IGNATIANS RAISE THEIR GAME IN HONOURABLE DEFEAT AS OLD HABS' SELF-BELIEF FINALLY TELLS
Writes Jon Landi
ENFIELD IGNATIANS matched Old Haberdashers for long periods and, it was only in the final eight minutes of the game, that the London Two North-West league leaders finally asserted by adding a further three tries to the ledger to maintain their promotion push.
Captain Keir Bonnar said: "It was an excellent performance in many ways. We asked for a 80 minute performance after the Tabard loss and almost got one. The side were 100 per cent committed and, if anything, the final result didn't quite reflect the game."
The defeat also proved academic in other aspects as, with Welwyn and London Nigerians also suffering defeat, they are safely ensconced in ninth spot and are guaranteed another stab at London Two rugby next season - having yet again perfected the art of survival at this level.
Playing with the elements in the first period, traded toe to toe with the visitors and opened the scoring via two Jordan Wilson penalties after Haberdashers were penalised for a late tackle and holding-on.
In a hard-fought contest, in which sides gave as good as they got, the first dark cloud from Ignatians' perspective was the conceding of a penalty try from a five-metre scrum. Infringing in desperation, the referee was left with little option to point under the sticks after the blue and golds killed the ball in the final act.
Defending like Dervishes, Ignatians will have been disappointed to have conceded the second try in the manner they did as. Their defensive alignment for once out of kilter, they were punished for numerical mis-match out wide with winger Ian McGhee landing the second try which sent the visitors six points clear.
Ignatians' defence was certainly at full-stretch for the game but the tackles certainly rained-in hard and fast and, at times, they halted the Old Habs advance dead in their tracks by forcing them to spill the ball on a number of occasions.
In also seems pertinent to salute the contributions of some the returnees. Prop Josh Webb had a solid game at prop despite a torrid opening, and another of the university returnees, Tom Huckle, impressed with his kicking and distrubution at fly-half; Army returnee Alex Andreoli was another
who never flinched the issue and his was an impressive tackle count.
The blue and golds also trawled into some hidden depths. Charlie Hoy, a late addition to the line-up made some forceful carries, and Aaron James-Nicholls, something of a dormant giant this season, had a mighty effective game at lock and was crowned Man of the Match.
Despite Dave Gear's hand injury Ignatians also worked a couple of neat backs moves. The first, in which Keir Bonnar's hard-straight line which pierced the heart of the defence, didn't quite come off.
However, the hosts kept trying and, in the final minute of the half, a move straight off the training paddock came to fruition. The ball swept through the ten and 12 channels but key to the success of the movement was the thrust, up the middle, from Cairo Sango, who came off his wing.
The addition of the extra man in attack certainly paid dividends and, with Sango cleverly varying the angle of his run, the vast expanses opened up straight in front of him, there was only going to be one outcome as the youngster used his considerable pace to split the defence and run in from half-way.
Old Haberdashers lifted their game after the interval but Ignatians' stubborn defence repeatedly thwarted the attacking ambitions of the visitors. However, there's no escaping that containment became the order of the day as the blue and golds struggled to get on the front-foot as the penalty count mounted.
Consequently, Ignatians were rarely sighted as an attacking force. However, they did have a couple of golden opportunities after twice winning penalties. However, both prospective catch and drive opportunities came to nought after Ignatians first threwin squint before later dropping the ball in the final minute.
However, something had to give eventually and a late flurry by the league leaders in the form of scores from Matt Lowcock, Conor Michaels and captain Simon Miller sealed the outcome, as the leaders, confident in their ability to punish sides in the final quarter, finally delivered.
Coach Ali Cook said: "We certainly matched Old Haberdashers in terms of physicality and rucking
and mauling. However, Old Haberdashers had the edge on us in terms of precision and fitness, and those are two lessons we can take from the opposition."
Ignatians play their final game away to Hampstead on Saturday.