It all points to L&Y
Lowestoft & Yarmouth 50, Stowmarket 18Stowmarket are one of the contenders for the EC1 title and came into this game having conceded only 47 points in four league games.
Lowestoft & Yarmouth 50, Stowmarket 18
Stowmarket are one of the contenders for the EC1 title and came into this game having conceded only 47 points in four league games. Even with a number of enforced changes and three undeserved yellow cards meaning L&Y spent 30 minutes with 14 men, the home team thoroughly outplayed their Suffolk visitors and produced a first-half performance that has matched any at Gunton Park for years, and ensures a two-point unbeaten lead at the top of the league.
L&Y started on the back foot. L&Y were adjudged offside at the ruck and Stowmarket's Daniel Garrard slotted a simple penalty. This prompted 30 minutes of outright L&Y retribution.
Stowmarket were looking shell-shocked. Eventually, after No 8 Marc Thomas snaffled the ball from a tackle, Kris Nelson cannoned through towards the posts and brother Scott touched down for Chapman to convert. Minutes later, L&Y kicked a penalty to the left-hand corner, Chris Howe threw in for a clean catch by Simon Coleman and the forwards drove on the seven metres for Thomas to claim his first try.
Stowmarket missed another penalty attempt, then decided they would have to run the ball. From an attempted break in their half, Shaun Woodhouse, starting at inside centre in place of the injured Matt Jary, pressured the defence and his centre partner Kris Nelson forced an interception. From the resulting maul, open side Ben McElroy ripped the ball and rolled away to race over the line.
L&Y were totally dominating the breakdowns and the continuity in their play was overwhelming the visitors. Good play by Josh Fewkes on the right wing led to a five-metre scrum, from which Thomas broke right to score his second try and Chapman to convert again for a 24-3 lead.
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Suddenly, without a warning, Thomas was given a yellow card for handling in a ruck and L&Y were down to 14 men. Woodhouse stepped back into the No 8 slot for a scrum on halfway, immediately picked up and charged downfield, popped to the chasing Lewis Davey, who unloaded to Chapman to carve straight through the remaining defenders from 30 metres to score and convert from under the posts.
Wilkinson made way for Mark Pack at half-time, and shortly afterwards an off-the-top ball from the line-out allowed Woodhouse to make a charge. The ball was taken on by Taylor-Crisp and from the ensuing ruck, Scott Nelson danced through for his second score.
The game began to even up. Shaddick scored a deserved try for Stowmarket. Then the referee sent Davey to the sin bin for an innocuous offside - his first offence - in the middle of the park. Again L&Y were down to 14 men, but they replied with a pushover scrum to complete Thomas's hat-trick and give Chapman his fourth conversion.
Greame Newton replaced Nixon and, on 60 minutes, Tom Smith cruelly had to depart with a broken wrist, and Daniel Boardley made his first XV debut on the wing, with Fewkes moving to full-back.
In the confusion at the restart, Stow slung the ball wide from the scrum and managed to round the undermanned defence to score wide on the right. The visitors had their gander up, and soon managed another unconverted score.
With 10 minutes to go, Scott Nelson quickly took a tapped penalty, brother Kris took it on, and from the ruck, Thomas brushed off a couple of tackles and unloaded for Ben McElroy to scuttle over unchallenged from the 22. Chapman drop-kicked the conversion to complete the day's scoring, and the only remaining incident of note was another yellow card for Pack for hands in the ruck, when a penalty would easily have sufficed.
It says a lot about this young L&Y team that in the post-match huddle they were despondent with their second-half performance and were analysing all the mistakes they made, especially when they had just scored more points against a good team than all four previous opponents could manage.
Although everyone played well, captain Danny Simmons was named Family Finance Centre man of the match on his return to the starting line-up after a rib injury.
It was later confirmed that Tom Smith, having his best ever season so far at full-back, will be out until new year with his broken wrist.