Minute’s silence for Claire Simpson, director of Elgood's Breweries, one of club's main sponsors
Wisbech 1st XV cruised to victory against Crusaders on Saturday, winning 49-17 in front of a vocal crowd at Harecroft Road.
The match was preceded with a minute’s silence to mark the sad passing of Claire Simpson, director of Elgoods Breweries, one of the main sponsors associated with the club for many years.
With both sides heading into the game in need of a win, the match was poised to be a highly competitive affair but the 'Men in Red' started with intent.
Freddie Napier’s man of the match performance was a fantastic example of their electric attacking display, while the defence’s physicality and organisation left no room for Crusaders to manoeuvre.
In the first four minutes, Wisbech dominated the ball, and, after an inspired pass from Jack Malkin, 18 year-old Dan Di Meo scored the opening try. Malkin converted to give the hosts a 7-0 lead in the early stages.
This would foreshadow a period of scintillating attacking play from Wisbech, who looked threatening with every phase of play. The Wisbech attack was halted five metres from the Crusaders line, 18 year-old Luke Green showed his power get over the line. Jack Malkin converted from the tightest of angles to give Wisbech a 14-0 lead in the first 15 minutes.
Wisbech capitalised on the away side's stuttered momentum, scoring their third try of the half when veteran Shane Vickers showed his elusive running skills stepping through several defenders to cross the try line. Malkin converted to stretch the lead to 21-0 in favour of the hosts.
Wisbech took their foot off the pedal, allowing the away side to score. From a penalty Crusaders kicked into the corner for the lineout. The Crusaders jumper took the ball comfortably, slipped through the defence with such ease it had the Wisbech forwards blushing with embarrassment to score the visitors' opening try on the brink of half-time. The conversion was missed.
Half-time and the score stood at 21-5 to the hosts.
The second half started like the first, Wisbech were quickly in the ascendancy forcing an attacking lineout in the Crusaders 22. Veteran Ben ‘the Hulk’ Wicks was illegally denied from the ensuing driving maul. Jack Malkin took a tap penalty, found Wicks and from 5m out Wicks bulldozed his way through the Crusaders defence to score a fantastic bonus point try. Malkin was successful with his fourth straight conversion.
Minutes later, man of the match Freddie Napier scored his first of two tries of the afternoon after a quick Wisbech attack which saw Napier stepping his way through the Crusaders defence: he showed lightning quick pace to score in the corner. Malkin continued his fine form, converting from the tightest of angles, to bring the score to 35-5 in favour of the hosts.
However Crusaders scored a converted try after sustained attacking play they were clearly not going down without a fight.
It would be Wisbech’s defence that would shine for the next period, as Crusaders pressurise the home side for a sustained period. Wisbech defending seven phases on their own try line until winger Hendrikus Stankus, now operating in the back row, turned the ball over, Wisbech counter attacked from deep in their own territory moved the ball through the hands to 17 year old Ben Goude out on the right wing. Stepping past several defenders he manged to get the ball to Freddie Napier on his inside to score arguably the try of the match. Malkin continued his master display off the tee with his sixth straight conversion.
In true Crusaders spirit they had no intentions of giving up and replied with a unconverted try of their own, the score now 42-17 with ten minutes to go.
Despite this, Wisbech continued to set the pace attacking with a flurry of fine attacking moves to earn a penalty ten metres out from the Crusaders try line. Malkin took a quick tap and found Napier who in turn floated the ball over the defence to Shane Vickers who ran in the converted try unopposed to re-establish Wisbech’s control and seal the 49-17 bonus point victory.
Speaking after the match, director of rugby Leonard Veenendaal said: “After last week’s catastrophic defeat to West Norfolk, today was all about the boys turning up, playing our game and getting that crucial last home game of the season win ahead of the final league weekend away to Thetford next Saturday.
“Much of the credit has to go to our head coach Nico Steenkamp put in a lot of work with the players in training thought the week and then two days before his 50th birthday the veteran South African led by example on the pitch with a text book display in the set piece and two turnovers at the breakdown.
“The young players all impressed, it was great to have Jack Malkin back in such good form, Martin Day in the number one shirt was outstanding for the full eighty minutes and a close contender for man of the match who was just edged out by our Wisbech Round Table man of the match Freddie Napier, who was fantastic in defence and attack.
“This home win was important and it’s always a reward to win in front of your supporters, but what happens on Saturday, April 6 away to Thetford will be the true test of how far we have come this season.”
• Photo, Wisbech 1st XV, back L-R: Harry Newman, Henrikas Stankus, Luke Green, Solomon Prestidge (c), Jason Luffman, Sam Anderson, Martin Day, Nathan Goodale, Ben Wicks, Will Lankfer, Nico Steenkamp
Front: Kerrie McMullen, Jack Malkin, Shane Vickers Freddie Napier, Ben Goude, Zac Lakey Dan Di Meo.
Scorers for Wisbech:
Tries: Di Meo; Green; Vickers (2); Wicks; Napier (2)
Conversions: Malkin (7)
• Sunday, March 24
In what is arguably the fastest growing ladies sport in this country it was exciting to witness Wisbech Rugby Club open its doors to the Peterborough U11’s girls team. This was made even more interesting as there would be a sibling match up with the Smith twins competing against each other.
The boys' team experience showed early on with tries flowing however their opponents heads never dropped and eventually their hard worked resulted in their first try by Rose Smith closely followed by a trio of tries by Jemima Mitchell, who both play for Wisbech as well.
The girls didn’t let any physical advantage bother them either and constantly ripped the ball from the hands of their bigger opponents. The boys' team continued to press forward but with the pressure from the girls were forced to play more as a team resulting in some good team tries as they continued to score through the game.
Ethan was as usual solid in defence and Archie carried well throughout the match scoring the try of the day when he broke the defensive line at speed.
What this game gave both teams was a chance to develop the less experienced players on both sides and show that rugby is a game for all. The morning was well supported and the club should be commended for its support in the development of the game. Overall a fantastic game to watch and one which Wisbech can definitely take some learning points away with them.
Wisbech U11 coach Ian Smith said: “On a sad note Jessica Riley unfortunately injured herself whilst playing. Thankfully the diagnosis isn’t too serious but she will be absent for a couple of weeks. Well done Peterborough girls and well done Wisbech U11’s on showing the true values of the game.”