Norwich Union victorious in the annual President's game
Beating rivals Wendens Ambo four tries to two despite the inclement conditions
The annual NURFC Presidents game was a rather unusual affair with the home ground not being available due to an early start to the Cricket season, so the game was in fact played at Crusaders RFC who graciously hosted the game. In another first the opponents were Wendens Ambo who travelled from Cambridgeshire to play the game, making their way by train and taxi.
The home team was made of exclusively of Firebirds, with the first team players being rested ahead of their Norfolk Intermediate Cup game at the Big Norfolk Rugby weekend next week.
Despite the inclement conditions a number of supporters attended, including a number of club stalwarts and the majority of the first team, which was great to see.
With Wendens Ambo travelling short as a result of some late call offs, Richard Ross and Richard Rodda took to the field for the opposition to even up the numbers.
The wet conditions and the resulting greasy ball led to a number of handling errors by both teams, to make the opening stages a scrappy affair. The home team spent much of the first quarter camped in the Wendens Ambo 22m zone, with the away team thwarting many an attempt to break their defences with some wily old head turning over the ball on a number of occasions.
The breakthrough came with the ever-improving Jack Cottingham scoring wide out on the left flank, despite scrum half Russ Clarke shocking pass which rolled along the ground to him.
It wasn’t long before the home team scored again, this time on the opposite flank, with lock Adam Vincent making a break and feeding right wing Mikel Freeman-Pannett who score in the corner to take the score to 10-0.
Wenens Ambo replied shortly after with a try of their own, following some excellent phase play in mid field scoring an unconverted try to take the half time score to 10-5.
At the half time break Mike Smyth replaced Pete Bradbrooke at hooker and Matt Lefevre swapped shirts with Richard Ross who played the second half for his home team. Additionally, Bob Blair joined Wendens replacing Richard Rodda succumbed to injury as did Number 8 Mark Ferguson as the Wenens team lost further players to injury.
The second half was much the same as the first with the miserable conditions making holding on to the ball difficult for both teams. Despite this the Firebirds were able to spend much of their time in the opposition half with openside flanker Tom Easton and blindside flanker and www.osteostasis.com man of the match Steffan Harwood giving the team go forward ball with some fine individual breaks, Harwood showing the range of talents with a number of side-steps, offloads and even rarely seen hitch kick.
As a result the Firebirds were able to add two further tries to their tally, the first coming from Nick Roberts who fielded a clearance kick 30m out and evading the first tackler powered through the second and third to score the third try for the home team.
The fourth and last try came from fly half Nick Gibbons who found himself in the unfamiliar territory at the back of a driving maul, he spotted the gap on the blind side he scampered over to score, loose head prop Ash Senior adding the extras.
Wendens scored a second try, with their number 8 picking from the base of the scrum and running in from 20m out.
The Firebirds spent the final stages of the game camped close to the Wendens line, but were unable to add further to the score, the game finishing 22-10 to the home team.
The game marked the final outing for both captains, with Alasdair Bovaird of Wendens Ambo and Russ Clarke pulling their boots on for the last time in a game that showed the true spirit of grass roots Rugby, with both teams giving their all in battle, but doing so with smiles on their faces.
After the game President Gareth Davis thank both teams for putting on a great show and for playing the game in such a sporting manner.
To mark the occasion of Alasdair’s final game, he was presented with a tankard to commemorate the occasion, and despite being clearly emotional he thanked the Norwich Union for making him and the team so welcome and added that Rugby has given him so many great memories, but above all that playing alongside his “mates” was the reason he had started and continued to play the game for so long.
Team: Ash Senior, Pete Bradbrooke, John Madden, Adam Vincent, Matt Lefevre, Steffan Harwood, Tom Easton, Mark Fergusson, Russ Clarke(capt), Nick Gibbons, Jack Cottingham, Nick Roberts, James Herrieven, Mikel Freeman-Pannett, Dale Blackburn Replacements: Richard Ross, Mike Smyth, Richard Rodda, Bob Blair
Scorers: Jack Cottingham 1T, Mikel Freeman-Pannett 1T, Nick Roberts 1T, Nick Gibbons 1T, Ash Senior 1C
www.osteostasis.com man of the match Steffan Harwood