Champions! Letchworth Invincibles lift silverware as league title winners as they extend unbeaten run to 37 matches
By The Editor
14th Mar 2023 | Local Sport
Letchworth Garden City 47-20 Thurrock: Match report by Richard Sell and Brian Burke
What a fantastic day to celebrate a fantastic league season. 120 diners squeezed in to the clubhouse to sit down for the pre-match lunch, and after the game many more joined them and the players at the bar … and long in to the night.
Many will have had heads like cement mixers on Sunday morning but it was worth it … Letchworth having turned on the style for a seven try bonus point win to finish the season as league champions with 101 points, extending their remarkable unbeaten run to 37 matches.
Thurrock made the brighter start, pouncing on an overthrow at a Letchworth lineout on the halfway line to spread the ball right for speedy winger Harry Reynolds to go over in the corner. But to everyone's surprise the try was chalked off, presumably because control of the ball had been lost before being touched down.
Letchworth's first promising attack saw winger Ben Palmer make a great break to just outside Thurrock's 22, the ball being spread left in to the hands of full back Will Titherington, Legends top try scorer this season, but as he was brought to ground he lost the ball forward.
Letchworth were again outstanding in the scrum, and in this match like so many others this season it was the scrum that provided the foundation for victory. Another huge shove by the Letchworth pack saw Thurrock penalised inside their own half, and fly half Josh Sharp kicked to the right corner. From the lineout first hooker Rambo Hughes and then lock Adam Amos made the hard yards before lovely offloads by Sharp and flanker Luke Mongston put centre Rick Streets in under the posts. Sharp converted to make it 7 – 0 after 20 minutes.
Soon after Streets made a great break before feeding Titherington who was taken down on the five metre line, but quick ball saw Letchworth cross the try line only to be held up. Thurrock's goal line drop out was caught by Mongston and he ran it back, offloading to Titherington who moved it on to scrum half Harvey Howman to score to the right of the posts. Sharp's conversion made it 14 – 0.
Champions! Letchworth Invincibles lift silverware as league title winners. CREDIT: Teresa Wiegand
Thurrock put together some good passages of play, looking particularly dangerous when Harry Reynolds had his hands on the ball. But Letchworth's defence stood strong and the pressure they exerted on Thurrock often led to handling errors. Letchworth's young wingers Ben Palmer and Josh Staddon both had fine games, and it was a break by Staddon that led to his side's third try, number 8 Tom Lewis carrying the ball deeper in to Thurrock's red zone, setting up Josh Sharp to cross the whitewash. He converted his own try to extend the lead to 21 – 0.
Thurrock had the last attacking opportunity of the half, a rare penalty against Letchworth in the scrum resulting in a superb kick to the left corner. From the lineout Thurrock spread the ball right but again excellent Letchworth defence saw them regain possession just before the half time whistle was blown.
However Thurrock didn't have to wait long in the second half to get on the scoreboard. From a lineout deep in Letchworth's 22 they set up a maul, and the hooker broke from the back of it to sprint over in the right corner. The difficult conversion was missed so it was 21 – 5.
Letchworth's defensive high line put Thurrock under pressure when they had possession deep in their own 22, and a clearing kick gave Letchworth the throw in at a lineout near the half-way line. The ball was spread right to Rick Streets who made a superb break deep in to Thurrock's 22. From the ruck the ball was spread left, Letchworth going through the phases before Howman fed prop Oscar Robinson, an ever present this season in Legend's outstanding front row, to dive over for the bonus point try. Again Sharp kicked the extras to make it 28 – 5.
Given their superiority, when Letchworth were awarded a scrum deep in Thurrock's left corner many onlookers wondered if they would go for the pushover, but instead they spread it right and Mongston, who was excellent throughout, crashed over for a thoroughly deserved try, the boot of Sharp ensuring it was another 7 pointer. 35 – 5 to Letchworth.
Soon after a forward pass gave Letchworth another scrum and, although this time it was mid-way in their own half, it too led to a try. After a great shove by the pack the ball found it's way on the wing to Staddon who made an excellent break deep in to Thurrock territory, and the ball then went through the hands for centre Sonny Ma'asi to go over under the posts, Sharp's kick making it 42 – 5 mid-way through the second half.
Thurrock immediately hit back, winning the ball at the re-start for lock Jay Jennings to charge through the defence and score in the right corner, which went unconverted to make it 42 – 10. Then from a lineout just inside Letchworth's half they scored again, the ball finding its way to dangerman Harry Reynolds on the wing who, after selling a dummy, sprinted in for Thurrock's third. Again it went unconverted.
Thurrock had another opportunity from a lineout on the right touchline deep in Letchworth territory, but excellent tackling, notably by Liam Fitts, Tom Lewis, Will Titherington and Rick Streets, kept them out. But this was Thurrock's best period of play and they were soon on the attack again. Another penalty against Letchworth saw a kick to the right corner, and from the lineout the ball was spread left for Thurrock to go over in the corner for their fourth unconverted try to bring the scoreline to 42 – 20.
But fittingly the final points in the final league game of this exceptional season went to Letchworth. After a lineout deep in Thurrock's 22 Letchworth were awarded a scrum on the 5m line in the left corner. Another mighty push from the Letchworth pack saw Thurrock penalised, and Sharp's quick tap and go caught the defence off guard and he went over for his second of the match and Letchworth's final try of the season. Unfortunately he couldn't make the kick to maintain his 100% record, so the final score read 47 – 20.
There were over 50 ex-players spectating at this game, and all confirm that this is the best Letchworth side that they have seen so the team and coaches under Baz Basra have much to be proud of, and can hopefully continue the journey in the next twelve months.
Although it is the end of the league season, there still remain games for the second and third teams, and the first team have now entered the Papa John pizza cup with the final at Twickenham … so who knows what the next six weeks will bring?
On Sunday the Letchworth Lionesses also played their final match of the season, a 37 – 10 away defeat to table topping Shelford. However Letchworth were rightly pleased with their performance, scoring their first ever tries against a strong Shelford side. The first was ran in by back of the match Beth Sell from inside her own 22 in a closely contested first half, and the second from forward of the match Lauren Brain, who crashed over in the final play of the game.
Team from 1:
By RS & BB