With six gruelling matches on the bounce behind them Westcliff welcomed league leaders and champions elect Guernsey to the The Gables Saturday afternoon for a game that was certain to be a testing and thorough examination. Whilst Westcliff were wrestling in the mud with Hertford last weekend the visitors had their feet up and arrived at full strength fully refreshed and high on confidence. The hosts were able to recall the Jones brothers Ross Merrick George Maloney and Jim Smith but were without lynchpin second row Rupert Edwards and also Rob Smith who withdrew from the squad late due to illness. The weather was bright and fine, a stark but welcome contrast to the previous week and although the pitch was still soft it bore no resemblance to the quagmire that game was played out on.
Westcliff started well and scored a try after just a couple of minutes through Olly Jones but then played the next 25 minutes or so with hardly any ball as the visitors took a firm grip on the game with some purposeful and controlled rugby during which they scored 5 trys and established a commanding 5-29 lead. Reeling from the onslaught Westcliff regrouped, responded and produced some enterprising and productive rugby of their own scoring four trys and 24 unanswered points of their own in a 20 minute period either side of half time. Scores from Spivey and Brown closed the gap to 15-29 by the break and the after it a converted try from Merrick was followed by the try of the afternoon direct from the restart and finished under the posts by Jack Jones who levelled the scores at 29-29 with the conversion. With a half an hour to play still the game was back in the balance and Westcliff appeared to have stolen the momentum.
That though was not the case having struggled all afternoon in the set piece the hosts were further hampered by the loss of influential prop Binneman and the visitors turned the screw. This resulted in a penalty try after a 5 metre scrum infringement and shortly after they stretched the lead to 10 points through a penalty at 29-39. Guernsey finished the game strongly as Westcliff began to flag a little showing signs perhaps that recent exertions were catching up with them. In the remaining 10 minutes two further trys followed for the visitors the final one in the games last play when an audacious but ill-advised cross kick from behind their own goal line went wrong very quickly. An ultimately convincing 29-51 win for the visitors who seem to be nailed on champions at this stage.
I was impressed with Guernsey they played some great rugby. I would like to be able to say the score flattered them a little but that’s not really the case and they were excellent value for their win. I was pleased with the way we responded to the chasing we got for much of the first half and getting back on terms was a real achievement. However that and the recent heavy schedule took its toll on our guys and they finished much stronger than we did. Although we welcomed back a few lads today we lost some others before and during the game and in truth a couple were not 100% fit to start with. Next weeks break couldn’t be more welcome and hopefully we will be able to regroup after a run of three games against the leading clubs in the league when we have picked up bonus points but no victories. After the break an equally tough challenge awaits us at high flying Tring.
S Brown, O Jones, Stol, Reynolds, Merrick, J Jones, Spivey, C Brown, Macintyre, Binneman, Scogings, Ashcroft, Hopkins, Maloney, J Smith REP Weston, Vandermolen, Branch