Letchworth Legends show character to win again to sit proudly on top of the table unbeaten
By The Editor
7th Nov 2022 | Local Sport
Letchworth Legends win again to sit proudly on top of the table unbeaten. Report by Rick Sell
This outstanding and hard earned victory against closest rivals HAC was as much about Letchworth's heart and spirit as anything else.
Though not at their absolute best the Letchworth players must have been hugely satisfied with a W against their name as they helped themselves to the jugs of beer waiting for them in the dressing room after the game. No doubt they also reflected on their mixed day at the set piece … although their lineout mis-fired their prowess in the scrum proved to be crucial.
The wet and blustery conditions weren't conducive to an open free flowing game, and the opening minutes were littered with handling errors from both sides, giving the packs ample opportunities to get to know each other as they packed down for numerous scrums. HAC are one of the best attacking sides in this league and it was they who looked most likely to score early on, and only a great tackle by fly half Will Titherington in the right corner to put his man in to touch kept them out.
HAC continued to maintain pressure inside Letchworth's 22 and were rewarded with a scrum on Letchworth's 5m line. But great defensive work first by flanker Luke Mongston and then by centre Vuli Sonoma Veikune, making his Letchworth debut, won a penalty for Letchworth as HAC were penalised for holding on. Titherington's kick to the halfway line relieved the pressure.
HAC were soon penalised again at the breakdown, and full back Ben Palmer found touch on HAC's 22 with a lovely kick. From the lineout Letchworth's maul gained valuable yards before the ball was fed to Vuli who spread it right to Mongston who moved it on to right wing Kyle Toomey but a promising attack came to nothing as the ref blew the whistle for crossing. But the momentum had now swung Letchworth's way and they were soon on the attack again inside HAC's 22.
A lovely back of the hand pass from Mongston set up tight head prop Rambo Hughes to smash his way over the gain line before offloading to Ben Palmer who was brought to ground. Again HAC were penalised at the breakdown, this time right in front of the posts. Palmer dusted himself down and slotted the kick over to give Letchworth a 3-0 lead mid-way through the first half.
There followed a sustained period of possession for HAC in Letchworth's half, and they were rewarded with a penalty on the 22 which was kicked to the right corner to set up a rolling maul. The HAC pack stayed tight and drove Letchworth back over their try line to score in the right corner. The kicker slipped just before making contact with the ball and unsurprisingly the try went unconverted, so HAC now led 3-5.
Soon after HAC were down to 14 men when Liam Fitts was pulled down at a lineout mid-way in HAC's half, and Palmer kicked the penalty deep in to the 22. From the lineout the ball went quickly to Vuli who's run and offload put Letchworth close but they were penalised for holding on and HAC cleared their lines.
Then followed a kicking contest with punts being made by both teams from one half to the other. Letchworth were the first to try something different with centre Josh Staddon making a great break in to HAC's half and he fed winger Tattenda Gurere but excellent HAC defence kept Letchworth out. Another punt from HAC went deep in to Letchworth's half and although it allowed Letchworth to regain possession a knock on gave HAC the put in just outside the 22. The ball came out of the scrum quickly and was spread left for HAC to go over in the corner. The last play of the half was the attempted conversion, a difficult one which was missed, so at half time it was 3 – 10.
Letchworth made an excellent start to the second half. A lovely hanging kick at the re-start by Titherington allowed Letchworth to win the ball, and excellent handling from hooker Tom Tidey, Rambo Hughes and Luke Mongston took Letchworth up to the 5m line. HAC stopped the attack but illegally, and Letchworth opted to take the scrum. From the scrum some lovely interplay sent the ball one way and then the other to set up Vuli to burrow his way under the defenders to score just to the right of the posts. Palmer's conversion drew the scores level at 10 – 10.
Not long after HAC had an opportunity to score when Letchworth were penalised for holding on near the 10m line in their own half. Though a long way out it was central, and the kick was made for HAC to regain the lead at 10 – 13.
Chris Gibbs was now on at full back, with Palmer moving to fly half and Titherington in to the centres, and DoR Baz Basra also shuffled his pack, with Mark Tate coming on to prop and Rambo Hughes moving to hooker. Some great pressure from Letchworth, including a lovely break from Titherington, led to a another infringement from HAC and a second yellow card. From the penalty Letchworth kicked the ball deep in to HAC territory but couldn't capitalise from the lineout.
However Letchworth were soon on the attack again, and excellent handling found prop Mark Tate on the wing. Letchworth re-cycled and twice HAC were penalised for being offside, the second right in front of the posts and Letchworth opted to take the scrum. A great shove by Letchworth led to another penalty, and again they took the scrum. This time the ball came out quickly and was moved left and then right to find powerhouse number 8 Tom Lewis who smashed his way through to score midway between the posts and right touchline. The conversion fell just short, so Letchworth had regained the lead at 15 – 13.
Although Letchworth were now looking dominant in the scrum, getting the shove regardless of who had the put in, it was HAC who came closest to scoring next. They had a sustained period of pressure in Letchworth's half, and Letchworth were penalised a couple of times, the last giving HAC the opportunity to kick deep in to the right corner. From the lineout the ball was spread quickly to the left wing and only a fantastic last ditch tackle by Chris Gibbs prevented what looked a certain score.
HAC now threw the kitchin sink at Letchworth in an attempt to get the victory, spending the last minutes of the game in the Letchworth red zone, most of it within 5m of the try line. But each and every Letchworth player stuck to their task manfully and refused to let HAC break the line. But the sustained pressure eventually led to a Letchworth infringement, and HAC had a scrum right under the posts with only seconds left on the clock. The two packs engaged and just before the ball was put in the ref blew his whistle and awarded a penalty to Letchworth … the HAC hooker had illegally pulled his leading foot back, no doubt in expectation of a mighty shove from Letchworth.
The cheers from the large crowd for the penalty award were still ringing out when Letchworth kicked the ball to touch to bring an end to the game and another dramatic victory.
Letchworth now sit proudly on top of the league and are the only team to remain unbeaten. The man of the match? Baz Basra immediately gave it to the entire front row … the outstanding Oscar Robinson, Tom Tidey, Rambo Hughes and Mark Tate.
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