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Clacton 2s v Aldeburgh - 3rd December

Clacton 17 Aldeburgh 45

Winning with style

From the car park at Clacton Rugby Club, a muddy field slopes up for 100 metres to the touchline of the pitch. A railway line to the right, trees to the left, in the distance beyond the pitch are low, grey industrial buildings. The iciness of the wind in the spectators’ faces indicates that they are facing east. The clubhouse is out of sight behind us, at the bottom of the slope, beyond the car park. On a dark, cold, December afternoon it is bleak.

But Aldeburgh’s small, hardy band of supporters were soon warmed by the open, exciting rugby played by their team. Clacton were big. For most of the match, they destroyed the Aldeburgh scrum but they were not able to make much of it. Their passing was poor, their play unco-ordinated. Line outs for both sides were messy. In the loose, Clacton constantly threatened to use their bulk to power through but brave tackling held them.

After 5 minutes, a poor clearance kick by Clacton was well picked up by full back, Stephen Anker, who ran back at them, linked well with Aldeburgh’s visiting scrum half who went down the line and came round to score under the posts. Ed Robson, fly half as always, converted. A few minutes later, Clacton again made the mistake of kicking through to Stephen who collected the ball on his own 22, beat most of the Clacton team, drew the last defender, then lost his footing with a clear run to the line. He still managed to pop the ball up to the support runner who finished off the move. That try was scored by Barnaby Knight who, with fellow wing from last week, Adam Hateley, was filling in at centre. They did a great job.

The next period of play raised concerns that it could be a tough afternoon. Aldeburgh’s set scrum was again driven back (all the big second rows were unavailable through injury). Clacton simply used their weight and power to keep pounding until they finally broke through from close range. The conversion was missed leaving Aldeburgh ahead by 14-5.

Aldeburgh continued to move the ball quickly when they had it, with forwards linking well to support the backs. A superb back move saw hooker, Elliott Clarke-Gifford, receive the ball on the wing, dive over the line and then inexplicably throw the ball over the dead ball line. Nevertheless, Aldeburgh continued to press and Clacton failed to learn that kicking the ball to the Aldeburgh full back was not a good idea. A poor clearance from their line saw Stephen again collect the ball well, run to line up the backs outside him, then dummy the last defender to break clean through. This time he did not fall over. Ed converted again.

Clacton kept giving away penalties. One in Aldeburgh’s half for coming into a ruck from the side gave Ed Robson a chance to kick deep into Clacton’s half. It was a huge kick but missed touch. Aldeburgh’s chase was excellent, the catcher was tackled, robbed of the ball and Elliott redeemed himself by scoring the try which was again converted.

From the restart, another Clacton penalty, led to another long kick, chase and tackle and yet another penalty infringement by Clacton at the ruck. On the 22, in front of the posts, Ed kicked the penalty. 31-5.

By now Aldeburgh’s forwards were getting in on the act with their own driving runs, notably Toby Mann at flanker and Elliott. From another ruck, quick Aldeburgh ball came out through the now usual mix of backs and forwards, including captain Freddie Burgess, playing No 8 today, who passed impeccably to Barnaby Knight who made a great run down the wing to score his second try of the afternoon. Another conversion by Ed took the score to 38-5 at half time. What could go wrong?

The first period of the second half saw the now familiar pattern of injuries affecting Aldeburgh’s line up which detracted from the performance. Clacton went back to their pattern of barging through. When they passed down the line with a huge overlap, they were pulled back for an unnecessary forward pass. When they kept it short, they brought in their big No 15 who scored two similar tries in quick succession. Was the frustration of the Mistley game to be repeated?

More injuries, including to Ed Robson, a key player, used up all Aldeburgh’s subs leaving them a man short. At that point, Clacton voluntarily opted to take a man off to keep the contest even. All credit to them for such a sporting gesture which is not required by the laws of the game.

A couple of minutes later, they may have been regretting that decision when one of their players received a yellow card (for an offence which was not obvious to those on the touchline). Even with only 7 in the scrum, Clacton were dominant. A further injury led to uncontested scrums which provided a breather to Aldeburgh. Perhaps because of all the changes, there was no scoring for a period of 25 minutes in the second half. The threatened onslaught by Clacton was held at bay but Aldeburgh were not able to break free until the last few minutes. Clacton put themselves under pressure again through a poor pass followed by a clearance kick which was charged down by Lewis Wardell Bird, by now playing flanker having started at prop. Lewis managed to gather the ball on Aldeburgh’s ten metre line and set off. To his horror, he realised that there was no-one between him and the try line, which after a strenuous 80 minutes must have looked a long way off. He looked round frantically to find Toby Mann on his shoulder who happily galloped the other half of the pitch to score. Stephen Anker kicked the conversion having stood in reliably at No 10 since Ed went off. That was the last play of the match.

Despite having many players unavailable, Aldeburgh had managed to field a team with friends and helpers. What was reassuring was that the style of play remained the same, the core of the team provided a base to play from and a pattern. Increasingly there is a sense that a team with an identity is growing.


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