L&Y denied by last kick of an epic encounter

Lowestoft & Yarmouth 30 Woodford 30

What a magnificent game of rugby, and a great boost to L&Y morale. With Woodford having thrashed L&Y by 50 points at home earlier this season then handsomely beating league leaders North Walsham last week, any L&Y supporter would have bitten the hand off anyone offering this result prior to the match, but at the end it was the home team who were thoroughly disappointed not to have left with the win, after a last play try and conversion rescued the result for Woodford. It was not even as if Woodford fielded a weakened side or admitted playing poorly, but it was down to a huge L&Y effort, and some excellent rugby, in the second half that saw them fight back from a 23-10 deficit to score 20 unanswered points with some inspiring and courageous play only to leak a late score for the second game on the trot and miss the winning points.

L&Y were missing their whole first choice back-row, and after a pasting up-front away at Woodford they opted for the larger front row of Martyn Greenwood, Chris Howe and Shrek Bristo, moving Ben Selby onto the flank alongside Kristan Taylor Crisp and Callum Cashman at no8. The new combinations were superb all game. While Howe has been learning the propping trade all season he revelled in his return to hooker, and Bristo had his best game of the season at tighthead, dominating the scrum all match even though carrying a leg injury for most of the second half. His performance was only eclipsed by the outstanding Selby on the flank, who never seemed to be more than 10 feet from the ball, whether making tackles in midfield, covering back, or supporting attacks he was an inspiration to his team-mates.

Woodford started in confident manner but Dave Tiueti was first to score with a penalty for L&Y. Woodford hit back with a converted try after some slick handling then added a penalty to pull away to a 10-3 lead after 15 minutes. The visitors had all the possession and it was all L&Y could do to hang in for dear life with some desperate tackling. With play near the halfway line Woodford spun wide from a breakdown on the right but there intention to go wide was spotted by Myles McAlone who plucked out his second interception try in as many games and Tiueti added the extras to close the gap. However, Bristo was penalised for not rolling away from a tackle and Woodford stretched their lead again. From the restart the no8 managed to burst around L&Y left wing Matt Howell giving his own wing enough space to sprint then chip and chase for a classy converted score. However L&Y immediately put the pressure back on Woodford, forcing the same wing into a foul for which he was shown the yellow card and L&Y were unlucky not to score at the death of the half as almost the whole team each had a bash at the line only to be held agonisingly short.

With Russ Wilkinson and the Portuguese Papo Semedo providing a solid line-out on top of a steady scrum, L&Y knew at the break that they could compete, but they just had to summon that extra determination and concentration. And so it proved. L&Y had nearly all the territory and when Brad Sutherland and Dave Tiueti made room for Semedo to put Howell away on the left, only to be called back for a forward pass, the belief began to take hold. Bristo and his pack put in a series of huge scrums eventually giving scrum half Russ Chapman the chance to win a kickable penalty for Tiueti after chipping through. Another scrum led to Scott Nelson and Tiueti combining in midfield to send McAlone over the line only to be held up, and then again the ball fizzed right from a scrum for right wing Tyler Beales to be cut down just short of the corner. The pressure was telling and every time Woodford tried to break out, determined tackling led by Selby held them back. Eventually another delightful move midfield after a scrum on the right allowed Nelson to send Sutherland hurtling through a huge gap and under the posts to rapturous applause. Tiueti converted then drew the scores level shortly afterwards following another break by Sutherland and Beales forced a penalty 35m out. The crowd could barely believe it, so when Chapman raced under the posts seconds later the sidelines erupted. Woodford ran up a blind alley on the left from the kick off then predictably span the ball back to the right straight into the arms of the grateful scrum half who sprinted clear to the posts for Tiueti to convert with seven minutes left to play. Woodford then predictably threw everything at L&Y, and some wayward defensive kicks under pressure allowed them to threaten inside the L&Y 22. Two chances to clear the home lines went begging and, when they ran it back, only a magnificent tackle by Callum Cashman prevented a certain score. The no8 was sent to the bin for killing the ball in the process of saving the try, L&Y did not respond quickly enough and from the penalty Woodford sneaked through for the try which they converted with the last kick of the game.

Captain and coach Scott Nelson said after the game, “It is mixed emotions for me. I’m massively proud of the boys for the way we played today. Games like that are why we play the game – we showed tremendous guts and team spirit. I’d have taken that result before the game, but I can’t help thinking we should have won and to let the opposition back in at the death for the second week on the trot is something we have to stop. We can’t do that next week against Old Streets away.”

Team: Greenwood, Howe, Bristo, Wilkinson, Semedo, Taylor Crisp, Selby, Cashman, Chapman, Nelson, Beales, Tiueti, McAlone, Howell, Sutherland

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Bench: Moore, Fox, MacArthur

Tries: McAlone, Sutherland, Chapman

Cons: Tiueti 3

Pens: Tiueti 3