London League 1: BARKING 14 - LETCHWORTH GC 60
Letchworth help themselves to a feast of tries before players awards dinner
By Brian Burke
Legends did the double on the doomed Gale St Club with a feast of tries served up as a fine appetiser to warm the hearts of the travelling faithful before the annual players dinner last Saturday night. With this performance Letchworth leapt over Old Priorians to finish a creditable ninth in the table and without deduction of points would have finished bang in mid table at seventh. Considering the clearout of players and coaching team at the beginning of the season and the sudden loss of new coach Ian Matthews at the beginning of November the new team at North Herts premier club have outperformed this year. Much credit needs to be given to Liam Fitts and Kieron Davies who picked up the reins and galvanised the playing squad to a winning unit with belief as the season wore on. Fitts unfortunately moves up north next year but Davies will be staying on to assist new coach Mick Jones in building on this seasons achievements.
Letchworth were also fortunate in recruiting James Eliaschewsky from Australia. He was the standout openside flanker in the league and with his flowing locks his fan base extended beyond the male supporters of the club. Not surprisingly he won the Players Player Of The Year. Phil Amuimuia who came down from Sheffield also had a solid season on the wing and at full back. Fran Denny overcame serious injury to come back firing on all cylinders for both the English police and Letchworth towards the end of the season. It was also a joy to watch Ifereimi Vukinavanua in action when army commitments allowed. Players who graced the lower sides also stepped up to the plate with ex-third teamer Trevor Garvey winning most improved player. Burly winger Dave Hill grew in confidence and skill as the season progressed. Tommy Wilcox also showed vast improvement in reading the game this year whilst the mercurial Luke Mongston delighted and frustrated in equal measure. Kyle Rambo Hughes proved he could play equally well in the second row as at hooker as did the body battered blind side flanker Dave Hatch who played prop on Saturday. The pocket battleship that is Oscar Robinson deservedly won Player Of The Year whilst other front rowers Stokes, Cullen and Turner always gave a hundred percent. Stokes led from the front as he took over from the injured skipper Sam Moat early in the season. Joe Alison was another great find and will no doubt relish being reunited with new coach Mick Jones next year. Youngsters Duke, Waters, Glynn Hughes and the Johal brothers also had fine seasons with the older Johal , Arun, deservedly winning his first team cap as did Ash Mitchell who made the dinner despite dislocating his shoulder that afternoon ... true dedication to the cause! With a strong under 18s coming through it is to be hoped that several will filter through next year as will the two young Aussies Kane Murray and Ethan Fray who have already impressed towards the end of this year. Director of Rugby Graham Walker also has his eyes on some seasoned talent who may well be available for the Legends Lane club next year. So all in all there is much to build on and this will be necessary with the return of Amersham, Diss and Colchester to the league next year.
For Barking it will clearly be a rebuilding exercise as was clear from quite early on as though they did their best they fell well behind Letchworth in fitness and skill. Letchworth butchered several chances before a good backs move saw Phil Amuimuia over the whitewash for the opener. A good take by Lewis Waters saw the ball moved inside and Joe Alison went over. Duke converted this but as most tries were scored out wide his percentage was not great throughout the afternoon.
Barking pulled back seven points but it was scant relief as Denny put on the afterburners at full back and Dave Hill added the bonus point score with only thirty minutes gone and a forward rumble and second from Amuimuia left it at 7 - 34 at halftime.
Ex-Barking boy Trevor Garvey came on after half time as did Ash Mitchell though his game ended prematurely. Ethan Fray also had a good second half. Lewis Waters ghosted through for a fine score and a finely balanced chip from Mongston was fielded by Denny for his second. Barking pulled one back from a catch and drive before another try from Hill and Denny's hat trick wrapped up the game at 14 - 60.
Final thanks to Emily McCarthy (Physio) and Mike McKay (Team Admin) as well as all the other guys who played ... especially ex-London Welsh fly half Glyn Hughes ... throughout a roller coaster season. Roll on September!
Other awards ...
Team of the year - 1st XV
Clubman of the Year - Tony 'Toad' Kearns, skipper of the Wanderers and all round top bloke.
Player of the Year - seconds and wanderers Shane Dimmock