Letchworth take spoils in derby
Stevenage 11 Letchworth 16 Players and supporters alike awaited this long overdue local derby with eager anticipation. Newly promoted Stevenage Town, one of the form teams in Hertfordshire over the last three seasons, hosted Letchworth Garden City, cur
Stevenage 11 Letchworth 16
Players and supporters alike awaited this long overdue local derby with eager anticipation.
Newly promoted Stevenage Town, one of the form teams in Hertfordshire over the last three seasons, hosted Letchworth Garden City, currently the longest surviving team in London 2 Rugby.
At close of play, Letchworth Legends deservedly took the spoils, as graciously acknowledged by the home team supporters. Stevenage were suffering with injuries to key players, but did not hide behind that as an excuse.
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Two unsung heroes stood out for Letchworth with left wing Dave Rae putting in a man-of-the-match performance. He was aided and abetted by Liam Corcoran, who marshalled the midfield backs with poise and assurance.
With conditions set fair Letchworth shaded the early exchanges. Jag Johal was prominent in pressurising a nervous looking defence and penalties were conceded for Gavin Donald to step up and claim the opening three points.
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The one area Stevenage did excel was the set scrummage. From the kick off, they pressured Letchworth in that department to earn a shot at goal themselves but the attempt went wide.
Dave Rae inspired his side, fearlessly tackling a charging second row, twice his size, head on. This led to a purple patch for Letchworth, who did everything but score. Rick Streets made good ground on the right wing and Stevenage were penned in the shadow of their line. The failure to convert pressure to points was down to white line fever, not a well marshalled defence. Clear chances were missed.
Both sides were guilty of transgressing at the loose, giving the referee little option but to hand out penalties. Letchworth maintained their domination, but in eagerness to press home the advantage, pushed up too much from the back.
A missed defensive clearance sat up for the chasing Stevenage winger who, despite the attention of two tacklers, slipped a pass to his outside centre coming fast infield. Showing good pace, he made 60 yards down the wing handing off the full back for a superb individual try.
Stevenage, freed from the shackles of defence, pressured for the first time. A penalty followed and the lead was extended.
A period of midfield attrition followed with both sides continuing to transgress too frequently. Letchworth's back row continued to dominate with Stevenage relying on the bulk of their front five to get ball. Both sides ignored their back divisions, keeping flair and pace out of the game.
The half-time whistle meant a chance for the coaches to motivate and guide the teams. The early signs were that these messages were being ignored, but gradually Letchworth cranked up the pressure. Gavin Donald notched another penalty and the forwards started to control the loose exchanges. Their young three quarters benefited with a supply of go forward ball.
Stevenage stayed with plan A which had failed them thus far. Kick it to the corner and hope the pack could bludgeon over. Meat and drink for Giles Cook, Jag Johal and Robin French, on for the injured Peter Sterienberg.
Tactical changes had to be made with Gavin Donald and Henry Robinson interchanging and the Legends swept upfield keeping Stevenage on the back foot.
The ball was spun out to the left wing before it was recycled to the other flank for that man Dave Rae to round the defence and score unopposed in the corner.
Letchworth then showed too much ambition and tried to play the ball out of defence. Stevenage pounced on the opportunity and forced another penalty to level matters but this provoked an immediate response.
From the kick off, debutant Mark Sharp stole the ball and drove into the heart of the Town pack. Quick rucking and old warhorse Darren Spillane, rampant on the charge, caused more damage. Good hands along the back line found Rick Streets out wide and he stepped passed the defenders to finish the move.
Playing with conviction now, Letchworth moved the ball again. Dave Rae looked to be well marshalled, but showed his strength to break tackles and speed towards the line. However, some desperate defending saw the ball held up over the line.
Stevenage survived but were lucky as a try scoring pass to Dave Rae failed to reach its target. The match having been played in a good spirit, saw thirty tired players who had given their all.
Both sides meet again at Legends Lane on December 21st. This Saturday, Letchworth entertain old friends Bishops Stortford in a Herts Cup Tie.