Manor ease to end of season victory against a game Saffron Walden
Manor welcomed Saffron Walden for the final league match of the season. With a 5th placed finish in the league secured Manor took the opportunity to blood some new players giving debuts to hooker Sam Handley and prop Basil Awoyemi and with two players only just 18, Manor can look forward to the coming seasons with optimism.
Manor kicked off the match and soon stamped their authority on the game when Jack Sullivan won a penalty at the breakdown allowing Nick Horton to kick for touch and an attacking lineout. Sullivan won the throw in and the ball was moved along the backline where Moe Alotham broke a couple of tackles before linking up with Elliott Brown and Ollie Waugh before the ball went out to Nick Sheppard who drove forward and although having supporting players outside him, powered through an attempted tackle and went over the line taking two defenders with him for Manors first try which he duly converted giving Manor a 7 – 0 after only 3 minutes.
Manor soon doubled their lead when from a scrum just outside their own 22, Horton buzzed down the blindside outpacing the initial covering defence. Michal Eghan was up in support and when passed the ball by Horton, made ground into Saffron Walden’s 22 and when faced with the visitors fullback, he drew his man and passed the ball back to Horton who raced over the line and behind the posts for another 7 point try. Within the space of 7 minutes the score had moved on to 14 – 0.
Manor were in total control with Saffron Walden having difficulty in containing Manors attacking play. A break from flyhalf Jack Emerson lead to the next Manor try when he chipped ahead for Eghan to race on to, he broke through a tackle before Manor forwards drove the ball on before it was fed out to winger Ollie Waugh who had too much pace and went over the line for Manors third try and with Sheppard again successful with the conversion attempt Manor were now 21 – 0 ahead after only 10 minutes.
Manor were now rampant and appeared to be able to score at will. From the restart the ball was again fed to Eghan, he broke through numerous tackles before being eventually brought to ground on Saffron Walden’s 22, with Manors forwards there in numbers Sullivan broke away from the ruck taking the ball to within 8 meters of the try line where he fed the supporting John Robinson who went over for Manors fourth 7 point try. Manor were scoring at 2 points a minute, it was now 28 -0 after 14 minutes.
To their credit Saffron Walden didn’t give up and in fact put Manor under pressure and after some good runs and ball retention they crossed Manors line for their first try of the game, 28 – 5.
The visitors had their tails up and continued to put Manor under pressure until Robinson turned the ball over before feeding Alotham who won a penalty allowing Horton to kick for a lineout on the halfway line. Harry Reid secured the thrown in allowing the ball to move along the backline to the supporting Brown who after breaking through a tackle fed Alotham who drove on before linking up with Eghan and Waugh, who stepped around two defenders to go over the line for yet another Manor try. Sheppard was again on target with the conversion to take Manor further ahead 35 – 5.
Manor soon scored again this time after good work from the forwards Manors backs were attacking inside Saffron Walden’s 22, Brown had the ball in had and tried a grubber kick through Saffron Walden’s defence, the ball hit a defender and bounced back at Brown hitting him on the leg, the ball then went forward and Brown was quickest to react, gathering the loose ball and going over the line in the corner for yet another try. On this occasion the conversion was missed but the score had moved on to 40 – 5.
With less than 10 minutes of the half left. Manors intensity dropped and Saffron Walden capitalised on this by raising their game and scored two quick tries, the second with the last play of the half to take the score to 40 – 17 at half time.
The second half began with the visitors having the upper hand until Manor won turnover ball and set off on a counter attack where substitute Bobby Grace had a couple of barnstorming runs knocking would be tacklers away as he made his way up the middle of the park, eventually winning Manor a penalty. With the ball kicked for an attacking lineout 5 meters from Saffron Walden’s line, Manor looked like they were going to score again but a knock on from their driving maul allowed the visitors to clear the danger. 12 minutes of the second half had passed without further score.
Awoyemi now came on for his debut and at his first scrum destroyed his opposite number showing his future potential. Manor attacked from deep with Brown again breaking a number of tackles before feeding John Ewers who 15 meters out and with the line beckoning, went for glory as he dashed for the corner but was bundled into touch by the corner flag.
Manor weren’t to be denied though as Reid stole the Saffron Walden thrown in allowing the ball to be moved swiftly along Manors backline for Phillips to score in the opposite corner. Sheppard slotted the touchline conversion taking the score to 47 – 17 after 15 minutes of the second half.
Manor continued to attack and after Awoyemi and Grace took it in turns to knock defenders off their feet Eghan found himself with some space and after beating a couple of defenders got knocked into touch just short of the line.
Manor created another scoring opportunity when a Saffron Walden clearance kick was gathered inside his own half by Brown who linked up with Eghan who powered his way through traffic in the middle of the park taking play into Saffron Walden’s 22 where he was eventually stopped but offloaded the ball to Brown who went over the line only to be brought back for a forward pass.
From the resulting scrum Manor again turned the ball over allowing substitute scrum half Harry Bone to pick the ball out of the back of the scrum, he then darted along the righthand side catching the defence out and slipped through a gap in the defence to cross the line for another Manor try. The conversion went wide but Manor had now passed the 50 point mark at 52 – 17 after 22 minutes.
Saffron Walden again had a period of attacking possession and with Manor giving away a number of penalties the ref finally showed the yellow card to Michael Byrne for two high tackles. The visitors took full advantage of their extra man crossing the line twice more to secure a well deserved try scoring bonus point and reducing the deficit on the scoreboard to 52 – 29.
With time running out Manor launched the last attack of the game after a good break from the Manor youth product, 18 year old Edvardas Stainskis, who powered his way through a number of tackles before the ball was set up, the Manor backs then took the move on with Brown beating a couple of players before putting in a great grubber kick for wing Phillips to chase, and with his pace he outstripped the covering defence to gather the ball and go over the line for this third try of the match. With the conversion in front of the posts, it was left to Manor stalwart, prop John Robinson, who is threating to retire to look after his soon to be born twins, to put the conversion over the bar to bring the game, and the season to a close with Manor victorious 59 – 27.
The curtain has come down on yet another season and whilst the first team would have liked a higher league finish all in all it can be considered a successful season. But the club isn’t about one side, everyone contributes to a successful season and with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams all performing well with league titles and cups shared about there can be no doubt that the senior section of Eton Manor is buzzing. But it’s not just the senior players that make a club, the youth and minis contribute greatly and are the future guardians of the club. With Manor this season running sides from under 5 right through to under 17’s the junior section of the club has been successful on many fronts, not least by the record number of members this section now has. Any roundup of the playing side would not be complete without a special mention to the girls and young ladies who regularly play in Manors three all girl teams and the younger ones who play in mixed sides. From not having a girls team only a few season ago it’s a testament to all the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes to make Eton Manor the club of choice for girls rugby.
Next season promises much throughout the club and with the new AGP pitch and changing rooms the club will move to the next level. I for one can’t wait for the season to begin.