Letchworth Rugby Club continue fine run into 2023 by beating Eton Manor 13-8
By The Editor
13th Jan 2023 | Local Sport
Eton Manon 8-13 Letchworth Rugby
Without a game since December 3, Legends found themselves on the road to take on title chasing rivals Eton Manor, the only team to have taken points off Letchworth so far this season in the 19 - 19 draw at Legends Lane, writes Richard Sell
Letchworth have had an outstanding season to date but surely few games will have given them more satisfaction than this 8 – 13 victory, the platform for which was Letchworth's excellence at the set piece. No doubt the Letchworth players were also pleased to have the reassuring presence of fly half Josh Sharp back in the fold after his absence through injury.
Letchworth made an impressive start and with just a few minutes on the clock the Eton Manor hooker had to leave the field after a tackle on powerhouse number 8 Tom Lewis. The game was re-started with a scrum to Letchworth and the ball found its way to full back Michael Waters, who's mazy running looked threatening every time he got the ball. Second rower Dan Peasnell then charged his way up to Manor's 5m line but knocked on in the tackle and the opportunity was gone.
Letchworth continued to dominate possession in the early stages, and with just over 10 minutes gone had a lineout close to Manor's 5m line. Sonny, playing at centre but throwing in at the line out, was mauled over for Letchworth's first points and a just reward for their early endeavours. Josh Sharp added the extras with a fine conversion to make it 0 – 7. Letchworth's excellence in the lineout and scrums throughout the afternoon would prove crucial, not only securing their own ball but invariably putting Manor under pressure on their own put ins.
With nearly 20 minutes on the clock Manor had their first period of sustained pressure in Letchworth's half, and Letchworth were penalised at the breakdown for hands going beyond the ball. Manor elected to go for the posts and their fly half coolly struck it over to bring the score to 3 – 7.
A few minutes later saw Waters cross the half way line and punt the ball deep in to Manor territory, and their full back knocked on in the in-goal area to give Letchworth a scrum on the 5m line. The Letchworth pack piled on the pressure and twice Manor were penalised in the scrum. Rather than go for a third scrum Letchworth elected to kick to the right corner. The line out was won cleanly and the ball was quickly spread left but Manor managed to intercept and the chance was gone.
Letchworth continued to have good possession and another promising attack came to an end after Sonny, who had made a strong carry in to the Manor 22, was judged to have rolled forward after the tackle had been made.
As half time approached a rare discrepancy by Letchworth at their own lineout provided Manor with an opportunity. The long throw in sailed over everyone and Manor were first to get their hands on the ball and quickly spread it right but a knock on – one of a number of handling errors by Manor - brought the last attacking opportunity of the half to a close. The large travelling support must have been pleased with the visitors display in the first half, but also a bit concerned that they hadn't converted their superior possession and territory in to more points.
Manor came out for the second half determined not to let this game – and perhaps with it their title chances – slip away. 5 minutes in and after some sustained pressure in Letchworth's half, Legends were penalised at a breakdown on their 22. The ball was kicked to the right corner to set up a line-out drive which Manor executed to go over the whitewash and take the lead for the first time at 8 – 7. The difficult conversion was missed.
Letchworth fought back and their prowess in the scrum allowed them to re-take the lead. A handling error on Manor's 22 broke down a promising Letchworth attack but Manor were penalised at the resulting scrum after being put under pressure on their own put in. Sharp stepped up to slot the ball through the posts and take the score line to 8 – 10.
It was then Manor's turn to go on the attack. An excellent charge down by Sharp prevented an attempted drop goal by his opposite number but the ref was playing advantage and play was taken back for the penalty. Manor kicked to Letchworth's 5m line on the left touchline but Letchworth stole the ball at the lineout and Sharp's boot cleared the danger with an excellent kick to touch.
Letchworth had the next scoring opportunity when Manor were penalised for a high tackle on their own 22 and Letchworth captain Liam Fitts pointed to the posts. Sharp struck the ball well but the flags stayed down as it sailed just wide. However he didn't let this affect him and soon after he struck a beautiful 50:22 to set up another attacking opportunity on the right touchline. From the lineout the ball was spread left and Letchworth battered away on the Manor try line but excellent defence kept them out, and eventually Letchworth were penalised.
Again Letchworth's scrummaging came to the fore. A handling error gave Manor the put in on Letchworth's 22, but a mighty shove put Manor on the back foot and scrum half Harvey Howman was the first to pounce and gather the ball. It was then moved left to fleet footed outside centre Will Titherington who carried it up to Manor's 22 where Manor were penalised at the breakdown, with the miscreant getting 10 minutes on the naughty step. The resulting kick was put in the left corner and swiftly spread right from the lineout until it reached replacement winger Chris Gibbs who, under pressure from the Manor defence, dived over in the corner for what looked like a fine score. The Letchworth supporters in the stand on the opposite touchline were on their feet celebrating until they noticed that the far touch judge was waving his flag to indicate that Gibbs' foot had gone in to touch moments before placing the ball down.
In the final quarter of the game excellent defence by both teams managed to keep their opponents out, and both teams were also let down by handling errors when on the attack in their opponents 22. With time nearly up it was Letchworth on the attack, and Manor were penalised inside their 22 for a high tackle. The penalty was central and it was no surprise to see Fitts point to the sticks, and Sharp slotted it over to provide some breathing space at 8 – 13 with only added time remaining.
But Manor were not going to give up until the final whistle had gone, and with seconds to go had won a lineout on Letchworth's 22. But in the last significant play of the game Letchworth stole the ball and with it Manor's final scoring opportunity had gone … Letchworth had done it, holding on to secure another famous victory. The whole team, subs included, had put in excellent performances but DoR Baz Basra singled out Sonny, who for much of the second half had moved from centre to hooker, and prop Oscar Robinson for special praise.
T S Eliot wrote of the New Year "For last year's words belong to a different language and next year's words await another voice". It seems the Legends players are not familiar with the famous poet as they have started 2023 in the same excellent form as 2022! But now they prepare for another huge test with the visit of Southend Saxons to Legends Lane next week. Southend are currently 3 points ahead of Letchworth at the top of the table having played one game more.
There is of course a league lunch with three courses, wine, port, raffle and Christmas cracker jokes from the Prez … all for a mere £30! Book your places now with FAT LES on 07827 373927. See the New Year in with a great Saturday's fun!!
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