Having finished one year and started the next in fine form Westcliff were hopeful of continuing in the same vein for their second home fixture within seven days against visitors Westcombe Park. The heavy knock suffered by former skipper Buster Reynolds against Sidcup inevitably ruled him out for this week at an early stage. Less apparent was the emergency midweek appendectomy required by influential open side Chris Marsh which will rule him out for several weeks and then the 11th hour withdrawal of current skipper Harry Branch with a minor but unresponsive calf strain. Maloney stepped straight off the bench into the back row while Spivey started at scrum half, Olly Jones took Reynolds place on the wing. Will Weston and Reece Whiting returned to the squad on the bench. The Kent visitors arrived having experienced a difficult season to date but having won their previous two games and looking to improve their lowly position. The pitch continued to hold up well given the season and recent weather the surface firm under foot on a grey and chilly January afternoon.
As usual the contest was committed and intense from the outset with both sides competing forcefully at the breakdown and testing each other’s resolution and determination in defence and attack. It was Westcliff though that looked more dangerous in possession and after a combative 14 minutes they broke the deadlock. After a couple of drives down the centre which made good ground the ball was moved right and from the next break down a grubber kick down the narrow channel appeared to be covered by the last defender but disastrously he attempted to scoop the ball from the floor to a team mate and put it instead straight into the grateful arms of Josh Stol who had the easiest of tasks to touch down. The touchline conversion was missed but Westcliff were up and running and led 5-0. Just after the 20 minute mark they doubled their lead Park attempted their own stab kick behind the defence but it was collected by Sam Brown who avoided 4 attempted tackles making good ground behind a scrambling defence. With quick ball moved wide right to Oliver Jones he set off from around the 10 metre line handing off his opposite man and outstripping the cover to touch down once more in the right corner. No extras again but Westcliff were soon back and after a series of short range pick and goes on the line a little more width was provided to Jim Smith at first receiver who barrelled his way over. Jack Jones added the conversion and after half an hour the home side led 17-0. Before the half was over Westcliff added two more tries, the first another from Olly Jones, a length of the field effort as they continued to play with ambition and width. The second saw Sam Brown take possession of first phase set piece ball on his own ten metre line and outstrip all covering defence to score. This try was converted and Westcliff had a commanding 29-0 half time lead.
With the game effectively won at half time save for an unlikely reversal of fortune and momentum the second period was at times flat not helped by the hosts collecting 3 yellow cards and playing either 1 or 2 men down for the majority of the half. The cards for technical offences defending their line were maybe harsh but were evidence off Westcliffs determination to shut out the visitors. For their part Park will be disappointed not to have taken at least one opportunity that came their way but it was in the finishing that the biggest difference in the teams was apparent. Westcliff did score two further tries at each end of the half. The first by captain for the day Rob Smith and the last by ‘little’ brother Jimmy who collected his second of the day. For the first Westcliff again attacked from deep playing with width allowing Merrick to make good ground on the left flank before offloading back inside to Smith senior in support who still had much to do but finished decisively. Smith junior got over from a metre after Spivey taking a quick tap penalty was dragged down just short. Both tries were converted and Westcliff run out convincing 43-0 victors.
It was another good all round team performance with tries scored and threat created from all areas of the pitch and team, once again we were mean in defence and we are very happy with where we are at. Everyone is playing their part and at the moment that is being rewarded with excellent results and confidence. There are difficult games to come and injuries and availability will provide challenges and create opportunities for others to come in and play their part. Next week we are back on the road travelling to Guildford a difficult place to go but a journey we will make in good heart.
S Brown, Merrick, Stol, R Smith, O Jones, J Jones, Spivey, C Brown, Hopkins, Binneman, Scogings, Edwards, J Smith, Maloney, Vandermolen REP Morrant, Weston, Whiting