Fine weather on Boxing Day helped swell the crowd for Wellington v Wiveliscombe to probably the highest it has been for many a year, at around the 1000 mark, and they were treated to another nail biter, writes Allyn Chetland
From the kick off early Wellington pressure produced an opening but the long miss pass did not find its intended target clearly enough and the opportunity was lost. However, shortly after Welly were awarded a penalty which they chose to kick to clubhouse corner. The lineout was won and the forwards drove to the line at the corner and Luke Sellick was credited with the score. Tom Hawkins superbly majorised from wide out to give Welly an early 7-0 lead.
Wivey immediately applied pressure of their own and built up time in Welly territory. This produced two penalties which they kicked to the corner and tried to replicate Welly’s catch and drive. However the red & blacks defence held firm and Wivey were thwarted on the line. However, an illegal hand from Welly gave Wivey another penalty which they again put in the corner but Welly’s defence from the resulting lineout was strong and they turned over possession for scrum half Ben Price to clear to touch. From the lineout Wivey attacked but Welly were caught offside in midfield and this time Wivey chose to go for the posts, however George Rowe’s effort was just wide of the right-hand upright.
There followed a short period of play strewn with error from both sides. From a scrum in Wellingtons half Wivey attacked and frantic defence kept them out, however, skipper Dan Moore was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball into touch and was shown a yellow card to take a 10min break. From the resulting scrum Wivey moved the ball well and looked to have gone in under the posts but somehow Welly kept them out, however from the ensuing ruck the ball was flicked out wide and looked to have gone to ground but it bounced up nicely for Jake Sharland to gather and scamper in at the bowling club corner. His effort was splendidly converted by George Rowe to make the game even at 7-7.
Welly pressed and a neat cross kick was gathered by full back Sharland but he was immediately forced into touch by winger Hayman. From the lineout Welly pressed, a rare excursion into the Wivey 22, and constant pressure produced an offside advantage but Welly were held up in the corner. The ref brought play back for the penalty and Hawkins slotted the 3 points from in front of the posts to make it 10-7 to Welly at half time.
From the restart Welly cheaply turned over possession and Wivey counter attacked with Ali Vivian leading the way, the ball was recycled to the backs and a chip over was regathered but Welly tackled high. The penalty was put into the corner and, with Wivey lineout play still faultless at this stage, the lineout win was a formality and the ball spun out but just as it looked like Wivey were going to breach the defence they spilled the ball and Welly countered to clear to Wivey’s 22.
More Welly pressure brought a lineout in the Wivey 22 but poor distribution finished the opening but Wivey were adjudged offside. Hawkins stepped up to slot the penalty from 15m in from the touchline to give the red & blacks a 6 point lead at 13-7.
From play just outside the Welly 22 Welly were penalised for going over the top which seemed harsh as the player appeared to be pulled over by Vivian, no matter, the kick was well placed into the corner and Wivey had a great opportunity from 5m out. This time they infringed at the lineout and Welly were given the put in at the resulting scrum, a chance to relieve the pressure, but the Wivey eight drove the red & blacks off to win the put in. From their put in the Wivey pack drove Welly back a couple of meters but could not quite progress as clinically as they did before and the scrum skewed right, the ball was quickly transferred out down the blind side and Ted Keay crossed wide to put the visitors within a point with the conversion attempt to follow. The conversion fell just short leaving Welly with a one point lead at 13-12.
A little after the restart Welly spun the ball wide and Nev Pitman made a great break. He looked to be going in under the post, and most spectators will argue that he probably should have backed himself to go for it, but he offloaded to supporting players and from the ruck under the posts the ball was moved wide but spilled. From the scrum close to the Wivey line Vivian caught Welly napping and broke out and stormed down the line in front of the stand to start a period of sustained pressure in the Welly half which seemed to be over when Wivey knocked on. From the scrum Welly tried to clear but the kick was deflected by a Wivey hand and they countered down the far side but great tackling by Pitman halted progress and Wivey were penalised for holding on allowing Welly to relieve the pressure.
There followed a passage of frantic play by both side trying to gain the deciding score, but none came. Wivey were the awarded a penalty and neatly made touch finding a threatening position just outside the Welly 22. Wivey threw in but Welly stole the ball and Wivey infringed in the air. The referees arm was immediately up for advantage to Welly and Welly tried to capitalise. A speculative cross kick did not find its intended target of Joe Coppin and Wivey countered and good interplay saw them cross for what they thought was the winner but it was not to be as the referee brought play back to the original offence at the lineout. From the penalty Welly kicked to touch. They won their own lineout ball and drove forward about 10m for scrum half Ben Price to kick the ball into touch allowing the referee to blow the final whistle. Welly edging it 13-12 and extending their run of Boxing Day wins.