Weston end losing run with important victory
By Pete Sloman
Match photos courtesy of Andrew Collins, and report by Tony Russell
Relief at last for Weston. This was their first home game since December 7th during which time there has been a run of away defeats which has seen the team dropping down the table. It was a pleasure to get back to rugby at the Recreation Ground, particularly following a poor defeat against the bottom club last week, and the abject misery of a 4.30 kick-off at a soulless and uninviting all-weather pitch at Hartpury (with no crowd, no clubhouse and no atmosphere!)
Apparently Worcester Wanderers refused to play there yesterday in similar circumstances……it will be interesting to see what the League Committee does about that one.
Anyway, back to Weston, and an afternoon that embodied all the good things about Rugby. There was a vibrant feel about the club. A well supported pre-match dinner for past players, with Ed Morrison speaking, a reasonable crowd (many supporters may have just got out of the habit of Saturday rugby ) enjoying the watery sunshine, and the post match pleasure of Englands’ win against the Irish.
And so to the match….Chippenham have themselves slipped down the table and a relegation dog fight looms for them. Both teams badly needed to win, and both showed several enforced changes, which now seems to be the norm when the players espy an anticipated “free date” in the fixture list, only for a subsequent rearranged game to cause problems with availability.
This was not a great game of rugby, but in the circumstances, and what conspired against them during the game, Weston will be pleased with the win and the spirit, but possibly not so pleased at the lack of a bonus point.
The home team was first on the board when after 10 minutes, following concerted forward pressure on the Chippenham line,
Second row Bufton was driven over for Mackay to convert.
The lead was swiftly reduced as visiting centre Squire scored a simple try in the corner, having been given much too much space. The conversion was beyond Saunders but he did manage a straightforward penalty after 36 minutes to edge his side ahead 8-7. In the interim period, Weston lost key lineout forward Russell to a pectoral strain as his unlucky season took another turn, to be replaced by prop forward Donegan but the home pack continued to dominate as Chippenham struggled in the set pieces. A kickable opportunity ten metres from the posts was spurned in favour of a set scrum which resulted in the easiest of touchdowns for No. 8 Sparks as the Wiltshire pack found reverse gear. Mackay converted for a 14-8 half time lead.
Further misfortune struck as the game restarted. Within one minute, talismanic No. 8 Sparks had also left the field with a back problem to be replaced by hooker Burge in his first appearance for a long time.
Westons’ pack, now with five front row forwards, unsurprisingly continued to dominate their opponents at scrum time, although the general mobility had obviously suffered and lines-out became difficult, but Morrissey and newcomer Cox put in committed performances, stopping many forays.
Mackay increased the lead with a penalty after 51 minutes.
Further bad luck then befell Weston as Chippenham decreed that they had run out of front row cover and the dreaded uncontested scrums were invoked…..just what a team with five front row forwards that is bullying its’ opposition at the set piece wants to see!!!
Fortunately the home side responded with a long distance try after 55 minutes. Following interpassing amongst the pack, hooker Withers took route one, scatterd a couple of Chippenham backs and gave a perfect pass to Smee, (who had been forced to spend the whole game at scrum half due to player unavailability and had made a very good fist of things) who ran in unopposed from thirty metres.
Mackay surprisingly missed the conversion but Weston now had a 22-8 lead, and were looking for a bonus try….It wasn’t to be and Westons’ defensive qualities were tested as Chippenham, with unexpected gratuitous possession from uncontested scrums, ran everything in an attempt to close the gap. A ploy which was doubtless greatly appreciated by the home sides’ five front row forwards as they tracked from side to side. The dam broke once as a visiting back got across in the corner to complete their scoring and the match finished as it had started with the WSM forwards rumbling towards the opposition tryline.
Weston gave a debut to a second player in this match. Jack Skelton, younger brother of currently injured full back Harvey made his first appearance, also at full back. Hopefully many more will follow.
The writer and the Club wishes Chippenham the very best in their fight against relegation. They are always very accommodating…..and are local!
Final score Weston 22 Chippenham 13.
Weston team… Skelton J., Edwards, Jones, Middlemiss (Mackay R.) Watkins, Mackay J. Smee, Swann, Withers, Price, Bufton, Russell (Donegan), Cox, Morrissey, Sparks (Burge).