LEDBURY 21-31 MANOR PARK

LEDBURY 21-31 MANOR PARK

By Bobby Bridge
16 September
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Moore treble banishes ghosts of Herefordshire horrors


F****** brilliant'
Ian King

When the RFU fixture computer generated two away challenges either side of a free/cup weekend for Manor Park - few could blame a few sighs of derision; 'that could've been a lot kinder'.

For all the preparations under returning head coach Kevin Venus and all the positive energies pulsing through the actions of new captain Aaron Willis - there are some things that are simply out of your control.

'Control the controllables' as the professional players say when pushed on their mindsets for a challenge ahead, the rest just isn't worth wasting your time worrying about.

On paper, Ledbury and Woodrush away is a punishing way to open up the season, two of only three journeys Manor Park will make out of Coventry and Warwickshire this season playing their Midlands Three West South rugby. The third being the tiny step across the Leicestershire border to those promotion addicts Burbage.

What could Park control for their 160-mile round trip to Herefordshire? Three home pre-season games against Newbold, Coventrians and Sileby to build up some momentum; tick. Book a coach and turn this gruelling (in the context of the league) trip into something to look forward to - rather than dread. Hell, why not make it a s*** shirt theme too and give the day a tour vibe. Tick.

The final piece of that jigsaw was mindset. A characteristic epitomised by flanker Adam Moore, who bagged himself a hat-trick on what would become a memorable day in the 60 years of Manor Park's existence.

Plagued by injuries that moved him out of the front row and onto the side of the scrum, the all-action warrior was a key component in the strong end to 2018/19 which saw the Red and Blacks record their highest-ever league finish of sixth and comfortably secure a fourth season of level eight rugby.

Moore, nicknamed 'Block' has the dog in him that has long since made Manor Park RFC the irritant of this league. But results like the 31-21 victory at sun-kissed Ross Road warrants a loftier perception of his club.

Was he dogged by the doom of shipping 215 points across four games in their previous trips to this part of the country? Probably not. Was he haunted by the reference of a 92-8 capitulation at the end of the 2014/15 relegation season when the hosts, quite understandably, posed underneath the scoreboard for a photograph that featured on a full-page spread in their local newspaper? Not a chance.

At 3.40pm on Saturday that same scoreboard displayed the away team leading 19-7 courtesy of Moore's brace and Joe Reynolds' fine effort cutting back infield on an unstoppable surge for the line. Then came the most testing spell of the game. With injuries beginning to bite into a squad already shy of a few key performers prompting a flanker to start at inside centre, Ledbury rallied and were suddenly 21-19 ahead and now throwing the ball around with some attacking abandon.

But Park kept playing. With the half-back pairing of Will Woodward and Dan Joyce operating behind a dominant pack of forwards that were merciless at the setpiece, hope remained and when Moore registered his hat-trick try, the lead was wrestled back. Albeit by just three points.

A killer blow was needed and it came when Joyce danced through a gap to touchdown for joyous scenes on and off the pitch The hosts, forever the most courteous and upholders of the finest off-field traditions and distributors of some potently strong cider, were ultimately reduced to passive scrums as Park held on to a ten-point lead to the final whistle.

Five points bagged from only a second win in 10 attempts home or away against their most westerly of league rivals.

The first competitive game of Manor Park's 60th season was off to a sparkling diamond-like start.
PARK: Lawrence, Goode, Ballard, Kemp, Green, Wilson, Moore, Willis (c); Woodward, Joyce; Hammond, Reynolds; Turton, Cooper, Bishop. Subs: Rice, Watson, Wheeler.

Points...
Tries (5): Moore (3), Joyce, Reynolds.
Cons (2): Bishop (2)
MOTM: Adam Moore
HT score: L 9-17 MP
Next 1st XV game: Oakham, home, Midlands Senior Vase, Saturday September 21, 3pm

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