Herons Soar to New Heights
Wanstead 68 - Basildon 12
It was the last game of a very successful 125th Anniversary Season for The Herons today, and with a Pre Match Lunch attended by ex players, sponsors, council dignitaries and even the Mayor of Redbridge himself, Wanstead were determined to put on a good performance today, and that they did with a 10 try spectacle for their loyal supporters.
Wonderful sunshine and a high temperature greeted these two sides, Basildon would be fighting for pride and trying to upset the odds, Wanstead on the other hand had already secured promotion to London 2NE the week before but wanted to finish the season in style. There was a very remote chance that should Harlow slip up on the West Norfolk banana skin, The Herons could claim an unlikely Title. So it was this dangling carrot which motivated the players to put on another fantastic performance.
Wanstead started well with a lot of possession and dictated the speed in which the game was going to be played. The Herons strengths this season has been their inter-passing skills and off loads which, when they get it right, have made them impossible to defend against. And it was these attributes which lead to the Herons first couple of Tries scored by Mike Rugeley and Ernestas Lisauskas. Wanstead then lost their Fly Half Jack Quirke and with their 2nd and 3rd choice Fly Half's unavailable had to move Centre Lewis Pruce to cover No.10.
Basildon hit back strongly but couldn't hold on to the ball without making mistakes, and so handed over easy possession to Wanstead. The Herons counter attack has been fierce this season and they used the entire width of the park to drag the Basildon defence ragged, leading to 2 further Tries scored by Lewis Pruce and Tom Bean. Mike Rugeley was on top form with his boot today and was slotting the conversions from anywhere on the park. Basildon did manage to get over the try line after a series of "Keystone Cop" mistakes by Wanstead handed them an easy run in.
The second half started brilliantly for Wanstead when after a Forwards drive up field to the half way line, Scrum Half Felix Harris spotted an undefended Blindside and scampered down the right wing to score an individual try of outstanding class. Just when you thought you'd seen the Try of the game, Ernestas gave us another blinder, catching the ball on his own 10 mtr line he put the after burners on and beat three defenders, with two covering defenders to beat he chipped the ball high in the air and collected his own kick to touch down over the Basildon line. Another moment of individual brilliance.
Basildon refused to give up under such bombardment and hit back with a well earned Try of their own after good work from their No.8 and left winger. Wanstead were not happy about conceding another try and scored immediately from the restart, the Forwards once again driving up field until Basildon ran out of defenders, this time it was Sean Jones who barged over. The next try followed shortly afterwards when Joe Jones, who had been industrious all game, ran a brilliant support line to go under the posts.
With the clock ticking down and Basildon tiring, Wanstead scored another fine try through our 18 year old No.8 and 1st Team Player of the Season, Jordan Martin. The final try summed up the day perfectly when returning Second Row Dwayne Fontaine took a pop pass from Scotty Bird on the half way line and broke 3 tackles before propelling his 20 stone frame 40 meters to the Basildon line, and although he was tackled short, he had generated enough momentum to take him over the try line.
The game ended shortly afterwards and Wanstead were free to officially celebrate their Promotion to London 2NE.
There were some outstanding individual performances today, but over all it was a great team performance with no one letting their fellow Heron down. Joe Jones' running lines and support play were top draw, Jordan Martin continues to terrorise defences with his attacking play, Jayke Arkell was imperious under the restarts, the front row worked hard all game, Alfie Cox was once again brilliant in the Line Out and Scott Birds defensive work is remarkable. All of the Backs played well in both attack and defence and Rugeley gets a mention for his excellent Place Kicking today. And a special mention to the Subs bench who were outstanding when they were needed.
Man of the Match was a tight decision but we decided on Ernestas Lisauskas.
Sean Jones, Sam Handley, Robby Dale, Alfie Cox, Scott Bird, Jayke Arkell (Captain), Joe Jones, Jordan Martin,
Felix Harris, Jack Quirke, Lewis Pruce, Michael Rugeley, Ernestas Lisauskas, Tom Bean, Chris (Twinny) Lewis,
Jack Handley, Nick O'Toole, Dwayne Fontaine.
Back in the Clubhouse, and as expected Harlow beat West Norfolk, which gave them the League Title, Wanstead having to settle for 2nd place this time. Wanstead will rue the month of October 2016 where they lost 3 games in a row. Just one win from those games would have handed the Herons the League Title due to point’s difference.
The final Stats make interesting reading with Wanstead scoring more Points and Try Bonus Points than anyone else (Points For 921, Try Bonus Points 16), and conceding the least amount (Points Against 257) finishing with a Points Difference of 664, some 126 points more than Harlow.
On a personal note I would like to say a huge thank you to our Head Coach James Reyburn who has stuck with us when times were hard over the last couple of years, we got there in the end mate. Also a massive thank you to our Physio (and DJ) Radley O'Sullivan who has been super professional in everything he does and has kept our growing squad of players on the field. Also a big thank you to Jayke Arkell our Club Captain who has been fiercely committed to the cause on and off the field this season, and to Lewis Pruce our Backs Player Coach. Both Jayke and Lewis have been ever present for training sessions and created a bond between the players that will see them well for next season.
This is by far the best squad of players that I have been involved with at Wanstead, they have been playing a great brand of running rugby and they deserve every success this season. Hopefully we can go on to represent ourselves as a force to be reckoned with next season in the giddy heights on London 2NE.
Cheers lads, it’s been a pleasure.