Wisbech 1st XV come back to beat Crusaders 27-31 at Little Melton Road to gain second EC3 away win of season
Wisbech put in a performance to remember on Saturday when they came back to beat Crusaders 27-31 at Little Melton Road.
On the back of two disappointing results Wisbech gained only their second win away from home of the season in wet conditions.
Wisbech welcomed back some old faces in a team line up with four enforced changes from the previous week.
A hard first half saw the Men in Red play into the elements on a stinking night weather-wise.
Wisbech enjoyed most of the territory and large amounts of possession despite this, but ill discipline around the breakdown led to the home side kicking two penalties in quick succession, taking an early 6-0 lead.
Wisbech then built the phases and grew in confidence as they pushed deep into the Crusaders 22, second row Nathan Goodale with a strong run tipped the ball onto his fellow second row Henry 'the action man' Lankfer who got stopped a meter from the line, Goodale on hand picked and ago and with a powerful drive force his way over the whitewash to register Wisbech's first point.
Jack Malkin, kicking into a strong breeze slotted over the conversion, to give Wisbech a slender 6-7 lead.
Further infringements from Wisbech around the breakdown allowed Crusaders to use the strong wind advantage to secure field position deep in the Wisbech half from where the host hit back with a try of their own to reclaim the lead 13-7.
The visitors were looking for a response as they heaped the pressure on the host, after some strong line breaks by the tight five found themselves on the attack deep in the Crusaders 22. After several phases in the 22, returning prop Kerrie McMullen picked from the base of the ruck to power his way over the line to for an unconverted try reduced the Crus lead to 13-12.
Again using the wind advantage Crusaders replied with a converted try to extend their lead to 20-12 going into the break.
Wisbech were quickest out the blocks after the break, and with the wind in their favour started to assert dominance over the Crusaders.
Wisbech full-back Harry Newman was assured under the high ball provided a solid base from which the backs could attack the Crusaders defence, after some sharp interplay by the Wisbech centres unlocked the tight Crusaders defence to release the ever present Henry Lankfer who crashed over for an unconverted try, cutting the Crus lead to 20-17.
But the hosts replied in true Crusaders manner dominating play resulting in a converted try to put them 27-17 up and Wisbech appeared to be losing their grip on the game.
It was at this point that Wisbech found the form they had shown glimmers of earlier this season to stage a remarkable comeback.
Lankfer and Prestidge showed some sharp handling and offloading which led to Prestidge going over under the posts for a try, Malkin added the extras once again to reduce Crus lead to 27-24.
Wisbech continued to apply the pressure and through Malkin and Wessels manage the game well in the final 15 minutes and they rounded off a strong performance when quick ball from Zac Lakey and soft accurate hands from Malkin, Prestidge Lankfer found skipper Dave Wadsley released veteran right wing Shane Vickers for another Wisbech try, Malkin's conversion added the extras, the Men in Red now in the lead with nine minutes to play.
The home side through everting they had dominating play while Wisbech defended resolutely. The nine minutes became sixteen as the referee was in no hurry to end the match, Wisbech would have been forgiven for losing hope of holding on for victory. But the Wisbech defence stood solid as the fought to hold on to their lead before Malkin relieved the pressure with a kick to touch to end the game 27-31 to win an incredible victory.
Notable performances from veteran Mark Goude, Thomas Case and Gerhard Wessels in truly a team performance but the outstanding Solomon Prestidge was the Wisbech Round Table Man of the Match.
Captain Dave Wadsley enjoyed the victory: “ I like the muddy rough and tumble and we just wanted it that bit more today."
Speaking after the match, Wisbech director of rugby Leonard Veenendaal paid tribute to coach Nico Steenkamp: "I am so happy for the boys, they went out there and they put our game on the park. They rode out some periods where we were under some heavy momentum from a good powerful Crusaders side.
"Nico kept patiently working and rectifying those small margins at training which have cost us in previous matches and today is came to together for us.
"We held them out and then obviously we took our chances when they came up. I’m really happy for the boys after the disappointments of the last two matches, they were really strong today and we came out on the right sides of the fine margins of London 3 Eastern Counties.”
"We take a lot of confidence from boost of the returning players from injury and our new charges, the competition for places should bring the best out of the squad as we go into our three final matches which are all at home, we must make the most of them in our fight to avoid relegation."
Wisbech now have two weeks off before playing Ely at home in the first of three final league matches. Unfortunately the Wisbech Wildcats' match was cancelled due to waterlogged Harecroft Road pitches on Saturday morning and will now be rescheduled for Saturday when the Wildcats will travel to St Neots, kick off 2.30pm.