; certainly our backs did not have the space to work in, but it was the same for both sides.
“The return fixture in March looks to be the decider on who will take the league title, but before then Wisbech must win every game. We are at local rivals West Norfolk this week and they have steadily improved over the season.”
Wisbech 2nds 34pts,
Watton 2nds 0
Wisbech put out an extremely strong squad on Saturday and fittingly put in a good team performance in this comprehensive victory over Watton.
Wisbech looked dominant from the outset and after 15 minutes centre Ryan Tate picked a good line which saw him cut through the defence to touchdown under the post. Wing Sam Anderson added the extras. Despite bombarding the Watton line on numerous occasions Wisbech only added three more points before half time.
Again Wisbech started the second as the dominant side. After 10 minutes Simon Clarke smashed his way over the line to make it 15-0. Wisbech added the next try fairly quickly when Daniel Roberts came off the bench and with practically his first touch of the game ran in a try from 35 metres out Anderson adding the extras.
Next on the score sheet was second row Richard Pearson scored his first try for Wisbech when he ran through the entire opposition pack leaving a trail of Watton players in his wake. Wisbech capped off their win with another try through the forwards when Josh Anderson bundled his way over after picking and going from the back of a ruck, brother Sam adding the two points from out wide to see the game finish 34-0.
Wisbech will feel that with a bit more composure this could have been a cricket score but will be ultimatly pleased that a relentless defensive display and good discipline enabled them to keep a clean sheet.
Simon Clarke, Dick Cavil, Sam Anderson and captain Oliver Mackett all had outstanding performances in a week where the whole squad performed well.