Essex U15s League Division 2, Sunday 16 February 2014

Woodford 31 - 15 Westcliff

Woodford’s first game in four weeks following the atrocious weather was against league leaders Westcliff sitting at the top of the table with a perfect twelve points after their opening four games,

If we were ice skating at Sochi, Woodford would have been awarded a Perfect 10 with the play in the opening minute.  Dan Farrelly caught the kick off cleanly and made a direct run at the Westcliff backs. He jinked pass the first tackle to through to the Westcliff 22.

As Farrely was brought down, Will Curness and Euan Fay were quickly in support. The each drew a defender and passed Giving Jamie Ali on the right wing the challenge of sprinting round the Westcliff cover defence before placing the ball down between the posts.  With Alex Marks assured kick, Woodford led 7-0 with barely a minute played.

Westcliff’s were not going to make the same mistake at the restart and followed their kick off smartly. Woodford drove forward but Westcliff secured turn over ball but their move up field was halted with by the unyielding Jed West. Marks, then Farrelly in the tackle. Fay should his strength and power in holding up the ball in the next drive, as Woodford refused to allow play out of the Westcliff half.

Westcliff gained some momentum but a trademark kick from West cleared the danger and was nearly secured by Haaris Sohoye chasing up. Woodford kept the pressure on with some aggressive tackling, winning the ball and then Curness, Tom Mead and Ali combined on the right wing to take play deep in to Westcliff territory.

Moving towards the ten minute mark, Woodford were strong in the scrum and the tackle, and were causing Westcliff problems with their kicking. With Victor Chujor, West and Mick Chamberlain in support of Fay, more ground was made up as Woodford pressed inexorably to the tryline. 

Whenever Westcliff tried to break out they were closed down.  Marks’ tackle gave Mead the chance to pass to Chamberlain, and then to Fay but Westcliff defended well. Farrelly nearly managed to exploit a dropped pass on the right wing but the cover defence was good.

From a scrum on the Woodford 22, Mead, Marks, Sohoye and Anthony Hamilton combined for a quick and fluid passing move towards the opposition line.  First Curness nearly took the ball over, then Fay, and then Sohoye nearly forced his way through.  Fay’s hold up play kept the pressure going, and from a 5 yard scrum Hamilton was agonisingly close to making the breakthrough.

Finally, Marks and Farrelly linked up and Mead’s pass found Arun Vaid on the left to drive the ball over the line for a thoroughly deserved team try.  Unconverted, Woodford let 12-0 with 15 minutes played. Max Venditti and Vaid were replaced by William Tindall and Taylor Wilkins. 

The degree of domination by Woodford was such that Westcliff’s first move into the Woodford 22 came after 16 minutes had been played.  Even then, two knock-ons returned the initiative to Woodford.

Another huge kick by West was chased and collected by Chujor on the Westccliff 22.  Mead, Marks and Sohoye combined again well, and after West made up more ground, Mead kicked into touch 5 yards out to prevent Westcliff regaining possession. 

From a three man line out West’s strength sparked the next move into life, before Mead secured a loose ball and offloaded to Curness to power over the line between the posts.  With Marks converting, Woodford led 19-0 after 22 minutes.

West caught the ball from the restart and kicked it back upfield.  Westcliff’s attempts to attack were halted by Marks, West and then Wilkins with a fearless low tackle. From the next scrum, West found Ali with a pass, with Rhys Phillips and Wilkins quick to back up their team mate.  As Westcliff regained possession, it was Phillips to the rescue again with an immaculately timed tackle just inside the opposition half.

A double tackle from Farrelly and Sohoye on the Westcliff centre ensured that play stayed in the Westcliff half. The Woodford full-back Will Carey, with barely a touch in what had been a very one-sided half, came off for Tom Fitzpatrick, with Hamilton dropping back to full-back.  Venditti came back on for Chujor

More good play from Woodford came off the back of a pounding Chamberlain tackle, with Marks, Sohoye and West all playing a part, before Fay, and then Hamilton, made good ground on the left.  As play stayed near the Westcliff try line, a pass to Ali found its way back inside to Marks who strode through the defence on the right for another fine try.  Unconverted, Woodford found themselves 24-0 up after 29 minutes.  Callum Levy came on for Chamberlain.

Hamilton’s clean catch and driving run from the restart kept Westcliff on the back foot.  The half ended with Wilkins and Phillips tackling with panache, and Fay and Venditti holding up the ball well, which nearly gave Hamilton an opportunity to break through.  With Woodford looking imperious, this was perhaps the team’s best first half display of the season, with Westcliff’s attacking potential tackled to a standstill.

Half-time score    Woodford 24 - 0 Westcliff

Chujor, Chamberlain and Vaid came back on replacing Fay, Levy and Tindall.  West ran on to Marks kick off but Westcliff had come back out in a very different mood and were immediately on the attack. Vaid, Chamberlain, Farrelly and Sohoye were called into defensive action, and Westcliff were putting lots of pressure on the Woodford backline.  A strong tackle by Sohoye gave Chujor the opportunity to drive down the right before kicks by West and then Marks powered the Woodford team forward once more.

Westcliff’s half time talk must have been Churchillian with heads high and the focus on aggressive attack. West pulled off a massive swingjng tackle into touch, and with Westcliff winning the resultant line out, he was called into action again, together with Sohoye.

Westcliff were looking stronger and full of energy and despite further strong tackling from Phillips and Chujor, and a vital last ditch stop by Ali, Woodford were starting to look a little rattled.  A high Westcliff kick was secured by Hamilton who ran it back into the opposition half, but unlike the first half, the visitors were gaining some real attacking momentum and went right back at Woodford getting a deserved try on the left. 

Unconverted, Woodford led 24-5 after 42 minutes.  Phillips and Fitzpatrick came off, and Carey and Fay re-entered the fray.  From the restart, a quick move involving West, Curness and Mead, saw the ball find Sohoye, who somehow burst his way through the middle of the Westcliff team and rampaged to the line for a glorious try and an instant response to the Westcliff try.  With Marks converting, Woodford extended their lead to 31-5 after 44 minutes.

Chujor caught well from the restart, and passed to Marks before a knock-on halted the play inside the Woodford 22. Woodford won the scrum and Farrelly passed to Hamilton for an excellent run up the left wing.  Play was brought back for an earlier infringement, and as the visitors pressed the Woodford tackles flew in thick and fast with West, Mead and Farrelly all contributing.  A superb interception by Sohoye was then taken on by Curness, who was having a magnificent game.

Venditti and Chamberlain provided powerful support, before Farrelly and Hamilton drove play back to the visitors half.  Fay was doing an excellent job to hold play up to negate the building Westcliff pressure, and Sohoye then made a low drive before passing to Ali.  With the heavy ground sapping energy Filip Goralczyk, Zac Cannon and Levy provided fresh legs replacing Philips, Vaid and Wilkins.

A driving run from Hamilton was cut short by resolute Westcliff tackling and the visitors broke threateningly.  Farrelly brought down one man, but the passing move continued.  Fay then blocked well, but Westcliff were not to be denied and they powered through for a further score.  Unconverted the score stood at 31-10 with 56 minutes gone.

The last team changes were made with Tindall and Fitzpatrick coming on for Carey and Vaid.  The last try of the game went the way of Westcliff though.  Despite Farrelly making yet another well-timed last ditch tackle, Westcliff passing and determination saw them power over on the left.  With the conversion falling short, this final move of the game saw Westcliff reduce the deficit to a 31-15 scoreline.

Woodford can be very proud after this result.  The first half saw a whole team performance blitz the opposition.  The second half revealed a very different Westcliff side and a much more balanced game, but Woodford stuck to the task and deservedly came out as winners in what was a very competitive and sportingly played game.

Woodford Man of the Match (Forwards) Will Curness
Woodford Man of the Match (Backs)  Dan Farrelly