Letch be havin’ it
Letchworth GC 24 Thurrock 17 Letchworth overcame the conditions and serious injuries to win this mid-table battle. A low winter sun, accompanied by a stiff breeze, gave a huge advantage to the team playing with the elements. Thurrock enjoyed the benefits
Letchworth GC 24 Thurrock 17
Letchworth overcame the conditions and serious injuries to win this mid-table battle.
A low winter sun, accompanied by a stiff breeze, gave a huge advantage to the team playing with the elements.
Thurrock enjoyed the benefits in the first half and looked to capitalise from the start.
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A deep kick-off was lost in the sun. Phil Pearson, normally a safe pair of hands, fumbled the catch to gift Thurrock a five metre scrum.
They secured good ball, recycled well and went down the left for the opening score.
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Letchworth retained their composure, shading the tight exchanges with cleaner scrum and lineout ball.
Thurrock's fly-half engaged the right strategy by kicking with the wind but his execution was off as the ball bounced hard off the solid pitch to go dead.
Neil Jones was looking good at scrum-half but sadly his day was not a long one as his shoulder popped out, forcing him out of the action.
He had a sympathetic arm to lean on, as Tony Simpson, having recently made a return after five months out, was watching on crutches having damaged his knee ligaments in a midweek army fixture.
With the hosts still reorganising, Thurrock struck again down the left wing to extend their lead with a well-worked try.
Letchworth were undaunted as they worked the ball up field. Lindsey Hogg in the back row was on fire. Aided and abetted by Jaggi Johal, he made sure any 50-50 ball came back to his side.
Thurrock, on the back foot, gave away a penalty which Gavin Donald despatched to the corner. A classic catch and drive gave Johal the try.
With Simon Hill dominating his side of the scrum and the centre partnership of Andy Atkinson and home debutant Ben Peterson starting to click, Letchworth were looking the hungrier team.
But their cause was not helped when Martin Kirby was the next to pop his shoulder. The rangy second rower joined Jones on the sidelines to be replaced by Giles Cooke.
Cooke, so often the darling of the home crowd, was making a welcome return after an injury he sustained back in November.
The half ran over by five minutes on account of the injuries and this gave some extra time for Thurrock to show how dangerous they were.
A misplaced penalty kick gave them a counter attack chance. They carved open the defence for a converted try and to go in at half time 17-5 up.
Letchworth came out firing after the break and Ian Smith made a fine break to earn a penalty. Despite the advantage of the elements, Donald sent it wide.
The elegant number 10 made amends moments later as he was offered another chance.
And he was on the scoresheet again soon after with a try.
Johal thumped in a tackle to turn over the ball before Darren Messenger scooped it up to make good ground.
Paul Hughes was on hand to take and give the scoring pass to Donald as he hit a good line to bisect a scrambling defence.
Letchworth were patient and another penalty saw them take the lead.
Thurrock, one of the form teams of the league, did not lie down although they relied too much on their burly inside centre to make them ground. He was constantly tackled and turned over by the Hogg/Johal tag team.
The penalties they earned were too far out to be dangerous, and with Pearson plundering their lineout, they looked unlikely to score.
Atkinson and Peterson were now tuned in and controlled the midfield.
Dave Rae sparked Letchworth back on the attack. His strong run got them into opposition territory where the forwards bossed matters to earn another penalty courtesy of Donald's educated boot.
Cooke did not disappoint the crowd as his bullocking run led to the last score, a penalty, to ensure the two league points were in the bag.
Letchworth will be confident going into Saturday's rearranged trip to Eton Manor.
The East Londoners had a great result themselves, securing a win at high-flying Tring.
So with both teams needing points, this will not be a clash for the faint hearted.