Eton Manor 16 Letchworth Garden City 15
Despite losing this final match with a pushover try under the posts which looked as if it fell a foot or two short – (the jumping and shouts of the Eton Manor forwards – helping to make up the mind of the hapless referee). Letchworth finished their best season in many years with a stylish if somewhat wasteful performance. They scored three superb tries to the home sides one and had another disallowed by a some what quixotic decision by the referee. With the traditional ‘cross dressing’ evening to follow the sting was not quite there and several other chances to put them out of sight were wasted. Fair play to Eton Manor, they stuck to the task doggedly and kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalties and a drop goal before the winning try and conversion at the death. To gauge by the reaction of some of their supporters one would have thought that promotion had been achieved – or was it just because they acknowledged that they had just overcome a truly classy side?
And indeed under Jimmy Tirrells’ tutelage the team has played classy and open rugby all season. They have come away with great wins over much bulkier sides where the forwards have scavenged to win ball which was then given merciless executions from the speedy backs. Moves have shown great interchange between forwards and backs with guys like Joe Shaw, Del Isikeli and Steve Mahoney linking well out wide as well as winning ball in a pile up. As this is still a youthful side it is to be hoped that the gnarled forward traits will develop with experience. The front row of Mellor, French and Allen all performed manfully up front – as did veteran prop Gary Glenncross who tacked his heart out all Season. Veteran war-horse Martin ‘Muzza’ Kirby may be nearing the end of his first team career but he will prove a hard act to follow in the lineout. The athleticism of Del Isikeli has been a great asset to the side this year and it is to be hoped that he and Fijian Vuki will be available again nest season - service commitments permitting. Martin Day although missing on Saturday has also come on in leaps and bounds this year. The back rowers Munson, Mungston and Shaw have proved a mobile and intrusive unit but the player of the year must be ex-skipper Steve Mahoney who scored yet again on Saturday and has had an amazing season at open side flanker turning over more ball than ever as the season progressed – and very few yellow cards in the process!
Eighteen year old scrum half Alex Hughes has had a fantastic season and leads the league scorers with the boot. Later in the season Hilton Mudariki proved he was adapt anywhere in the backs from winger to scrum half where he started yesterday. The young guns in the backs have had a joyous year especially the combination of the talented Henry Robinson – who has sparkled in every match with effervescent Jimmy Tirrell. The interchange of the two between full back and flay half has bamboozled sides all year. This should not dim the lights of the others – Vuki, Adam Booth, Tom Ansell, Steve Smith, and young Simon Hrbek have all had plenty of opportunity to shine this year as did Kris Cottenden who returned for a few games.
Yesterday the travelling faithful were treated to three mesmeric tries. First off Hilton Mudariki at scrum half made an exciting break and moved the ball to Tirrell who set up Robinson out wide. The ever efficient Mahoney was there at the death to go over. Then Mudariki burst out of defence after a period of Manor pressure. The ball passed through backs and forwards alike with Mellor straightening the move. Joe Shaw took a great pass from Tirrell but fell as did so. There was Mudariki on hand to finish. Both tries went unconverted and Manor countered with six points to stay in touch at half time. Manor scored another penalty but Robinson burst out of defence and kicked ahead. He then gathered his own kick and burst free juggling the ball to hand when the referees’ whistle went – apparently for winger Smith not retreating – minutes later Mahoney stole ball which was moved swiftly to Hrbek who skinned his winger and then fed Robinson for a try near the posts. Up stepped Alex Hughes for a near formality. His high kick went over the top of the posts and with both touch judges’ undecided the referee disallowed it. This was to prove costly in terms of the last minute try and conversion by Eton Manor.
However as Letchworth claimed an undisputed third place in this tough league they have set a marker down for next year which no doubt RDO Jimmy Tirrell will be keen to beat with this team of young guns – We can only look forward to more of the same in season 2012/13.
THE PLAYERS PRESENTATION AWARDS DINNER
Takes place – Friday 4th May at 7.00 for 7.30. This should be a great night to celebrate the performances of all - the senior sides and the Under 17s for the year. Contact Peter Marsden on 01462 835163.