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1st XV - Match centre

Cottenham Renegades
Norwich Union
Sat 31 Mar 15:00 - Eastern Counties Greene King League - Greene King IPA Eastern Counties One Plate Full time

Union go 11 points clear

at the top of the Greene King Eastern Counties Plate Competition

Match Report: Russ Clarke

Norwich Union travelled to Cambridge to play a re-arranged fixture against Cottenham Renegades, following the visit of the Beast from the East in early March which saw all Rugby across the Eastern Counties called off. Despite facing a pack of equal if not greater strength, Union show the nowse to adapt to a more expansive style to out-flank the home side, securing another bonus point win taking them 11 points clear at the top of the Eastern Counties Plate competition.

With the home-side having done their research on Union they picked a huge pack in an attempt to counter a hitherto dominant set of Union forwards. Which they did to great effect, not just matching the away side in the scrum but putting it in full reverse. In the opening exchanges. This resulted in captain Simon Pitcher coming off the bench much sooner than planned to add bulk and steady the Union scrum.

Much of the first quarter was played in mid-field with the Renegades pack battering at the visitors’ defensive line time after time and in fact it wasn’t until the second quarter of the game that Union made it into the Renegades’ half. A scrum on the 22m was disrupted by Rodney Arbon with the ball squirting out of the side, man of the match Dan Jones hacked the ball forward then gathered and taking out three defenders smuggled the ball to veteran scrum half Graham Hunt who ran the ball in unopposed for Union’s first score of the game. Adrien Marie-Francoise was unlicking with the kick from wide out on the right flank, the ball rebounding off the upright.

This proved to be the only score of the half, with Union continuing to soak up the pressure of a might forward effort by Renegades.

Renegades started the second half as they did the first, using their big ball carriers to assault the Union defences. It was however a mishandling by Union on the half way line that resulted in a Renagades try as they fly hacked a loose ball, once behind the defensive line they moved the ball to the wing and scored a converted try to take a 7-5 lead on the 50m mark.

Union responded from the kick off with Craig Dunbar taking the ball from a quick tap and drawing in a number of defenders, before Hunt shipped the ball to left wing Daniel Norgate who scampered to the line scoring in the corner. Marie-Francoise kick falling just short resulting in a narrow 10-7 lead being restored.

It wasn’t long before Union were on the score sheet again, this time with backs and forwards swapping places an unlikely back line of Arbon, Pitcher, Jon Spicker and Matt Spenny shipped the ball with Captain Pitcher calling “hands” as the ball was moved quickly to fullback David Sheldon-Smilley who showed is class rounding the last defender to score in the right corner, Marie-Francoise adding the extras and taking the lead to 7-17.

Renegades narrowed this lead to 10-17 taking a penalty kick following an infringement at the scrum.

Union’s bonus point try came from Craig Dunbar playing in the unfamiliar position of inside centre as he pounced on a loose pass as Renegades tried to force the game and run out of their 22m whit Dunbar racing to the line to score, converted by Marie-Francoise taking the score to 10 -24.

A mixup at a Union lineout on half way gifted the home-side quick ball, which they used to great effect, their outside centre scoring in the corner, to narrow the lead to 15-24.

Union having had to adapt their forward dominated style to counter a team that equalled them reverted to type for the last try of the game in the last play, with a typical Union catch and drive on the 22m, the maul being driven and direct by Dunbar was brought down 5m short of the line with Dunbar powering his way over the line scoring his second of the game, Marie-Francoise hitting the crossbar with his conversion attempt, resulting in a final score of 15-29.

After the game Captain Simon Pitcher said “He was very proud of the performance of the team and it was great to see Dan Jones and John Madden returning to the team, both of whom had great games. He went on the say that it was great to see that we were able to adapt our game and move the ball to the backs who accounted for all the tries, which was a very rare thing indeed”

Team: Michael Shucksmith, Rodney Arbon, Chris Spenceley, Noel Jones, Ryan Day, Matt Spenceley, Dan Jones, Jon Spicker, Graham Hunt, Adrien Marie-Francoise, Dan Norgate, Craig Dunbar, Tom Easton, David Sheldon-Smillie Replacements: Simon Pitcher, John Madden

Scorers: Graham Hunt 1T, Dan Norgate 1T, David Sheldon-Smillie 1T, Craig Dunbar 2T, Adrien Marie-Francoise 2C from 5 attempts Man of the match: Dan Jones

Quilter Kids First Champions winner – November: Hinckley RFC

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League table

# Team Pl Pts
1. Norwich Union 10 43
2. Diss II (Saracens) 10 29
3. Colchester III 10 24
4. Cottenham Renegades 10 21
5. Ipswich Magpies 10 18
6. Cambridge Adventurers 10 17

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