Herts President’s Tankard final
5th May 2013
Tabard 41 vs Welwyn 14
Team: Owen Doyle, Jamie Humphries, Adam Cunnah, Pat Lynch, Muhanthan Harinath, Gareth Hughes, Yourgos Alexander, Ben Solez, Rory Page, Dan Atkinson, Ash Maxwell, Joe Burns, Tom Attfield, Joe McKay, David Wells.
Replacements: Louis Castiglione, Josh Hewitt, James Coles, Nick Morgan.
It was a beautiful Spring morning as Welwyn took to the field at hosts Hemel Hempstead RFC’s ground, to face Tabard who, as London 2 North West division champions will be playing in London 1 North next season.
However, Welwyn were not daunted by this and initially took the game to Tabard. Tabard set their game plan out early, employing a physical strategy using their heavier forward pack, utilizing the pick and drive around rucks and the No 8 pick-up from scrums to peg back Welwyn’s defence. Tabard went close within 10 minutes with a driving maul into the heart of Welwyn’s 22, but having worked the ball to the centres, became isolated and Welwyn were awarded a penalty to clear their lines. However, tabard quickly learnt from their mistake and kept ball tight in the forwards. On 15 minutes a last gasp tackle by winger Harinath kept Tabard from what looked a certain score. In the ensuing contact, flanker McKay was injured and replaced by Hewitt in the back row. Tabard didn’t have things all their own way at this stage, as Welwyn put together a promising passage of play deep into Tabard’s 22, only for the move to break down to give Tabard the opportunity to clear. Very quickly, Welwyn were again under pressure after a handling error in midfield was punished, forcing a Tabard lineout in Welwyn’s 22. From here they set up their very effective driving maul, and scored the first of three almost identical scores in the space of the next 15 minutes as Welwyn had no legal answer to the powerful maul, and by 35 minutes Welwyn were down 19-0. Welwyn still battled with great spirit, and from a defensive scrum in their 22, set up their own rolling maul, taking play beyond half way before 2nd row Maxwell smashed a hole in the Tabard defence before offloading to winger Humphries who linked with his opposite winger Harinath, who had the line at his mercy when the referee blew up for an obstruction. This gave Tabard the opportunity to clear and so the score remained 19-0 at half time.
Receiving the kick at the 2nd half restart, Welwyn unfortunately knocked on and were unable to react as Tabard secured the ball and were immediately over the line for a score within a minute of the restart. 24-0.
Welwyn, however, were not disheartened, however, and immediately returned play into Tabards 22. A Tabard lineout over the top was gathered by Hewitt, who was clear of the defence, when the referee called play back as the throw had not been straight, denying Welwyn any advantage as try seemed inevitable. Nevertheless, from the retaken lineout, Welwyn set up a driving maul of their own, taking play right up to the Tabard try line and gaining a penalty as Tabard infringed trying to stop the attackers’ momentum. Welwyn took a lineout and set up another maul but this time got turned over. The clearing kick as charged down by Hewitt and Welwyn secured the ball, only to be penalized for not releasing, and Tabard again got clear. But Welwyn were not to be denied. 15 minutes in an error by Tabard gave Welwyn possession at a lineout 15 metres from Tabard’s line. Lineout ball secured, Welwyn went first left before changing direction back towards the right corner, when replacement prop Castiglione broke through 3 tackles to score Welwyn’s first try of the match, converted by centre Lynch, and the score was 24-7.
Welwyn had a foothold in the game now, and after an uncharacteristic error by Tabard, found themselves again pressuring in the last 3rd of the pitch. As Welwyn went to ground at a ruck, Tabard were penalized for killing the ball, and, since the referee had already warned Tabard for this, their Fly Half found himself in the sin bin 22 minutes into the second half. But Welwyn had expended a lot of energy staying in the game, and when Tabard again pressured their defence on the right hand side, defenders were sucked in trying to halt the maul, so when they shifted the attack left, Welwyn were outnumbered and unable to prevent Tabard crashing over in the left corner to take the score to 31-7 after 30 minutes of the second half.
Welwyn still had some fight left. 5 minutes later after some good possession play of their own, Welwyn set up a driving maul from a lineout on Tabard’s 5 metre, left hand side. This time they were not to be denied as the drove over in the corner and Hooker Page was credited with the score. Pat Lynch was successful with the tough conversion, and the score was 31 -14.
Despite their valiant efforts, Tabard were too strong up front on the day, and 2 further unconverted tries were scored by Tabard in the dying moments of this physical encounter. The final score was 41-14, but Welwyn will be rightly proud of their performance against opposition from effectively 2 leagues above, and despite the result this was a thoroughly enjoyable end to a great season for the men from Hobbs way.