The first game of the decade saw Old Habs welcome Woodford to Croxdale Road.
Habs knew that, despite their lowly league position, Woodford would prove tough opposition with the ability to score tries from anywhere (the return fixture was an 80 point try fest!). Soon after the kick off Habs were reminded of this as Woodford charged down the hill, cutting through the centre of the defensive line to score under the posts.
It took 15 minutes but eventually Old Habs began to shake off the festive lethargy and settle into their patterns. Given the heavy going underfoot and a need to gain territory, Tom ‘Taj’ Jackson put boot to ball and found touch in the Woodford 22. The visitors made a mess of the resulting lineout and the ball made it’s way into the hands of Chris Surman/Surname, who floated a long pass to Conor Michaels to finish in the corner. Conversion missed 5 – 7. It was not long before Habs were back in the Woodford half, the heavy artillery working well and creating a clean platform for Taj to launch a move that would see James Clark go over the line untouched. 12-7. As the half drew to a close Woodford placed a hopeful chip over the Habs centres towards Fergus Pickles, unfortunately for the backrower the sun was low and he was unable to recover the ball, the chasing attacker scooped it up to score. 12-14 HT.
Habs started the second half with plenty of purpose and possession. Woodford, who were now heading up the slope with the wind and sun against them, struggled to exit their half and when they did were quickly repelled by the solid Habs defence. A strong carry from Conor saw him break the gain line and find Whittle with an offload off the deck, the skipper sliding in for the third try. 17-14. The kick off was immediately returned by James Clark supported by Harry Briffitt, the big man being dragged down just short of the line. Whittle (who must’ve got some scoring boots for Christmas) saw an opportunity to dummy and snipe for a try under the posts, picking up his brace and the bonus point. Conversion good - 24-14.
Lesser teams may have let their heads drop at this point but to Woodford’s credit they kept playing and were rewarded with a consolation try. The scrum half took off from the back of a Habs lineout and, à la Cobus Reinach, plucked Whittle’s pass out of the air and dotted down for their third. 24-21. However, it was the home side that had the final say – Ben Lewry carrying from outside the 22, slipped a couple of tackles before crashing into the posts and over the line. Conversion good 31 – 21.
It was a perfect start to 2020 for the Magentamen, though they will need to find another gear if they are to going to topple league leaders, North Walsham, next week.