WRFCU16S LEAGUE MATCH V PETERSJIELD
No surrender on Armistice Day for the U16s
No surrender on Armistice Day for the U16s
On a gloriously sunny but cold autumn day, Winchester travelled to Petersfield for their third league match of the season, against opposition who had beaten them in a bad-tempered fixture last year. To add further significance to the encounter, Petersfield were currently heading the table, having played one more game. Happily though, Winchester were able to field an almost full strength team with only Rory King absent with an injured thumb.
The play started at a fast tempo following the kick-off from Winchester. A Petersfield line-out was won by the home side and returned through the middle by their powerful forwards. As proved to be the pattern of the game however it was met by robust defence, this time from the second rows Cain Williams and James Rayner. The latter overturned possession and sent it left for wing Josh Wise to come into the line at pace, bursting through the opposition’s backs to run the ball in under the posts, for his own successful conversion.
The early lead was doubled almost immediately. As Winchester returned Peterfield’s kick-off, the home side were adjudged to have tackled high and Jamie Cook kicked long for the backs to chase. With the swirling wind and low-angled sun Petersfield struggled to retrieve the high ball and Archie Mildenhall leapt to gather and feed Josh Wise for a second, converted touch down, leaving the score at 14-0 after barely 5 minutes play.
The game now settled down and a series of scrums were hotly but evenly contested. Handling errors on both sides meant that possession continued to change hands, but for the next 10 minutes Petersfield enjoyed the territorial advantage as Winchester struggled to get the ball out of their own 22. Winchester’s defence was relentless however, not only against Petersfield’s powerful pack but also when the sent the ball wide. After two crunching tackles from right wing Toby Reid the ball was turned over and Archie Mildenhall was on hand to break forward up the right-hand touch line, passing inside to centre Jamie Cook, who used his strength and momentum to reach for the line in the tackle. This time the conversion was wide, leaving the score at 19-0.
To Petersfield’s credit, they were undaunted by the growing margin and again they came back strongly. Winning two penalties in quick succession they kicked for touch and an attacking line-out on Winchester’s 5m line. Safely won, their pack were at last able to break the Winchester defence, driving over to score wide on the left hand side. The conversion was unsuccessful however but the 19-5 score at least began to reflect the hard-fought nature of the contest.
If Petersfield hoped to have turned the tide however, Winchester thought otherwise. Spotting space behind the opposition’s defence, captain Josh Wise on the left wing kicked ahead and was able to reclaim his own ball, only to be denied the touch down through a knock-on. The resulting scrum was won against the head however and the ball fed quickly for fly half Henry Williams to run in under the posts. Josh Wise again kicked the points for a 26-5 lead after 30 minutes.
To end the half, Winchester again soaked up sustained pressure from the Petersfield forwards. When their patience was rewarded with a turn over, a pressure-relieving clearing kick from Henry Williams was collected by Josh Wise who raced three quarters of the length of the field to touch down and convert, leaving the half time score at 33-5.
The excitement of the first half then settled down into a war of attrition after the break. While Winchester had taken their opportunities ruthlessly in the first half, a few handling errors now denied them additional points and for 15 minutes the two sides ground out a territorial battle. Eventually however, Josh Wise was able to create something out of nothing with a weaving run down the left touchline that flummoxed the opposition’s defenders and brought him his well-deserved fourth try. Though he was unable to take the extra two points, the score now stood at 38-5.
With the age-group laws determining that the game be ended when one side leads by 35 points, Winchester now knew that a further try could bring them the win. It was Petersfield however who returned to the offensive and for the next 5 minutes they were camped in Winchester’s 22. Again and again however, their repeated attacks were rebuffed by Winchester’s stalwart defence, even holding the ball up when Petersfield finally did manage to cross the line. Eventually, and much to the visiting side’s relief, pressure from flanker Fillipo Hall forced an error and the ball was hacked forward, taking play into the opposition’s half for the first time in some while. Tracking back, Petersfield’s defence was out of position and good handling between Winchester’s forwards and backs opened up a gap for prop Louis Strangeway to go over for the winning try, which was promptly converted to take the score to 45-5.
To mutual agreement, the referee continued the game for a further 5 minutes, but when Petersfield scored a well-deserved consolation try and conversion he brought the game to a close with 10 minutes still on the clock.
While the one-sided score might suggest otherwise, Winchester had won a hard fought and very physical battle. With the two sides well matched up front, it was the visitor’s strength at the breakdown and their pressure in defence that denied Petersfield the time and space to convert possession into points. In contrast, Winchester were able to take their own chances when they came, to build a lead and, ultimately, to take the game. With their next league fixture not for for a few weeks, the U16s can now enjoy a few friendly games before meeting New Milton at home on 10th December.