Novos 12, Northern 36 - Spirited Performance
By Magnus Leask
Novos didnt have luck on their side as a spirited performance came to no avail with a 36-12 defeat to Northern.
We arrived at Saturday's fixture in decent shape with a good week of prep in training geared around being more direct and reducing our error count. The boys were up for trying to improve on our performances against the top four whereby we have competed for 40 mins then blown away in the second half of these encounters.
The lads stuck to the plan as we carried from the kick off and made no more than two passes before taking the defence on. We worked our way upfield and earned a penalty. A quick tap was taken, Northern caught napping and we were away only for play to be taken back to where the penalty was awarded. We were on song and Northern were penalised again allowing us to kick into the 22m. Our pack was much lighter but we drove a five man line out towards the line and duly received our third penalty in the first five mins.
Eventually, Northern's much heavier pack turned over one of our scrums but we were fighting for every scrap of possession and causing Northern issues as the struggled to keep the ball. We drove back into Northern's 22m with a fantastic kick by Lewis Chater which was followed up by a line out steal from Alex Littlefair. Northern were under a lot of pressure and conceded a yellow card when we had an overlap and one of their players knocked the ball down deliberately.
Man up, we attacked Northern's line - another penalty awarded and a quick tap taken by Tom Winning. He crashed into a defender and we looked certain to score when the ref stopped play as the defender had a possible broken nose. We were awarded a scrum which we thankfully won and moved possession wide. Massive overlap created and Sean Ramsay crashed over - just as well as he had 2-3 men outside him unmarked. Conversion added by Shaun Stewart and we were deservedly ahead 7-0.
We were dominating general play by turning ball over when Northern attacked and Lewis Chater was winning the territory battle between the two fly halfs. 18 mins had ticked by and we finally made a mistake as a pass went down allowing Northern possession. We have found that the reason why the top four are so is due to their ability to score after errors. Northern proved worthy of this statement as they scored a fine try after some strong ball carrying and support play. 7 all.
Northern were dominating scrum time and before the half time whistle this had denied us two exits and one opportunity to attack. Everywhere else was a great contest as we turned over possession in abundance when the attacked - loads of tackles turned into failed mauls and if the ball went on the floor we were the first to dive on it.
The ref was enjoying the contest so much that we decided to just keep playing - 46 mins although there were a couple of head injuries rightly checked out and play stopped immediately. Before the half time whistle Northern scored a nice try after a reverse of play from a scrum. 12-7 to Northern at half time but we felt we were in the contest.
Tim Hart was replaced at half time due to an injury with James Bass taking his place and Alex Cleminson on for Ian Pratt.
Disrupted was the main theme for our play in the second half as things didn't go our way. Two mins after the restart Kit Sorenson was injured and back on went Ian Pratt - not impressed by his 90 sec rest. We didn't settle well and gave away a cheap exit penalty for in the side just when we were about to get another turnover.
From the line out Sean Ramsay and Darren Kelly turned over the ball and we attacked down the short side into a Northern Player clearly off side. Refs arm went up for penalty advantage only for it to be put down as we kept possession. The next phase we dropped the ball and Northern moved it wide. Huge momentum swing as Lewis Chater was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on. No issue with the card but heart breaking that a penalty advantage had looked to be awarded and the withdrawn in a matter of secs.
Nick Bellamy moved to fly half and we played one down for a period. Northern are in a promotion spot for good reasons and they accordingly punished us. First the scored a nice team try with several off loads by their pack. Then it was bang bang as their scrum half scored a 70m solo try to suddenly make the score 24-7.
Lewis Chater back on but now George Waterhouse had gone down bringing Andy Hall onto the pitch to continue to turnstile action occurring on the side line. With all this distraction we lost our momentum in the game in our attacking play but our ability to win turnovers continued. A Northern player turned over the ball and Lewis Chater kicked it through as there was no fullback in behind. He was felled by what looked like an elbow to the head and was on his haunches for some time. Play continued despite the head injury and we eventually lost possession.
With Chater unfit to continue our luck continued to desert us as Alex Cleminson moved from the blindside to wing and George Waterhouse limped back onto the pitch in an effort to keep us at 15 men.
Novos played with real fire throughout the game and were rewarded when Shaun Stewart kicked a penalty within 5 metres of the Northern line. Our pack may have been lighter but we chose to go for a short line out but still attempt a drive. Executed perfectly we drove over for Zach Weatherhead to score - Novos down 24-12.
However, our disrupted day continued as George Waterhouse limped back off to put us down to 14. Then Zach Weatherhead sustained a blow to the head putting us down to 13 !
Before the final whistle Northern ended the game with another yellow card, a good team try and a penalty try from their own driven line out. Final score 36-12.
Congrats to Northern - a well coached side and finished well when we coughed up possession. Deserved to win the match and now look favourites to claim a play off spot. Enjoyed having a beer with Dave Guthrie and Paul Scott and seeing Jim Pollock on the sidelines - top rugby men.
Thank you to Ricky Handa for reffing the game - some great decisions and showed concern for player welfare throughout.
Very proud of the Novos boys who battled for 80 mins against a top four side. You did everything asked of you at training and if we hadn't have had so much disruption perhaps we could have taken the result to the 80th minute. Incredible effort given that there were 7-8 lads playing who have played more 2nd team games than 1st team ones this season. Incredible depth shown again by the club.
Man of the Match was George Waterhouse on debut - great line out work, offered himself as a runner all day and showed great promise as a young up and coming front rower.
Richard of the Day went to Lewis Chater - gratefully seen off by Nick Bellamy in his absence.
Next week it's the battle of the roundabout vs Medicals.
Up the Vos !