Following the first ‘Beast from the East’, the re-scheduled game against Effingham & Leatherhead vs Old Tonbridgians (OTs) took place on Friday evening under the floodlights at Wimbledon RFC; played to avoid this weekend’s second snowy ‘beast’. With the league insisting that teams play this weekend, The Eagles arrived on the evening missing 6 regular 1st XV players due to previous commitments on a previuosly non-league match weekend. With the changes in the team personnel, the Eagles had to re-shuffle positions to make the strongest team possible against a fast and free-flowing OTs side who are adept at scoring tries with their potent back line.
OTs started the game at great pace and intensity and the Eagles were struggling to cope with this early onslaught. The pressure soon told as OTs scored their first try to go 7-0 ahead following the succesful conversion. The Eagles restarted and immediately lost 2nd row and lead line-out jumper Sam Prior, who twisted his knee while trying to regather the kick off. This setback was compounded with OTs scoring their second try out wide but missing the conversion to go 12-0 ahead after just 20 minutes. The Eagles re-grouped and tried to play at a reasonable pace and control the game, and with this calming of the early pace, the Eagles were awarded their first penalty. With their regular fly-half and kicker away, fullback Luke Blythe had stepped into the 10 shirt for the evening and had assumed the kicking responsibilities. He popped over this fist kick to take the score to 12-3. OTs bounced back and received a penalty themselves which they duly kicked to go 15-3 ahead. With half-time looming, Eagles ventured again into the OTs half and again were rewarded another penalty on the 10m line. Blythe stepped up and casually slotted the 40m kick through the centre of the posts to finish the half 15 – 6.
During half-time, Eagles Head Coach Dan Blythe made a couple of tactical and forced substitutions which immediately paid dividends after the break. With a resurgent Eagles enjoying a lot of early possession, a well worked drive by the forwards saw the ball quickly spun wide to Antony Penny now at outside centre, who had been moved from wing, to run under the posts for Eagles first try. This was converted by Blythe to take the score to 15-13. Again OTs bounced straight back and from a 5m lineout drove over the line to go 20-13 ahead. Eagles were not done and hit back hard. With the pressure mounting on OTs, their discipline started to fail and a frustrated referee was left no option but to issue his first yellow card to the OTs hooker. The resulting penalty was kicked again and Eagles closer at 20-16. A further 2 penalties were awarded to the Eagles and Blythe, enjoying the kicking practice, kicked them both to edge the Eagles into the lead for the first time at 20-22.
With time ebbing away, OTs, mounted another attack and despite some valiant defending from the Eagles, OTs managed to ground the ball at the foot of the post-pad for their bonus point 4th try and kicked the conversion to go 27-22 ahead with only minutes left on the clock. A dejected Eagles kicked the final restart and OTs retained possession well to run the final minutes down. During this phase, an Eagles player strayed offside and OTs were awarded a penalty just inside the Eagles half. They chose to kick and landed the ball out of touch on the Eagles 5m line. The referee indicated the last play and OTs sent the throw into the lineout needing to just catch it and run it out of play for the win. Unfortunately the throw was too high for their jumper and it found Eagles prop Joe Baker at the back of the lineout, who turned and started what turned into an 95m pick and drive from the Eagles, which involved every forward more than once. Eagles scrum-half Matt Manning controlled the drive perfectly and despite OT’s many penalties and infringements on route to the line, the Eagles kept going. Great play from all the forwards for their commitment on this and many other drives during the game. Despite the desperate defence on the line it was down to Eagles tight-head prop Marcus Rodgers to finally get over the line to bring the scores level to 27-27. It was now up to Luke Blythe again to slot the pressure conversion under the hopeful gaze of his teammates and the watching Eagles supporters. After composing himself, ‘Cool Hand’ Luke stepped up and knocked it through the centre of the posts to take his personal tally on the night to 19 points but more importantly to seal a miraculous 29-27 victory from the jaws of certain defeat only minutes earlier.
Head Coach Dan Blythe said after the game, “We knew we were in for a tough evening, missing so many regular 1st team players and against a strong OTs side. Although I never doubt our commitment, I was a little concerned with our control of the tempo of the game at half time. However the second half performance was one of the best I have seen and I was proud of each and every player who put everything into a game that was effectively lost standing in that final lineout.” He added, “It just goes to prove that having a never-say-die attitude is definitely what you need when fighting in a relegation battle. The lads were a credit to the club this evening and I am sure this game will be remembered for a long time!”
Effingham & Leatherhead have now moved into 9th in the league and host Winchester this Saturday in yet another must win game for securing safety in the London SW2 league.
Eagles Team : 1. Marcus Rodgers 2. Joe Brown 3. Joe Baker 4. Sam Prior 5. Pete Sockett 6. Phil Entwistle 7. Jamie Thompson 8. Luke Collier 9. Matt Manning 10. Luke Blythe 11. Rob Ellis 12. Ben Lines 13. Sam Mc Williams 14. Antony Penny 15. Ed Waugh 16. Sam Maycock 17. Charlie Blunt 18. Dougie Churnside
Luke Blythe – 5 x penalties 2 x conversions
Antony Penny – 1 x try
Marcus Rodgers – 1 x try
|16/03/2018||8:00 pm||London 2 South West||2017-2018||80'|
|Old Tonbridgians RFC Senior 1XV||4||2||27||Loss|
|Eagles Senior 1XV||2||2||29||Win|