Old Plymothian & Mannamedian 11
NEWENT deservedly won the South West Counties Final the South West Senior Vase but had to work very hard to overcome their big and well organised visitors from Cornwall/Devon Division.
A sticky pitch, more stormy weather and two well drilled defences meant this was never going to be a feast of running rugby, but a tense contest was none the less absorbing for being focused around two well matched sets of forwards.
Well matched that is except at the scrum, where the Newent eight’s superb technique gave them a clear edge over their bigger opponents which was a key factor in the victory.
With the elements in their favour in the first half, Newent knew that they needed go into the interval with a healthy lead but although they dominated territory and possession they found the OPMs’ defence very hard to break down.
Newent went ahead with a well-worked try after 13 minutes. From a lineout on the OPMs’ 22 the Newent pack executed a textbook driving maul.
When it was pulled down illegally just short of the line Newent opted for the scrum rather than a kick to touch or at goal.
Lee Warren’s pick and go from the base of the scrum was stopped just short but quick ruck ball was spun right to Joe Goatley, who fed Brett Gardner with a well-timed pass.
The right wing still had some work to do but gave another reminder of his finishing ability to touch down in the corner.
Goatley’s fine conversion from the touchline put Newent 7-0 ahead.
Newent kept up the pressure and increased their lead to 10-0 when Goatley landed a penalty from 25 metres.
Another Goatley penalty after a period of concerted pressure stretched their lead to 13-0 at the break.
OPMs started the second half well when left wing Matt Thompson ran on to a clever cross kick from fly-half Jake Luffman only to be felled by a a crunching, all enveloping tackle from Newent full-back Rich Merrett.
Although this rare attack came to nothing it demonstrated the potential of the OPMs’ backs given some decent possession, a potential which was to be realised late in the game.
Newent regained possession and for the next 10 minutes it looked like a case of normal service resumed as Newent camped deep in the OPMs’ half, without finding a way to breach their defence.
Eventually OPMs cleared their lines to near halfway when Newent’s backs were caught offside. Newent were penalised again, then stupidly conceded another 10 metres for backchat to the referee, taking play into their half and within the kicking range of OPMs’ Tom Finnie. With the wind behind him the full-back’s penalty sailed between the posts. Two minutes later Newent were penalised again, this time for not releasing, and Finnie stepped up to bang over another long range penalty to cut the deficit to 13-6.
Newent rallied and kept up the pressure, patiently going through the phases as they worked their way towards the OPMs’ line.
Darts from Ross Webb then John Duffin were held up just short of the line before Greg Tovey – on as a replacement at hooker in a welcome return to the first team – picked and drove from the base of a ruck close to the line to claim the touchdown, with ‘Rocky’ Marriott in close support.
Newent led 18-6 but it was not quite all over as OPMs conjured a memorable try late on through Finnie.
The win means that Newent – winners of the Junior Vase last season – are now just two matches away from a return to Twickenham.
Next up is a trip to the winners of the Southern Counties Senior Vase Final, either Gosford All Blacks, from Kidlington, or Chesham, whom Newent beat last season at the corresponding stage of the Junior Vase.
The match is scheduled for February 22.
Newent: R Merrett, B Gardner, T Freeman, R Webb, D Bubb-Sacklyn, J Goatley, D Matthews, M Morris, L Williams, C Steward, T Veale (capt), L Marriott, L Warren, J Parker, F Nottingham. Reps: J Duffin, G Tovey. Reps not used: J Harkness, S Goulding, T Devries, J Meek, M Henry.