Convincing Start for Westoe
South Shields Westoe travelled to Medicals RFC for the first league match of the season.
Playing against a stiff breeze in glorious sunshine, Westoe were immediately put under pressure from a fired-up Medicals side who threw everything against the visitors from the first whistle.
The Westoe defence gradually pushed Meds back to the half-way line, where the Meds fly-half put in a long kick that was chased down and retrieved by their winger who crossed after only 5 minutes for the early lead. 7-0
This galvanised the Westoe side and they soon took control of the half. Strong runs from centres Worthington and Hughes made good ground, setting up an attacking line-out which was held up over the line.
Westoe’s dominant pack easily drove the home side towards their line and new signing Martin Bengston picked from the base to feed the backs, with Luke Moffett crossing after 11 minutes. 7-5
Score number two came minutes later, with the forwards showing their strength with powerful drives from Jamie Hughes, Ryan Lamb and Martin Bengston, sucking in the defence and feeding the back-line, where simple passing gave Paul Evans the ball and just enough space to speed into the corner. 7-10
Celebrating his 300th league appearance for the club, John Younghusband powered his way almost 30m before offloading to Michael Booth who evaded two defenders before slipping the inside pass for Evans to cross for his second of the day. 7-17
Never about to give up, Medicals caught Westoe napping from the restart. Poor fielding of the kick gave Meds a line-out which was taken quickly and the ball spun out wide giving the home side an easy score and keeping them within one try. 12-17
Westoe were soon back in control though and a series of pick & goes were met with some brave home defence, culminating in their flanker entering the ruck from an offside position and receiving a yellow card.
Westoe opted for the scrummage and demolished the home pack; however the ref deemed it necessary to reset the scrum. Take two and the Westoe pack drove them back again, this time Martin Bengston picked from the base to touch-down in his debut league appearance for the club. 12-24
The half ended with try number five after a Sam Gaff run, supported by Ryan Lamb and quick recycled ball finding Jamie Hughes who touched down in the out wide. 12-29
Westoe started the second half strongly, building on their forward dominance and playing sensible rugby they crossed the line three times in under six minutes; however the referee ruled-out all three scores in succession.
The first came from the best move of the match, with Sam Hughes and Chris Judson linking well and splitting the defence. Stopped just short of the line, recycled ball was spun wide to touch down in the corner; however the final pass was adjudged to be forward.
Number two came from the ensuing scrum. Westoe destroyed the home pack, driving them towards their line, stealing the ball and touching down. This disallowed for another scrum infringement.
Finally a 30m driving maul was intentionally collapsed 1m from the home line and as the ball was spun wide and touched down, Westoe were again penalised, nullifying the score.
This became the pattern for the rest of the match. The first half saw a total of four penalties (2-2); however Westoe soon found themselves on the receiving end of the whistle giving up twelve penalties and a yellow card in the half, ending the match 14 to 4.
The game inevitably disintegrated into an extremely scrappy affair, with the side losing their focus and playing more as individuals rather than maintaining their form. Medicals fought well and won much of the loose ball; however Westoe remained strong in defence and kept their lines clear.
It took 30 minutes for Westoe to regain their focus and shape, where they ran in three tries within the final ten.
After a period akin to the Keystone Kops meeting the Chuckle Brothers, Paul Evans made good ground, offloading to Sam Hughes who crossed in the corner. 12-34
Sam Hughes and Chris Judson linked well again to feed John Younghusband who blasted through the remaining defence to score under the posts, capping off his 300th league appearance for the club. 12-41
The final act of the day saw another league debutant, Clayton Fox, running in Westoe’s eighth of the day to make the final score. 12-48
A good result overall with some areas to work on. Westoe’s pack were dominant throughout and the back-line showed real pace and flair. There were solid performances from the three new signings, Bengston, Kellet and Fox; (all previously South Shields RFC), who will add the much needed competition for places in the squad.
Westoe need to remain focussed when decisions go against them and although difficult, resist the temptation of voicing their concerns. If they can keep the penalty count down, their power should be a match for anyone in the league, which this season looks to be tighter than ever with many sides stepping up from last year.
Speaking after the match, coach Graeme Smith stated – “The team played some awesome rugby today. Not the finished article, but a good starting point.”
Next week Westoe face a tough match against West Hartlepool who had a convincing win against Novos (51-22) and should provide a sterner test for the side.