Match report by Mike Penrice and a few comments about the Wigton Team following the 1st XV's victory in the Cumbria Cup on Saturday.
Green Machine Gathers Momentum
Of the 22 players in Saturdays squad only 2 did not play as Wigton Colts and 16 of them are Old Boys of the Nelson Thomlinson School - the average age of the impressive three quarter line was 21.8 and the forwards came out at 27 - there is likely to be more success ahead for this improving squad.
The good news for all Supporters, Sponsors and aspiring players in the Youth system is that all the current 1st XV squad have re-signed and committed to Wigton Rugby for next season - all will continue as amateur players and attempt to manage successfully the chemistry of family life, employment and sport.
During this season we called on 41 players to deliver the programme of 26 league and 3 Cup fixtures - season 14/15 is likely to be even more competitive and demanding on players time management skills.
Probably the most valuable quality within the squad and the one which week to week takes the club forward is the selflessness of the players in committing to whatever role is demanded for the good of the team.
The McDowell Man of the match on saturday David Hanabury has started in four roles during the last two seasons namely, Full Back, Right Wing, Outside Centre and Fly Half and the only player this season to start all 29 matches; Stuart Creighton made eleven starts at Tight Head Prop, nine at Flanker, seven at No 8 and two in the Engine room!
It may be a well worn cliche but there is no I in TEAM. It is only after experiencing the challenges of the varied roles within our game that players begin to fully appreciate each others contribution to a successful 'team' performance.
Cumbria Cup Final
Wigton 34 St Benedicts 26
Pre match favourites Wigton duly won the Cumbria Cup on a glorious afternoon at Carlisle, but found it hard to put away St Benedicts as they played with tremendous spirit and threw everything at Wigton despite spending much of the match with fourteen men on the field. Both sides were looking to play fast, attacking rugby spectators enjoyed an incident packed game of ten tries.
In the opening minutes both teams used accurate kicks to take play into the opposite 22.
Wigton got on the scoreboard first when centre Richard Moffatt's pass gave his partner Willl Miller room to run. He pulled defenders onto him but was still able to pass the ball to the unmarked full back Gregg Smith who outpaced the cover defence to score in the right hand corner. 5-0.
Bennies' task became harder when their influential stand off Steve Wood was shown the yellow card by referee Ben Blain for dissent, giving the official the benefit of his earnest opinion concerning a decision at a ruck which looked pretty clear cut from the sidelines. Mr Blain, not requiring Wood's assistance, was making his own piece of history by having played in last year's final and refereeing this year's. However, Wigton missed the resulting penalty kick and, as they did all afternoon, Bennies lifted their game when men down and carried the fight to Wigton, although one magnificent clearance by Smith took play from the Wigton 22 to the Bennies's 5 metre line. They suffered a further set back when hooker Kris Wood, another star player, had to leave the field injured. Shortly afterwards, full back Dan Rayson was off target with a penalty kick.
Undaunted, they attacked and centre Kurt Maudling produced a great offload in heavy traffic to prop Craig Halligan. He made ground and passed to the abrasive winger Robb Scott who stepped inside the defence and made his way over the line for a well taken try. Dan Rayson's conversion gave St Benedicts a 7-5 lead.
If that excited the Bennies fans, what came next made them delirious. Steve Wood returned, and his great pass to winger Ryan Fisher. Kurt Maudling carried play into the Wigton 22. Wigton had a chance to defuse the danger following a choke tackle, but knocked on at the base of a scrum. This gave Bennies the put in. Good approach work by No 8 Scott Wood and scrum half Steve Routledge set up a position on the line which led to skipper Stuart Wilson crashing over. Rayson again converted for a 14-5 lead and, with Wigton having been somewhat casual for several minutes, dreams of glory.
However, Wigton roused themselves from their torpor and hit back with two tries before half time. First, good play by Miller and Moffatt set up play in Bennies 22. A lineout catch and drive took play upto the line where Bennies infringed. Wigton set up a maul and second row Matthew Atkinson was pushed over the line. The conversion made the score 14-12.
Wigton gained another good position when scrum half Fergus Ledingham pulled off a good tackle as Rayson tried to run out of defence. The loose ball was dropped on by Smith. More grief for St Benedicts came when flanker Gavin Mauldling was carded for hands in the ruck. Wigton kicked for the corner and from the resulting lineout set up a close range try for No 8 Stuart Creighton and a 17-14 lead at half time.
In the second half, Wigton were again quicker out of the blocks. Miller broke clear, but chose not to use outside support but carried the ball into the 22 and several phases later, wingerSteven Harris, enjoying the best game of his short first team career, dived in to score in the left hand corner. 22-14.
Once again, Bennies came storming back, refusing to lie down. Steve Wood's boot took play to the Wigton 22 and strong work by props Halligan and Jardine and winger Fisher, led to a five metre scrum. From this position, Craig Halligan battled his way over the line. The conversion made it a 22-21 game with everything to play for.
The game now really opened up with both sides searching for a decisive score. Wigton gave themselves breathing space when Smith returned a Wood kick with interest, passing to Harris, who made more ground. As the ball was quickly recycled stand off and eventual Man of the Match, David Hanabury made a half break and offloaded to his supporting flanker Mark Lee who scored under the sticks. The conversion made it 29-21.
The Whitehaven outfit's task became harder when Steve Wood received a second yellow card, and therefore a red, for punching. Wigton seemed to be putting the game to bed when following buildup work by Lee, Miller and Gardner, Smith squeezed in at the corner for his second try and a 34-21 score.
However, the game now came to an exciting climax. Bennies summoned their last resources of energy and motivation to come roaring back, and as the game became frantic, Wigton too, got caught up in the excitement, when cooler heads could have served them better, but then Bennies gave them plenty to worry about. As a counter attack seemed to be running out of options, Scott improvised a superb kick to push play close to the Wigton line.
Chances came thick and fast for both sides and as players tired, runners making breaks were often short of support resulting in turnovers. Wigton's Miller was carded for failing to retreat ten metres from a tapped penalty. Wigton were constantly looking to counter attack, whilst Bennies were spreading the ball with wild abandon, stretching the defence. This approach worked and, after one or two close things, Scott eventually got over for his second try, narrowing the gap to 34-26. However, Wigton had enough of a cushion to survive, and that remained the score at the final whistle in a thrilling game. Hanabury took the Man of the Match honours, but in truth every player on the park gave their all and it was hard to think of anyone who had a poor game on either side.
No doubt, at the start of the season, our priority was to consolidate our league place following last season's promotion. We achieved this with generally good home performances and managing to garner seven points from our last three away games. An average of two points per away match next season would put us in a much more comfortable position.
With target No1 achieved, the Cup win was the icing on the cake. Special mention here to David Waning, the only member of the team who had previously enjoyed Cup success. This was his third win. Quite noteworthy considering he came back from injury just in time to play in the semi final. His form on his return showed that he still has a lot to offer at first team level. In many ways, he is the last of the old fashioned players, whose first priority on leaving the pitch is not a cool down or an ice bath, but a fag.