Union competitive for the first half
But succumb to a classy Thetford back division
Norfolk Intermediate Cup Final - 5th May 2018
Norwich Union started the game with their tails up taking the ball to their opponents and steadily advancing the ball up-field. However, a mix up in the back line led to a first glimpse of Thetford’s lethal pace in the backline, with a breakaway converted try being scored under the posts to take an early lead of 0-7.
Unbowed Union used their forwards to attain good field position and a penalty in the 22m allowing fly half Adrien Marie-Francoise to dab the ball into the corner to setup a lineout. What followed was a classic Union catch and drive with Matt Spenceley taking the ball cleanly and setting up a maul. Ben Bond-Webster steered the maul to the line from the back scoring as the pack drove over the line.
In contrast Thetford in a similar position only 5mins later shipped the ball quickly through the hands from a 5m scrum and outflanked the Union backs who were left grabbing thin air to take back a 7-point lead at 7-14.
Some excellent carries by Jake Rodwell, Jon Spicker and Ben Bond-Webster took play to close to the Thetford line another penalty and lineout on the 5m line, allowing Union to level the score again, with a duplicate of their first try, Bon-Webster picking up his second of the game and Marie-Francoise adding the extras to take it to 14 all.
Thetford took a narrow lead as half time approached with a penalty taking the score to 14-17. Shortly after this Union’s Michael Shucksmith received a yellow card for foul play, Thetford capitalising on the one-man deficit almost immediately shipping the ball wide and stretching the defence and scoring wide out on the left flank the unconverted try taking the score to 14-22 at half time.
Even with the return of Shucksmith, Thetford began to see that trying to match the Union forwards was not going to bear fruit and began to use their sublimely talented backs to great effect optimised most with the inside centre picking up a loose clearance kick in midfield and skipping past would-be tacklers before offloading to a supporting runner who scored an unconverted try out wide stretching their lead to 14-27.
Union’s final try came from Captain Simon Pitcher, who went one better than both Shucksmith and Dunbar who had battered the line in successive charges scoring a try wide out on the right wing, which Marie-Francoise was unlucky not to convert as the ball bounced off the uprights. The deficit reducing to 8 points at 19-27.
Union were again down to 14 men, with Oli Ward receiving a yellow card for holding on to the tackler moments after he took the field in what was a team yellow following a number of similar infringements by Union in the tackle area.
With the Union team tiring as the game wore on and bring a man down gaps started to appear in the defensive backline the Thetford inside centre being first to exploit this skipping through to score under the posts the successful kick taking the score to 19-34. His centre partner was next on the scoresheet scoring a fine try having danced around tackles to score under the posts an easy conversion taking the score to 19-41.
Thetford’s next try was arguably their best, with the ball being moved from side to side stretching a tiring Union defence to manufacture a 2 on 1 which they executed perfectly to score in the left corner, the conversion taking the score to 19-48.
Thetford’s final try and the final score of the game came from a turnover in midfield as Union, who never game up during the whole 80mins pressed the Thetford line. The turnover providing quick ball to the even quicker Thetford backs who shipped the ball wide allowing their outside centre to round a scrambling Union defence with the conversion missed the final score was 19-53.
In the end and despite putting their bodies on the line in the last game of the season and the last game under the charge of Coach Gareth Davis, Union were shown a lesson in slick back play by a team in a higher division, the loss of two players to the bin allowing the score to rise higher than perhaps it would have had the match been 15 a side throughout.
With that being the last game of the season the club now looks to off field activities with the Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony taking place on Friday 11th May at the Oaklands Hotel 7pm.
Team: David Sheldon-Smillie, Callum Slaughter, Oliver Smith, Craig Dunbar, Daniel Norgate, Adrien Marie-Francoise, Graham Hunt, Jonathan Spicker, Daniel Jones, Jake Rodwell, Matthew Spenceley, Michael Shucksmith, Simon Pitcher, Ben Bond-Webster, Chris Spenceley, Replacements: Noel Jones, Ryan Day, Oliver Ward
Scorers: Ben Bond-Webster 2T, Simon Pitcher 1T, Adrien Marie-Francoise 3C