Novos 41, Medicals 32 - Pack Drive To Victory
By Magnus Leask
Novos found a way to win despite a much changed backline to secure the Mel McQuillan Jug 41-32.
We had an enjoyable week of training heading into this fixture. Adapting being the main focus - Tuesday was mixed touch rugby with the ladies section. A huge amount of fun, high paced and great work cementing the clubs "rugby for all, rugby for life" mentality. Thursday was about get organised in the backs due as only two players were selected in the same position as last time out against Northern !
The lads we fully aware that Medicals have probably been building to this game for some time after a poor showing at our place when we beat them 45-0. In addition, their league season has not gone as they would've hoped given the quality of their squad.
Medicals were the first to score as they bounced on a ball that came out the side a scrum and earned a penalty in front of the posts. Home team 3-0 up.
We then grew into the game with some strong carrying through Sean Ramsay, Alex Littlefair and Adam McDonald. We looked certain to score a few metres from the line when their 7 who looked offside, dove forward deliberately knocking the ball into Tom Dias. He then somehow managed to regather the ball at full stretch so the ref played on. Medicals shifted the ball quickly and went 95 metres to score - perhaps a 14 pointer as we looked certain to score. Hard to take, huge blow and we were down 10-0 after ten mins.
Nick Bellamy put up a great kick off allowing Adam McDonald to make a great chop tackle. The ball carrier landed at the feet of Sean Ramsay - only one result coming from that scenario as we won a penalty for holding on. Shaun Stewart stepped up to strike a beautiful kick through the posts to make it 10-3 Medicals.
Despite the score line we were attacking well to a point but it would often end in a handling error. From a loose ball in contact Medicals gained possession and broke into our 22m. From the resulting scrum Medicals ran a nice shape and our pieced together back line missed their man as the 15 ghosted through untouched to take Meds out to 17-3 and add further confidence to our opponents.
By now we had discovered that Medicals were struggling to contain our line out and any resulting drive. We moved up field from two line out drives and Medicals could only collapse the mauls and we were duly awarded a couple of penalties. The ref gave them an official warning about their negative play. We chose to take a quick tap after the telling off and blew a three man overlap as we looked to crash over instead. Eventually, George Waterhouse was deemed held up over the line and from the resulting scrum we committed another handling error. Medicals kicked the ball down field and we were under pressure again and conceded a penalty for Medicals to go up 20-3.
It had to be the most bizarre 25 mins of the season as some how Medicals had scored 20 points despite us dominating territory and possession. Everything was on us and fixable as we just needed a bit more accuracy in the latter phases of our attacks. In addition, we had to take them on up front and forget our preferred wide attacking methods.
Tom Cox earnt us a penalty which we kicked into touch. Alex Littlefair was winning ball unchallenged and we drove towards the try line. Medicals 2 in the side for about the third time but he was unable to stop the drive. George Waterhouse was at the back of the maul to reap the rewards, conversion added by Shaun Stewart - Meds 20, Vos 10.
The pack were on top and a scrum penalty resulted in some back chat from Medicals as the ref marched them back ten. Momentum had swung back our way with the errors drying up Medicals found it difficult to gain possession. Another rolling maul towards the line and for the 3-4 time it was pulled down when we looked certain to score. Yellow card for their 2 who probably had it coming.
The Novos pack were in control of proceedings and hammered away at the line. We were stopped inches short of the line after great carries by Alex Littlefair and Adam McDonald. Then Paddy Sowter picked up and placed the ball the extra 2-3 inches that was needed. Conversion added again by Shaun Stewart to narrow the gap to 20-17.
Half time whistled at 20-17 to Medicals. We spoke about the fact that we had eradicated our mistakes and that they were unable to cope with our line out drive. Ben Merrett on for Alex Cleminson.
The second half started as the first half ended with our pack driving towards the Medicals try line. This created loads of space for the backs to attack and James Bass cut a fantastic line to go in untouched. Novos ahead for the first time in the match at 22-20.
Shaun Stewart took a great catch from the kick off and we went on the attack again. We had a decent spell of pressure in Medicals territory with 2-3 set pieces in their 22m. A line out wasn't caught cleanly put we secured possession all the same - after several carries Josh Stacey carried three would be tacklers over the line with him. Conversion added by Shaun Stewart to push us out to 29-20.
Only one side in it from the 20th min to the 60th min as Nick Bellamy made a break with James Bass and Adam McDonald doing great work in support of the break. We drove another line out forward, again a collapse and another penalty. No card which was a surprise as all the negative play was coming from Medicals as they were unable to counter our drive. Within a few mins we had another line out 25 metres out - too far away to surely drive it in. However, George Waterhouse again benefitted at the back of a maul which twisted and turned the 25 metres to the line. Shaun Stewart couldn't miss it would seem and kicked another conversion for 36-20.
Kick off taken again by the high flying Shaun Stewart and we won a penalty. We failed to hit touch and Medicals went on the counter attack. Through our own doing once again we were under the cosh. Medicals centre and fullback had caused us trouble all day and the made a great break. Mark Leckie scrambled back and literally collared the winger. We were lucky to escape a yellow as Medical crashed over near the posts to make it 36-27 and get their dander up.
With only 8 mins left on the clock it seemed unlikely that Medicals would get a chance to lift the Mel McQuillan Jug for the second year running. However, fixtures in recent years between the two clubs have flowed and ebbed right till the final minute. This fixture was to be no different. We kicked long into Meds 22 but for some reason chose to chase the ball at the ruck. We were penalised for hands in and Medicals took a quick tap and were outside us within 2-3 passes. In a strange way I enjoyed seeing Matt Horrocks run 60 metres to score with a beautiful in and away. Turning back the clock to when I used to coach him for Durham County when he was just a young lad attending Durham Uni at the time. Smile quickly went away though realising that the score was now Novos 36, Medicals 32.
We kicked into the far corner again from the kick off and made a better decision to leave the ball at ruck time and make Meds run it out. Some great defence from Nick Bellamy, Alex Littlefair and Andy Hall. We won a line out on the half way line which we drove deep into Medicals 22 which was again pulled down. With two mins to go we were camped near Meds line and a mismatch was created as Josh Stacey ran toward Medicals fly half. he was sent cartwheeling backwards as Stacey crashed over for his second try. Novos win 41-32 and deny Medicals a losing bonus point at the death.
Thank you to the ref who I thought controlled a safe and very entertaining match.
Thank you to Medicals for a great game which went right down to the last few mins. I was very impressed with your 7, 13 and 15 who caused us problems all day long. You put in a huge effort which Mel McQuillan would have been proud of. good luck for your last game of the season next week.
Novos - great comeback and we appreciated the support from a load of our 4th team lads on the sideline. Great to see you cheer on a few lads who not that long ago were in your side - Rory Davidson for example. Delighted to see us find a way to win despite six changes to last weeks starting back line.
I thought George Waterhouse and Josh Stacey were worthy try scorers up front but it was on the back of some outstanding play by Alex Littlefair, Sean Ramsay, Tom Cox and Adam McDonald. In addition, cameos off the bench from Andy Hall and Ben Merrett helped us maintain dominance up front throughout the game. Out wide James Bass had some good moments, Nick Bellamy was heavily involved in the game defining moments and Shaun Stewart's kicking was important in the final score.
Next week we have our last home game of the season as West Hartlepool arrive. A win for our visitors will ensure the gain the play off spot for promotion. However, a victory for Novos would aid a Northern promotion which would see us confirm our place in the National Cup once again at Level 7.
See you at training for the final push towards the end of the season - 13/4 vs West Hartlepool and 20/4 at Hartlepool Rovers.
Up the Vos !