A positive start to the New Year from our rugby stars
Newark Rugby Club started 2018 in positive fashion by outstaying Ilkeston in a muddy encounter which keeps the team in second place behind leaders West Bridgford.
First-half tries from Mason Coulam and Aloesi Waqalevu helped Newark to a 12-7 lead at half-time but Ilkeston struck back to lead 15-12 midway into the second half.
However, Newark regained the lead through a pushover try.
Here Andrew Fearn reports on the first league encounter of the New Year.
A week of rain led to the match at Ilkeston being moved ‘downhill’ from the first to the second team pitch. Whilst there was no standing water, the pitch cut up readily and, in many ways, proved to be something of a leveller.
Ilkeston kicked off and immediately won a kickable penalty which was missed. The Newark forwards responded in a robust fashion and worked their way up to the Ilkeston 10m line, only for the ball to be spilt in contact.
However, the resulting scrum was won against the head and proved to be marker for the rest of the afternoon. Newark’s predominately young pack dominated their opponents in the tight throughout the game and eventually proved to be the difference between the sides.
After only six minutes and against the run of play, Ilkeston broke out from defence and scored under the posts to lead by 7-0.
Newark were stunned after their early superiority and set about working their way back up the field. A skilful break and kick ahead by stand off, Alex Scott, almost unlocked the defence but he was unable to find Will Britten with the crucial pass.
Newark’s progress was hampered by a succession of penalties against them before they advanced and set up camp deep in the home 22. The Newark forwards won scrum after scrum on the Ilkeston line but were unable to administer the coup de grace.
It seemed inevitable that the referee would award a penalty try but somehow the Ilkeston defence managed to win a free kick and relieve the pressure. Suddenly Newark found themselves deep in their own 22 but managed to win the line out and force their way back to safety.
A Newark penalty was put into touch on the right and from the line out, Newark worked a well-rehearsed rolling maul to put prop, Mason Coulam, over for the try. Scott’s conversion attempt from wide out hit the bar and bounced back but Newark were back in the game.
With only minutes of the first half remaining, Newark won a line in the opposition 22 on the left and Aloesi Waqalevu burst through some suspect defence to score a try, converted by Scott.
With Newark good value for their 12-7 lead, the Ilkeston No 2 was sent to the sin bin and it was becoming increasingly apparent that both sides were struggling with the referee’s interpretations.
Immediately after half-time, Ilkeston once again penalised some slack Newark tackling by breaking out of their 22 to score their second breakaway try. Although the conversion was missed, the usual good contingent of Newark supporters began to fear that it might be ‘one of those days’ with the scores locked at 12-12.
This was emphasised by the failure of the Newark side to take advantage of yet another series of scrums deep in the Ilkeston 22 on the left hand side.
The game became fragmented; Ilkeston had one of many ‘talking to’s’ from the referee, Newark No 8, Tom Coen, suffered a broken nose in a mid-air collision and another Ilkeston player went for a 10 minute rest in the sin bin. He may claim to have been unlucky as it seemed to be a case of mistaken identity.
The Newark pressure was now continuous and, despite losing another forward, Dave Shiels, with a damaged shoulder, the Newark scrum continued to dominate.
Notwithstanding this, Ilkeston fought their way back into midfield and won a penalty some 35 yards out in front of the posts. The kick was converted and, once again, Newark found themselves behind against the run of play at 12-15.
To their great credit, they stuck to their task and worked themselves deep into the Ilkeston 22 on the left and won a succession of penalties.
At last their scrum dominance paid dividends and, with only eight minutes to play, they scored a powerful push- over try. A narrow 15-17 lead had been established but Scott was unable to extend it with a conversion.
The Newark supporters feared for the worst again when Waqalevu was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle but the 14 men stood firm to earn a very deserved and hard-fought win. There were no stand-out performances but all the Newark pack will look back on a tough but satisfying afternoon.
Team v Ilkeston: Hunter-Shaw; Henderson, Waqalevu, Jordan Slack, Britten; Scott, Max Chapple (capt); Coulam, Jed Chapple, Shiels, Ellison, Poulson, Boyd, Crosby, Coen.
Subs: Hempstead, Bagga, Clark.