Wisbech 24 Crusaders 15
Wisbech were worthy winners of a close match after being behind.
Crusaders started the sharper of the two sides and showed the capacity to play through phases to stretch a determined Wisbech defence.
Good line speed and a strong tackling led forced Crusaders into errors and penalty offences at the breakdown which allowed Wisbech to get into the game. The home side’s forwards all offered themselves to carry the ball and the backs showed that they had a cutting edge when given possession.
It was Crusaders that got the first score just before half-time when concerted pressure produced space for their winger to cross for a try. The try was unconverted and so the half ended Wisbech 0 Crusaders 5.
Both sides looked to lift the tempo of the game in the early minutes of the second period. A scrum just outside the Crusaders 22-metre line was won by the home forwards and the Wisbech backs moved the ball quickly to Alex Watson at outside centre who showed real pace to outflank the Crusaders’ defence and score under the posts. Sam Anderson, captaining the side from No 8, kicked the conversion to give his side the lead.
As expected Crusaders were quick to put pressure back on the Wisbech defence which remained as determined as in the first half. The next score went to Wisbech following a passage of play that started in their own 22-metre area. Anderson picked up from the base of a scrummage and broke through a tackle to set off on a run that took him into the Crusaders’ half. The supporting Wisbech players recycled the ball quickly and safe handling saw Watson cross the line for his second try which was successfully converted by Anderson making the score 14-5.
Crusaders again took the game to Wisbech using their key ball carriers and some astute kicking by their fly half. A penalty offence at a ruck resulted in a successful kick at goal that narrowed the Wisbech lead to six points. However, the home side were soon able to extend their lead when Anderson kicked a penalty. In keeping with the pattern of play of the first 60 minutes Crusaders again mounted a series of attacks which were met with continued committed Wisbech tackling. Ricky Harnwell was forced to leave the pitch with a shoulder injury sustained in a tackle and Solomon Prestidge came on as replacement with Ramos Vinksna moving out to the wing.
Into the last 15 minutes Crusaders scored a converted try after a well-organised maul set up at a lineout 10 metres from the home try line, 17-15. Wisbech showed real character and no little skill to make concerted efforts to close out the game with another score.
Some trademark carries by Prestidge, Martin Day, Jim Griffin & Iwan Jones put Wisbech on the front foot. Rudie van der Merwe became increasingly influential with ball in hand as he searched for an opening for inside centre James Napier to exploit. The key score came when forwards and backs combined down the right flank to create space for Alex Watson to complete his hat-trick with a try which was again converted by Anderson. As the game moved into its final minutes Jeff Wilson, who had given a great effort throughout, was replaced by Olly Mackett and Wisbech were again applying pressure within the visitors 22-metre line to close out.
The hard earned win was a fitting way to thank three new shirt sponsors, The Welding Centre, SBN Civils and Tangent Civil Engineering & Groundwork, for their generous contributions to a new change strip worn for the first time.
“It was grit in the first half from the Wisbech defence that allowed Wisbech to win the game. Despite conceding the lion share of possession in the first half strong defence kept Crusaders to only one try. In the second half Wisbech were string some moves together to win the match,” commented stand in skipper Sam Anderson.
Alex Watson was awarded the Round Table man-of-the match.
Wisbech do the short trip to local rivals Ely for their final match before Christmas this weekend, KO 2pm.