DOWN...BUT HOPEFULLY FOR NOT TOO LONG
By Hadee Fayaz
writes Jonathan Landi
DOWN…BUT HOPEFULLY FOR NOT TOO LONG
The nightmare finally came true for Enfield Ignatians as a 15 year residency at London Two level was cruelly ended following an agonising 6-5 defeat at Grasshoppers in west London. Ignatians needed to win to ensure safety. Consequently, the reverse meant that they became reliant on results elsewhere and Letchworth’s 18-14 win at Hemel Hempstead effectively sealed their fate.
In the post-match huddle a visibly upset coach Shane Manning struggled to make sense of the final act of a season that had promised so much back in September. He said: “It is what it is and it sucks and there is nothing we can do about it. The aim is to come back bigger and better next season.”
Ignatians needed to come out firing but they conceded far too many first-half penalties, and consequently they soon found themselves with their backs to the wall on the unfamiliar 4G pitch. And It speaks volumes for the defence that, in the first 15 minutes, they repelled a succession of Grasshoppers catch and drive attempts which limited the hosts to a 3-0 lead.
It took fully 16 minutes for Ignatians to sight the opposition line but, when they did, and with the likes of prop and MOM Dom Nott in outstanding form, they started to prosper from a dominant setpiece; and from a five-metre scrum, number eight Michael Hall picked up at the base, and despite initially hitting a brick wall, he used his upper body strength to keep going and barrel his way over.
Despite some fine individual efforts from the likes of Ben Mills and Charlie Hoy, Ignatians were never able to hang onto the ball for very long despite the left boot of Jack Wilson putting them in some good field positions.
Grasshoppers then landed a second kickable penalty via their fly-half after the blue and golds were penalised for coming in at the side.
The match continued to develop into a gigantic arm wrestle in the second period, with both sides taking it in turns to make mistakes, and consequently the game was very disjointed and fractured. Ignatians, at times, lived a little dangerously - the flinging of wild passes syndrome took hold - as Grasshoppers camped close to the line at times but the stretched defence held firm.
Having emptied their subs’ bench in the form of the fresh legs of Dave Gear and Euan Renny, Ignatians still had a couple of golden tickets to win the game. Sadly, Jake Bates and Jack Wilson both missed penalty attempts which otherwise would have earned a hard-fought victory but it wasn’t to be.
However, it would unfair to heap everything on the shoulders of the kickers. Ignatians’ woes were far more deep-seated as, at this level, a losing sequence spanning eight games can only spell trouble. This was eventually remedied with wins at against Welwyn and Chiswick, and although they proved welcome lifelines, the margin for error eventually proved too tight.
The sterility of the Ignatians’ attack (the worst in the league) and the failure to pick up enough bonus points, unlike last season, was another negative and this was very much in evident here, as the blue and golds’ attacking options were very limited due to poor decision making and execution.
Jake Bates, who has been a splendid captain, said: “We played with plenty of heart and I can’t fault the effort. We simply weren’t clinical enough.”
It is worth reflecting when the two sides last met on the opening day of the season, Ignatians lorded the game 41-5. Still, it’s not where you start but where you finish.
Finally, our thanks go to Grasshoppers for their excellent hospitality. Having cashed in on the sale of their former ground, they have invested in sparkling new state of the art facilities which bodes well for their future. Food for thought…