City pay price for resting stars

Following the euphoria of the comprehensive bragging rights victory over Stevenage the previous Saturday, a repeat command performance was always going to be a tall order against a high flying Bishops Stortford outfit from London Division 1. The task b

Following the euphoria of the comprehensive "bragging rights" victory over Stevenage the previous Saturday, a repeat command performance was always going to be a tall order against a high flying Bishops Stortford outfit from London Division 1.

The task became even tougher when Letchworth chose to rest several key players in skipper Jaggi Johal, Darren "Big Dog" Spillane, the outstanding Peter Sterienberg, seasoned veteran hooker Mark Sharp, and utility back Gavin Donald, preferring to keep them fit for league commitments.

This did give coach Mike Clements the opportunity to introduce some more young players into the fold including 17-year-old debutant Jack Tredgett.

But on a blissfully sunny, bitterly cold and blustery afternoon Bishop's Stortford found Letchworth in benevolent mood for the first forty minutes.

They took advantage of some sloppy handling, and poor decision making, to run in four converted tries without really having to break sweat.

Strong Bishop's Stortford pressure in the first 10 minutes led to Liam Corcoran, the Letchworth centre, taking a somewhat harsh early 10-minute rest after deliberately killing the ball deep in Letchworth territory.

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Stortford elected to kick to the corner rather than take the easy kick at goal, and their adventure was rewarded as, from a clever midfield switch move, the Stortford outside centre ran under the posts unopposed.

Indeed for the first half-hour the Stortford team seemed a yard or two quicker than their rivals in every phase of the game, and a rout seemed a distinct possibility.

Straight from the restart Stortford took advantage of turnover ball and sent their pacey backs streaming down field for their right wing to stroll under the posts once more for an easy conversion.

Letchworth's cause was not helped by failing to deal with several high balls as Stortford opted for an aerial assault on the back three and mistakes were inevitable.

Just as Letchworth thought they were safe, a quickly taken free kick from a crooked feed at a defensive scrum, allowed the Stortford second row to gallop through several weak tackles to score close to the uprights, once again gifting an easy conversion.

The final insult of the half arrived with complete confusion reigning in the Letchworth midfield allowing the Stortford centre to gather the loose ball and trot under the posts, to create a daunting half time score of 28-0.

Whatever head coach Mike Clements said at half time should be bottled and sent to the ailing England supremo Martin Johnson.

Letchworth were immediately galvanised into an irresistible unit and were eventually rewarded with a well taken try out wide from Rick Streets.

Andy Atkinson came on to add some experience to the midfield, celebrating his 150th appearance for the Legends and Letchworth were now beginning to dominate both territory and possession. But resolute defence in adversity kept the scoresheet clean for the remainder of the game.

The frustration showed as Lewis Hett was offered the opportunity to cool off for 10 minutes, with the game petering out.

Of particular note were the performances of Giles Cooke, ably deputising for skipper Johal, and Dave Budge, who can clearly play in any of the forward positions with some assuredness.

Dave Rae was his usual hard working self and there were signs, if mistakes can be eradicated, that this young team can develop into something special.

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