Wasps Occies vs Belsize Park Sat 18th March
The Occies turn on the style at Twyford Avenue
On a day that could best be described as 'slightly soggy', the Occies hosted a Belsize Park team in a lively encounter last Saturday. Due to the 6 Nations, the game was to be played earlier than usual. Unfortunately, nobody told me and I was still in the bar when the first try was scored! Captain fantastic, Justin Fitzsimmons, openned the scoring on what I am told was a lovely try. Guillaume followed with the conversion and opened what was to be a healthy personal tally of points for the day.
Shortly after the restart, Belsize had a skirmish down the left flank of the pitch, linking well in a flurry of passes. Bearing down on the Occies try line, it seemed the visitors were responding quickly to conceding the first points of the day. However, just as they looked as though they were in for the score, Guillaume came out of nowhere to take man and dislodge ball in a heroic try-saving tackle. The Occies set out their stall and defended doggedly after this, chipping away at the confidence of Belsize with ball in hand.
With Wasps soaking up any pressure dealt their way and playing a shrewd and patient kicking game, it wasn't long until try number two materialised. After a sustained passage of play from the boys, which consisted of a heady mix of slick handling and strong breakdown retention, the mercurial Seb at scrum half opted for a cheeky rewind down Belsize's blindside. This redirection in play created a 3 on 2 which the Wasps took advantage of, resulting in a finish in the corner for the ever-willing Guillaume. Conversion missed, 12-0.
The score remained the same going into halftime, neither team seeming to want to take control of the game, instead opting to trade skirmishes into each other's halves to little effect. Both teams showing glimpses of magic but adopting a more tentative approach as the clouds rolled in over Twyford Avenue Sports Ground. Belsize, however, were getting some success from the scrum, and it was becoming evident that this was the platform they needed to work from to cause Wasps problems in the 2nd half.
Belsize came out with a renewed mindset in the 2nd half and applied more pressure as they sought to claim back ground on the leaders. However, Wasp's dealt with this pressure well, with every man taking responsibility for their defensive duties and some fantastic individual tackling from young wingers Cal and Billy.
Then, in what turned out to be somewhat of a catalyst for the boys, replacement scrum half Bobby was sin binned for not retreating from a free kick. Rather than Belsize taking advantage of the extra man, Wasps suddenly found their attacking rhythm again. A lovely bit of quick thinking from a tap and go, opened up the field for Rhys to go over from a long way out. Unconverted - 17-0.
In what became a pattern, the game ebbed and flowed between periods of clinical rugby and more scrappy and frantic stuff. This period was the latter. a lot of huff and puff from both sides in the middle of the park, without my output. However this period of the game did help remind all that Guillaume is human after all, as he had to go off with human blood coming from his face.
Luckily for the spectators, we didn't have to wait too long for the Occie's entertaining brand of running-rugby to reappear. In what was probably the try of the game, as it showcased not only the aforementioned Occie style, but also because it started with some heroic turnover work in midfield and crisp hands to turn defence into attack. All finished off with a sprinkling of audacity from the marauding Dan Back as he broke two tackles on the half way line before running the try in on his own. He did look knackered afterwards, mind. 2 points added from the tee 24-0.
Wasps, now back up to their full compliment, looked to have found Belsize's weakness and applied pressure with ball in hand running straight at their midfield. It wasn't long until a 5th try was notched up as Bobby broke their backline with a direct line of running before attempting a kick through on their fullback. A kindly bounce saw the ball land softly in the waiting hands of Brendan who strolled through unopposed under the posts. Somehow the conversion was missed, however Wasps now had an unassailable lead of 29 points to nil with less than 6 minutes on the clock.
Belsize had some good individual players and looked dangerous at times, however the Wasps Occies have a never-say-die attitude that ultimately holds them together, fighting for each other until the final whistle goes. This greater cohesion and organisation pinned Belsize back in their half and Wasps created a brace of tries for the ex-colt, Callum.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the visitors, as they snuck a last minute try from under the noses of the jubilant Occies. Not enough to ruin the party, but more a display of what Belsize could do had they engaged their ball runners earlier on in the game when it was still a contest.
Final Score 43-7. Wasps will be facing a sterner test as they take on Ealing Trailfinders away this Friday (24th March).