An ugly win halts Manors run of defeats.
By Martin Pearl
Manor travelled to lowly Fullerians hoping to start the year off with a much needed victory, although Manors unavailability list was still lengthy they hoped that they had selected a team that should have been be capable of victory.
Manor kicked off the match but it was the home side that started the brighter of the two teams, using their big forwards to good affect trying to punch holes in Manors defence, although Manor were on the back foot they coped well with this tactic and put in a number of crunching tackles to halt any promising attacks.
At the first scrum of the day Fullerians showed their strength where they won a penalty, something that would be repeated a number of times during the game. Fortunately for Manor the hosts kicker had a shocker of a game as far as kicking went and missed touch allowing Manor to clear the danger.
Fullerians were still have the best of territory and possession and although Manors defence held firm, they were making basic errors and when a speculative long miss pass by George Bradley was intercepted Manor had to quickly re-align their defence but gave a way a penalty in front of the posts. Again the Fullerians kicker missed and Manor had escaped and after 15 minutes the game was still scoreless.
The breakdown was a messy affair with the ref seemingly unable to control it, both sides were guilty of offences but it was Manor who were being constantly penalised and after a final warning Sam Handley was sent to the sin bin for deliberately kicking the ball in a ruck. Luckily for Manor the kick to touch was again missed and Manor could again clear their lines.
Manor were creating chances, one which began when Paddy Sheehy rose high to take a box kick by Fullerians, he then made good ground up the middle before the ball was fed to Nick Horton who put in an excellent kick in behind Fullerians defence, with a good chase Manor put pressure on Fullerians winger who had gathered the ball but held on in the tackle and Manor were awarded a penalty just inside the 22. Manor took a quick tap penalty with Ollie Phillips leading the charge, he made 10 meters before being brought to ground, the forwards then rumbled the ball on a few more meters before Garth Tucker drove to the line, he now had 4 defenders trying to stop him and was brought down on the line, but reached out and placed the ball over the line. Manor thought they had scored the opening points but the ref somehow decided that Tucker had made two movements and disallowed what had appeared to be a perfectly good try.
Fullerians again came back at Manor and after a period of pressure won a penalty in front of the posts, this time the kick at goal was successful and after 33 minutes Fullerians had taken a deserved 3 – 0 lead.
Manor continue to struggle to win clean ball at the scrum and were further hindered when Brad Burrell received a yellow card for a scrum infringement.
Despite being a man down Manor finished the half the stronger and took the lead with the best move of the match. Manor won a penalty which was kicked for a lineout close to Fullerians 22. Harry Reid won the ball at the back of the line and with quick ball off the top Horton fed the ball out to Bradley, with Manors centres Oscar Townend and Aaron Lowe running excellent attacking lines, a double miss move saw the returning Elliott Brown join the attack from the opposite wing, he received the ball in space, beat his covering defender then had the pace to beat the covering defence to go in at the corner. Although the difficult conversion was missed Manor now held a 3 – 5 lead and without any further try scoring opportunities from either side the first half came to a close with Manor holding a slender lead.
With the second half underway Manor had to rearrange their backline with Aaron Lowe having to leave the field and Jamie Millais replacing him. This didn’t seem to disrupt their play as Manor had now upped the tempo and with Millais having a couple of powerful runs, Manor kept Fullerians in and around their 22, but some sloppy play eventually brought a promising attack to a halt.
Manor continued to boss the game and kept Fullerians pegged back with some good kicking out of hand. A sustained period of pressure close to Fullerians line saw their prop yellow carded for killing the ball on their line. Manor took a quick tapped penalty and after drives by Tucker, Waugh and Millais the ball was moved along the line where Brown spotted a gap in the defence and scampered over the line for his and Manors second try. The conversion was again missed but after 7 minutes of the second half Manor had increased their lead to 3 – 10.
Fullerians came back at Manor and had a period of pressure close to Manors 22 but although Manor defended well they were again being heavily penalised at the breakdown. From one such penalty they opted for a scrum 7 meters from the line and with the put in secured and a good drive, space was created for Fullerians No8 to pick up and drive over the line for the hosts first try of the game. The conversion was missed but Fullerians had reduced the deficit to 8 – 10 with a little over 18 minutes of the half played.
From the restart Manor pressurised Fullerians and eventually turned the ball over, this allowed their forwards to drive powerfully into Fullerians 22 where they won a penalty at a ruck, with the ref playing advantage Manor continued the attack and put in a cross field kick which Brown chased but was beaten to the ball. With the ref bringing play back to the original penalty a small scuffle broke out on the far side of the pitch. Although not initially in the scuffle Bradley decided to get involved and ended up getting a yellow card for his troubles and having the penalty overturned. Manor had lost a good opportunity to increase their lead.
Although Manor were down a man they still held the upper hand and after a home lineout inside their 22, Manor stopped Fullerians drive and won a kickable penalty. With Bradley off the park fullback Mitch Din stepped up and successfully converted the penalty, Manor had increased their lead to 8 – 13 after 32 minutes.
Fullerians tried to hit back through their forwards but were again met by solid defending and after soaking up the pressure Manor counter attacked with Tucker, Millais and Dan Peasnell all making good ground before winning another kickable penalty. Din again obliged with the extra points and Manor now held a more comfortable 8 – 16 lead with minutes left to play.
The game ended with Fullerians on the attack winning a couple of penalties but still unable to break through Manors defence from open play. With the ref blowing the final whistle the relieve of the Manor players at ending their losing run was obvious.
Fullerians had proved tough opponents with a very good pack and if their backline had had a more cutting edge then the result could have been different. Manor didn’t play well but their defence won the day and they took advantage of the scoring opportunities they had created.
Next week Manor entertain bottom of the league Diss and although they should be able to overcome their visitors, Diss will be buoyed by their first victory of the season over Luton. Hopefully for Manor selection should be improved with the availability of some of the long standing absentees who should be in the mix for the match day squad.