3rds Shine against Wanderers
Metro League Div 3 – Old Wesley 40 Wanderers 22
Fears that this game would be played in the lashing rain were dispelled as the clouds eventually parted for a perfect evening for rugby. Under the proverbial Friday Night Lights, Old Wesley 3rds lined out for their 6th home game of the season, looking to extend their unbeaten run in this top of the table clash against Wanderers, who lay in 2nd place. Although Wesley sat top of the league by a comfortable margin, they were wary of their opponents who had been perhaps their toughest test in the first half of the season. It was imperative that there was to be no slip ups at this point.
Wesley came out of the blocks immediately with Paddy ‘The Gazelle’ Davis scampering over for a try in the first few minutes, with Young Slug McDonald adding another shortly after, rumbling over the line from 10 metres out. Kenny McLaughlin converted both tries and Wesley led 14-0. Wesley then suffered what was expected to be a devastating blow as the barnstorming 2nd row ‘Dangerman’ Dan Hall was forced off injured after 20 minutes. As Hall limped off, replaced by back row stalwart, Johnny Willis, Wesley came to the realisation that they were now short of an experienced 2nd row. All seemed to be lost but without hesitation, dynamic number 8 David Brownlow stepped into Hall’s position in the row, with Willis slotting into the back row.
Seemingly unaffected by the unfortunate injury, Wesley looked to build on their early scores and kept the pressure piled on their opponents, playing most of the game in the Wanderers half. Inevitably, Wesley soon scored again as Brownlow proved his worth in the row. Wanderers riskily went to the back with a lineout in their own 22 and Brownlow jumped like LeBron to steal the ball, despite having no lifters. Brownlow quickly broke towards the line and expertly offloaded to the ever-present Mark Rouse who drove forward, eating up the yards. This led to quick ball off the ruck and ‘The Gazelle’ hit a hard line in the middle of the field to score between the posts. Never satisfied with a brace, Davis completed his hat-trick minutes later as he capitalised on a Wanderers mistake and sprinted the length of the pitch. 26-0 to Wesley.
At this point Wesley were cruising and only a huge dip in performance could see Wanderers get back into the game. Unfortunately Wesley complied and allowed Wanderers in for a soft try, 26-7. As the 1st half came to a close Wesley became more and more careless and began conceding needless penalties. The referee warned Wesley that yellow cards would be shown if the fouls continued. Full-back Jamie Boyd, reminiscent of his legendary older brother – the adequately named ‘Nerdbeast’ Boyd, was over-zealous in his attempts to steal the ball at the breakdown, and was shown yellow 5 minutes before half time. Shortly after, scrum-half Arran Copeland was joining Boyd in the bin as he received a yellow for slowing down the ball. Wanderers finished the half with another try, 26-12 at the break.
Wesley started the 2nd half poorly as things continued to unravel, struggling to cope with the 2 man disadvantage and more mistakes creeping into their game. Wanderers capitalised on this and scored 2 more tries in quick succession to close the gap on the league leaders, 26-22. Wesley refused to drop their heads and as soon as Boyd and Copeland were back on the pitch, Wesley rallied and began to knock back their opponents in contact, halting the Wanderer’s fightback. Wesley once again pushed their opponents back in to their own territory and kept the pressure on. Wanderers began to tire and make mistakes of their own, giving away penalties as they struggled to keep the unbeaten Wesley at bay. Kenny McLaughlin coolly slotted over 3 penalties to stretch Wesley’s lead to 35-22, effectively ending Wanderers’ chances of turning over the league leaders. Once it was certain that Wesley would walk away with a victory, Dangerman Dan decided he wasn’t sore anymore and he tagged back in for the final few minutes of the game. Brownlow gladly moving back to Number 8 as Wesley pushed to put the finishing touch on a scrappy performance. In the final play of the game, Wesley had a scrum on the Wanderers 5 metre line. Brownlow looked to keep the ball within the scrum and drive the ball over the line. Unfortunately the scrum broke and Brownlow drove the ball himself, held up just short of the opposition line. Dangerman Dan Hall, was the quickest to react, usurping the hard work Brownlow had done and scored a ratty try by diving over the line.
The game finished 40-22 in Wesley’s favour, who remain on course to complete an unbeaten season and emulate the Arsenal Invincibles of 03/04.