Shelford left Ruing Missed Chances
Westcliff take control in final 20
Shelford will be left wondering ‘what might have been’ after they led by two scores going into the final 20, only to see Westcliff pull away with 4 unanswered tries and finally run out 23-38 winners.
Shelford started well and controlled the tempo of the game with good phase play, and kept the scoreboard ticking over with 3 well struck penalties by Josh Simmons, leaving the Peacocks looking well placed with a 9-0 lead after 20 minutes.
This lead however could have been have a whole lot more, as a number of fine breaks from turnover ball by the Shelford back row of captain Richie McIver, Luke Mongston and Jamie Beswick saw us in some fine field positions, but none of these phases of possession were converted into anything more than a penalty kick to goal.
Westcliff then started to grow into the game, as they started to disrupt firstly Shelford’s phase play, as they counter-rucked aggressively at the breakdown, and then used the turnover ball to good effect.
This style of play helped them to secure more turnover ball, and good back play saw them finally get onto the scoreboard with a fine score in the corner by Westcliff winger Sam Brown, 9-5.
Westcliff then took the lead on the stroke of half-time, as they capitalised on a high ball spilled by the Shelford defence, and they ran the ball through hands to score in the corner through centre Jack Jones, 9-10.
This was a galling situation for Shelford to be losing at half-time, after controlling large parts of the half.
Shelford reacted well to this setback at the beginning of the second half, as firstly Tom Jackson nearly scored in the corner before we regained possession from the resultant lineout. The ball was then worked through the phases before by fine break and dummy by the outstanding Luke Mongston saw him feed the ball onto Charlie Parkhouse to score in the corner. The conversion was struck well by Josh Simmons for a 16-10 Shelford lead.
The Shelford pack then won a scrum penalty, with which Simmons went for goal, but he struck the upright. Thankfully for Shelford, Westcliff knocked the ball on trying to retrieve the ball, giving Shelford an attacking 5 metre scrum. From the resultant scrum, Ritchie McIver picked up from the base to force his way over, converted by Simmons for a comfortable looking 23-10 lead to Shelford, but Westcliff responded immediately, as they had other ideas.
Firstly, the Westcliff fly half Ben McKeith shimmied his way over the line after spotting a gap in the stretched Shelford defence, which was converted to bring the score back to 23-17.
Westcliff then took the lead again through strong carries through their forwards, and this was to be the theme for the final 20 minutes. The Westcliff pack crashed over the line under the posts for a 23-24 lead.
Shelford then found the going even harder as hooker Rob Gardner saw yellow for hands in the ruck close to the Shelford line. This constant pressure on the Shelford line resulted in another try for the Westcliff pack, 23-31.
Shelford tried to get back into the game through a fine break from deep by Ritchie McIver, ably supported by Lewis Cracknell and Tom Jackson, but Westcliff were able to snuff out any chance of a Shelford revival, as the ball was forced into touch close to the Westcliff line.
Westcliff finished the game off where they’d been for the majority of the final 20, close to the Shelford line. A fine tackle by Cracknell prevented the try, but the offload out of the tackle was taken for the final score under the posts, 23-38.
This was a harsh lesson for Shelford after recent good victories against Southend and Sidcup, but they were guilty of not taking some gilt-edged opportunities, particularly in the first half, to put some real daylight on the scoreboard between the two sides.
A combative and confident Westcliff side slowly worked their way back into the game, and it was them who finally put some daylight between the two sides to earn a thoroughly deserved victory.
There were still many positives in the game for Mike Gillick and his coaching staff to take from it, but Shelford will need to be more clinical when their opportunities arise, particularly against tough opponents like Westcliff.
Man of the Match sponsored by Adcocks - Luke Mongston
Player of the Month sponsored by Newmarket Motor Company is Matt Gregerson