Five Ways welcomed Copsewood to Masshouse for the return of what was previously a very physical fixture. With the pitch heavier than Nathan Penn after his Christmas dinner and the wind blowing hard, this game was going to present a new problem to FWOE free flowing game.
Five Ways started with great tempo and set up camp early in the visitors 22, however, some white line fever and sloppy handling left the home side butchering some early chances. That being said, some excellent forward play allowed FWOE to win the ball back at will with only some curious referring decisions preventing even more turnovers.
The game continued at a high tempo and the Five Ways forward pack began to control matters, created some much needed time and space for the outside backs who seemed to be able to break the first line of defence at will. The centre partnership of Banner and Mounter were back together and creating havoc for the Copsewood side. Jess Banner made some gliding breaks without having a finger laid on him whilst John Mounter's direct approach also saw numerous breaks. These breaks were often stifled by some excellent cover defence led by the Copsewood full back who managed to maintain his calm and positional play when outnumbered by several attackers on repeated occasions. Eventually, all the pressure and territory paid off when the backs simplified the attack and used simple hands to get the ball out wide. This ended up how it often does with Captain Ian Chaston beating the first line of defence before offloading in the tackle to the grateful Joe Brook. Brook beat the final man with a simple step before going over the line for five points.
The momentum continued with forwards working tirelessly. In particular, Jamie Wilkes who had an absolute stormer, turning over possession on numerous occasions. The back row were also looking to jackal at every opportunity after putting head coach Steve Watkins' training into practice. On occasions, the back row, consisting of James Mounter, Nell Davies and Kyle Mitchell were too quick for the referee who incorrectly deemed Five Ways to be bridging at the breakdown. The three players worked tirelessly to secure good, quick ball for the impressive backs to use. The second try for FWOE came after some excellent turnover ball in the opposing 22. The backs were gifted with quick ball and with Copsewood on the back foot the ball travelled through the hands of the back line before arriving at a hungry Sam Bosely who crossed unopposed in the corner.
Five Ways continued to control the ball but with the constant shrill of the referees whistle ringing out, attacks were always restarting after some good work. As the game progressed, Copsewood’s resolve did not break as they continued to play at each opportunity. They defended staunchly and showed real heart and ambition. They were rewarded with a penalty try when FWOE were too eager in defence following a series of penalties and didn’t retreat the full ten metres on a penalty only five metres out. With the ref’s whistle, he marched under the post and signalled that his patience had run out on this occasion. Particular credit should go to the visiting number 8, 13 and 15 who showed some real confidence on the ball and desire to lead from the front.
It wasn’t long before our very own wrecking ball Nathan Penn went over for his first try. Penn received the ball centimetres from the opposition line before stumbling over his own feet and scoring a classic try that will live long in the memory.
At half time, Five Ways wanted to focus on maintaining control and structure whilst continuing to put the pressure on the opposition. Sadly, FWOE could not recreate the quality of the first half with the tempo taken from the game as it became a very stop and start affair. Copsewood played better rugby and had the home side pinned back in their own half for much of the second half. Five Ways showed glimpses of what the can do when the tempo was increased and the forwards were clinical in the red zone with Nell Davies and Nathan Penn driving over for tries following control forward play. As the game stuttered to its end Tom Dacre and Matt Hurst came off the bench to add some much needed drive and forward momentum. In the final minutes, Aidan Ruddock went over in the corner after taking a tap penalty and driving over the line. When the final whistle went the final score was Five Ways 32 - Copsewood 7.
With the game wrapped up Five Ways top the league at Christmas. It is an excellent start to the season but, with the weather changing, the next challenge for FWOE is to play the wet weather clinically and keep the tempo and pressure high for the whole 80 minutes. The standards have been set to a very high level and the players look forward to continuing to produce some excellent performances in the second half of the season.
Merry Christmas to all from the players at Five Ways.