Rugby: West Suffolk College play-off bid

Rugby players from West Suffolk College Sports Academy travelled to Fylde Rugby Club to take on Myerscough College in the Elite League play-offs on Wednesday.

Rugby players from West Suffolk College Sports Academy travelled to Fylde Rugby Club to take on Myerscough College in the Elite League play-offs on Wednesday.

The players travelled up the night before, and were confronted on a very blustery day with a pitch of maximum proportions and a team consisting entirely of Sale Sharks players.

From the first whistle it was plain to see the West Suffolk players were not daunted and were quickly testing the home side defence. With the Sale players threatening in counter attack, the very well drilled defence of the Bury St Edmunds based outfit stood firm, putting in some bone crunching tackles.

With less than 20 minutes on the clock, the visitors suffered what could have been a massive blow when prop Ben Howard was helped from the field with a nasty back injury. Replacement Wes Stevenson had one of his best games and filled the front row slot without weakening the team.

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With both teams intent on playing rugby with the ball in hand as much as possible, the crowd (many of whom had travelled from East Anglia) were kept entertained.

The first score of the game came from a lineout in the visitors' 22. The home side won the ball and the back line ran a move which totally bamboozled the defenders leaving the full back to run through under the posts.

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With both sides showing great discipline, chances for penalties were few and far between. West Suffolk were awarded one close to the posts which should have been the easiest of kicks. Maule stepped up, having seen an earlier attempt from White missing due to being blown back by the wind. Cool as a cucumber he waited and stroked the ball to bring the score line to within four points.

With more than half the first period gone, West Suffolk were dealt a body blow. Wing Pat Harrison was injured making a covering tackle and while he was being treated, lock Josh Walker also suffered an ankle injury, leaving the coaching staff no choice but to use two more of the replacements.

Yet again, the replacement players were soon into the thick of things. Ed Colbourn on the wing made a try saving tackle and lock. Duncan Mailey heroically held a player up over the line to prevent a try.

It was the visitors who finished the half with a one-point advantage after Mike Bellamy burst through the defence and set off towards the try line, with the scrambling defence saving the day. Man of the Match, Harry Robbins was on hand to take the gentlest of passes to score a great try.

The start of the second half saw both teams running freely with ball in hand. During one such period Myerscough showed great support runners which eventually saw the wing run in unopposed to restore the lead.

With West Suffolk making the final three changes of the day, it seemed the college side upped the tempo and the Sale defence was tested to the maximum. Having moved Maule up into fly half, the opposition found it hard to cope with his side stepping after the direct and challenging approach shown by Greg White. After a period of sustained pressure Maule found space in the tightest of gaps and danced in under the posts, converting his try for 7 valuable points.

As the end of the game drew near, both sets of players were suffering the effects of playing such a running game and the physios were kept busy in both camps.

Myerscough's final try again came from the back line running move which flat-footed the defenders, and the full back capitalised to score close to the posts for another seven points.

Where most sides would have crumbled, West Suffolk took the game to the home side and the final five minutes were spent in the Myerscough 22 with West Suffolk testing the defence in every way they could. With the last play called the West Suffolk team kept the ball live through a dozen phases only to see the home side leap on a spilled ball and kick it to touch for the final whistle, leaving the final score at Myerscough College 19 West Suffolk College 15.

Coach Nigel Brown said: “At no point in the game were Sale totally dominant. The fact that the lads earned the right to play this game, having competed against the Academy sides from Saracens, Saints, Gloucester, Worcester and Southend is fantastic.”

The college is now starting to look at players for next year. Anyone interested in joining the Sports Academy rugby squad should contact Nigel on 01284 716368.

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