Mistakes prove costly in defeat.
Manor travelled to Brentwood this week, a place that is very difficult to win at. With the fixture earlier in the season going comfortably to Brentwood, Manor were determined to put in a good display. The match was a hard, uncompromising game between two evenly matched sides where basic errors by Manor gifted points to their opponents, these would prove the difference come the final whistle.
With the pitch looking in great condition and passed fit for play just before kick off Manor started the game playing down the slope, but it was the home side that made the better start keeping the ball close using their big forwards to drive the ball up the middle then some good kicking by the Brentwood fly half kept Manor pinned inside their own half. Manor were trying to run the ball whenever possible but some poor handling gave Brentwood an attacking scrum inside Manors 22. With the scrum even Brentwood won the ball and moved it quickly along their backline for their centre to try and crash through the middle, but he was met by a pincer tackle from Nick Sheppard and Andrew Connors who stopped the attack in its tracks knocking the ball carrier backwards, but the ref deemed that the tackle was too high and awarded the home side a penalty in front of the posts. With the simple kick taken after 5 minutes Brentwood were leading
5 – 0.
From the restart Brentwood again controlled the ball well with forwards and backs working well driving the ball up field, patiently going through the phases. Eventually they worked their way into Manors 22 where the ball was fed out to the home sides fly half who put in a well weighted kick ahead, Manor covered back but didn’t deal with the bouncing ball until eventually Nick Horton dived on the ball close to his line. He was isolated and soon engulfed by the opposition who drove him down and with Manor slow getting back to defend, the ball was stripped and Brentwood went over the line for an easy try. The conversion from close to the posts was missed but the hosts had increased their lead to 8 – 0 after 10 minutes and Manor had hardly got out of their half.
From the restart Manor soon got their hands on the ball and attacked inside Brentwood’s half and when the ball was fed to Callum Mckie he chipped the ball into Brentwood’s 22 for winger Luigi Martelletti to chase which he did putting pressure on the Brentwood defender who sliced his clearance kick giving Manor a lineout inside Brentwood’s 22. With Tom O’Connor claiming the throw in Manor set up a driving maul before sending the ball along the backline, Brentwood were quickly out of the blocks to defend the attack, but too quickly as they were caught offside giving Manor a shot at goal. Sheppard stepped up and slotted the ball through the posts to register Manors first points after 13 minutes and close the gap to 8 -3.
As the game went on Manor were still making too many basic errors which allowed Brentwood to keep the pressure on, and with a combination of good hard running and some intelligent kicking Manor again found themselves defending inside their 22. Manor though were defending well and after a combination of big hits from John Robinson and Michael Eghan Manor won a penalty allowing them to clear the danger.
Still Brentwood were having the better of possession and territory and from a lineout inside Manors 22, they won clean ball then set up a series of drives, retaining the ball well before releasing the ball along the line where their outside centre ran hard at the defence and broke a weak tackle to run over the line and score Brentwood’s second try. The conversion was missed but after 30 minutes they had increased their lead to 15 – 3.
Manor had to respond and eventually they got into the game with some strong running from Sheppard and Connors before McKie put in another cross field kick for Martelletti to chase but he was just being beaten by the bounce as the ball went into touch 10 meters from Brentwood’s line. Manor competed at the lineout and again pressurised the Brentwood kicker who kicked to touch but made no ground whatsoever.
From the lineout Rory Moore secure the ball allowing Manor to set up a driving maul which saw the ball move towards the try line, as the drive began to slow first Tryson Goodchild then Chris Vickers drove off the back but this was defended by Brentwood and a ruck was formed 6 meters out and close to touch, Horton was at the back controlling things and spotted that the blindside was not marked and darted along the touchline to score Manors first try. The touchline conversion from Sheppard just dipped under the bar but with the half coming to a close Manor had again reduced the deficit, this time to 15 – 8.
With time running out Brentwood still had the opportunity to score again when from a scrum just outside Manors 22 the hosts No 8 picked and drove the ball forward setting up a ruck, then from the secondary drive Barney Newbury fell foul of the new tackle laws when he put in a shoulder high tackle and was penalised, and somewhat harshly shown a yellow card for the tackle. The easy three points were taken from the penalty and Brentwood again increased their lead, 18 – 8.
With 40 minutes played Manor re-started the game and a big hit by O’Connor on the catcher turned the ball over allowing Manor to set up a series of drives taking play into Brentwood’s 22, then from a ruck Manor again chose to drive the ball on only this time Brentwood were caught offside giving Manor a penalty in front of the posts. Again Sheppard was successful with the kick and as the ref blew for halftime Manor had again reduced the deficit to 18 - 11.
Brentwood kicked off the second half and despite still being a man down and playing up the slope Manor had the better of exchanges with centres Connors and Sheppard causing the opposition problems with their hard running and Mckie and Horton both kicking for territory making Brentwood work hard for any ground. Gradually Manor worked their way towards Brentwood’s 22 where at a Brentwood lineout O’Connor challenged for the ball which caused Brentwood to knock on. Manor were now having the better of their opponents at the scrum and with the ball secured Connors and Sheppard combined well to drive the ball on, being stopped meters short of the line. Goodchild, Eghan and Jack Sullivan were all denied a scoring opportunity as the home side held their line despite a constant attack from Manors big runners and eventually they began to drive Manor back in the tackle. With the ball now in a ruck 10 meters from the line Manor moved the ball quickly along the line bringing in Chris Smith to add his weight to the attack, when he was stopped the ball was again re-cycled and moved swiftly out to Martelletti on the wing where the speedy Italian stood his opposite number up, beat him on the outside for pace then raced over the line and went close to the posts for a fine try. Sheppard was again on target with the conversion and after 10 minutes of the half Manor had drawn level at 18 -18.
Brentwood now tried to up their game and throw everything at Manor, but the defensive line was holding fast with some thumping tackles and well organised defence. Manor were helped by some indifferent handling by Brentwood and their superiority in the scrum where they won penalties as the home side struggled to hold Manors drive.
Manor themselves had attacking opportunities and their driving maul was proving a useful weapon, but like Brentwood their handling was letting them down when in good attacking positions inside the oppositions 22.
With the game so evenly balanced, one mistake could make the difference between winning and losing, and so it turned out to be. Brentwood attacked inside Manors 22, but with turn over ball won Manor launched a quick counter attack and with acres of space out wide, the ball was moved to the wings, but the final pass was dropped, Manor for some reason seemed to stop and wait for the refs whistle, Brentwood on the other hand seized the opportunity, gathered the ball and quickly moved towards Manors line and by the time Manor realised what was happening and began to re-organise their defence, the home side had crossed the line for what proved to be the deciding score. The conversion was missed but with a little over 10 minutes left to play Brentwood had retaken the lead 23 - 18.
The final minutes of the game were played out with no side creating a scoring opportunity, but both sides continued to batter each other as Manor looked for the vital score and Brentwood were determined not to let Manor through, finally the ref brought to an end what had been an intense and exciting game between two evenly match sides. The hosts had taken their scoring opportunities and had made Manor pay dearly for their mistakes.
Credit to both sides for one of the best matches this season but it was not the result that Manor wanted and all but ends any aspirations they had for promotion. Brentwood continue on their quest for promotion and we wish them well, Manor will have the opportunity to get back to winning ways next week away to Old Priorians, but they can be an extremely dangerous side, especially when playing at home, so Manor must not take anything for granted.