Manor welcomed high flying Southend to the New Wilderness this week, the seasiders have made no secret that they have built a team that they hope will gain them promotion this season with the capture of a number of new players during the close season. The side that lined up against Manor looked the part, in particular their forward pack who to a man were taller and heavier than Manors pack. The old adage of a good big’en will always beat a good small’en was blown apart by Manors performance and ultimate victory.
Southend kicked off to a Manor side that was again changed from the previous weeks team due to injury and unavailability, one of the changes, Jake Campey, was making his Manor debut and immediately showed his class when he took the kick off and surged forward 10 meters before being brought to ground. Manor set the ball up then kicked it deep into Southend’s territory. The visitors ran the ball back at Manor but were met by an impregnable blue line that hit each tackle with pace and power, often stopping the big ball carries in their tracks.
Manor were more than matching their counterparts and after a number of powerful forward drives prop Ryan Lee broke through Southend’s defences making 25 meters and taking play inside Southend’s 22, as defenders converged on him he moved the ball out to Campey on the wing, here the debutant beat his opposite number, cut back inside and sliced through the covering defence to go over for his, and Manors first try. Cameron Dutch took the touchline conversion and saw the ball sail through the middle of the posts giving Manor a 7 – 0 lead after 6 minutes.
From the restart Manor kicked the ball back to their opponents who again tried to run through Manors defence but the hosts were having none of it making each and every tackle count until Campey put a big hit on the ball carrier and won a scrum for a knock on.
At the scrum Manors front row were dwarfed by their opposite number giving away at least 10 kilos a man and this size soon showed its benefit when Manor couldn’t hold the drive and gave away a penalty. The scrum was the only facet of play where Southend had the upper hand and as the game wore on even at the scrum Manor began to hold their own.
Manor had to withstand a sustained period of pressure from Southend in and around their 22 but such was Manors defensive effort that the visitors didn’t really look like making the decisive breakthrough. Eventually Ollie Waugh won a turnover allowing Manors backs to break quickly, Nick Horton then put in a 40 meter kick to relieve the pressure and take play deep inside Southend’s half. Again the visitors tried to run at Manor but this was soon stopped with another turnover which allowed Elliot Brown to show his running skills taking the play into Southend’s 22 before a knock on halted the attack.
From the scrum Southend kicked long only for Brown to go on a mazy run taking play close to Southend’s 22 where he linked up with Aaron Lowe, he drove on and was taken to ground but Manor couldn’t recycle the ball quickly enough and gave away another penalty. With 20 minutes played there was no change to the score.
Manor were looking the more dangerous team in attack and were working at a faster pace than Southend, Horton soon put the visitors under pressure when he put a long kick and chase into Southend’s 22, with the flyhalf covering Horton harried him and as he tried to escape Hortons clutches he took the ball back into the dead ball area when Horton tacked him and so winning Manor a 5 meter scrum.
From the scrum Manor won clean ball allowing Waugh to pick up from the base and drive towards the line, although he was stopped short he won a penalty which Dutch converted to increase Manors lead to 10 – 7 after 25 minutes.
Things soon got even better for Manor when shortly after the re-start Southend again drove into Manors defence and again got no change there so moved the ball along the line. Brown spotted an opportunity and intercepted a pass just inside Southend’s half. The speedy winger had too much pace for the Southend defenders and ran almost half the length of the pitch going under the posts for a seven point score. With 27 minutes gone Manor now led 17 – 0.
Southend continued to pound Manors defence but to a man Manor tackled their hearts out and eventually Manor again turned the ball over with openside flanker Kirk Chettleburgh, who himself was a summer target for Southend’s recruitment drive, showed what they had missed out on when he powered up the pitch making 30 meters before he kicked ahead for Brown to chase, unfortunately the ball bounce away from Brown giving the covering defenders time to beat Brown to the ball, if the bounce had been kinder Brown would almost certainly have had the gas to reach the line.
Manor continued to soak up all the pressure that Southend put them under and when given the opportunity attacked with pace with Rhys Davis-Horne getting his backline moving quickly and the pack quicker to the breakdown than Southend.
After again soaking up pressure Manor broke from deep through Ben Bolton-Smith who linked up with his forwards where Jack Sullivan and Brad Burrell made ground before Davis-Horne sent a long raking kick into Southend’s half. The half was soon brought to a close with Manor not giving Southend the opportunity to get out of their half.
Manor kicked off the second half and although had the better of the opening exchanges Southend soon worked their way into Manors 22, Manor again defended but for the first time in the match they dropped off a couple of tackles and this was all their opponents needed to create space and go over for their first try of the match. The conversion from out wide was missed but after 5 minutes of the second half Southend were on the scoreboard 17 – 5. In the lead up to the try Bolton-Smith was injured and was replaced by Jamie Millais who went on the wing allowing Campey to move into his preferred position of inside centre.
From the re-start Southend secured the ball and kicked it deep into Manors half, Davis-Horne was well positioned to take the ball then put in a high up and under, chasing the ball and harrying the Southend catcher who he tackled as he tried to kick the ball away, the ball only went as far as Brown who scampered down his wing and when stopped won a penalty. Dutch took the attempt from 30 meters out and close to the touchline but the ball drifted past the upright.
Manor kept up the pressure and were soon close to Southend’s line but good defence by the visitors kept out driving runs by Sullivan, Burrell and Callum Craig, but Manor didn’t panic and went through the phases, eventually Brown got the ball in his hands and after a jinking run passed out to Campey who was hugging the touchline and despite the attention of a number of defenders he managed to dot the ball down over the line for another Manor try. Although Dutch’s conversion attempt was straight it got held up in the wind and dropped short but with 13 minutes gone Manor had extended their lead to 22 – 5.
The game continued with the same pattern of Southend having periods of possession but not really looking like they would break through Manors terrier like tackling. Manor on the other hand looked the team most likely to score again, which they did after a big hit by Millais on Southend’s ball carrier who spilled the ball, Dutch was quickest to react and with Southend’s defence at sixes and sevens he darted down the blindside and from 30 meters out sprinted untouched over the line for Manors bonus point try. He then added the extra points from close to the touch line to increase Manor lead further to 29 – 5 after 20 minutes.
Southend were next to score when after giving away a couple of silly penalties Manor found themselves defending a lineout 8 meters from their line. With the ball secure Southend drove forward and although Manor held the initial drive Southend managed to find a gap in Manors defence and went over for their second try and with the conversion successful the deficit was reduced to 29 – 12.
From the restart Manor went on the hunt for more points, Southend kicked the ball long to Davis-Horne who again sent the ball skywards. Millais chased the kick, harried the catcher and turned the ball over, he then drove towards the line being brought down short but in the process winning a penalty. Dutch had no problem with the kick extending Manors lead to 32 – 12 after 25 minutes.
Manor continued to stifle Southend’s attempts to attack them and the visitors resorted to sending long kicks deep into Manors territory, but Manor dealt comfortable with these, quickly turning defence into attack and were soon given an opportunity to add to their tally in the form of a penalty from out wide but Dutch was unsuccessful with the attempt.
Southend still tried to attack Manor from deep and for the first time in the match their left winger got the better of Brown managing to escape his clutches taking the ball along the touchline towards halfway, just when he looked to be getting away Waugh came in from nowhere and cut the winger in half with a bone crunching tackle that saw the player smashed into touch and after a period of treatment the winger had to eventually leave the pitch.
Southend, befitting a team of their quality, continued to attack trying to get something from the game and after a skirmish in the middle of the park Manor’s Tom O’Connor was shown a yellow card allowing Southend to kick for an attacking lineout inside Manors 22. With their lineout winning the ball and Manor a man down they soon found a gap to go through and score their third try and with the conversion good they had reduced the deficit to 32 – 19 and knew that another converted try would earn them a couple of bonus points.
Manor though were having none of it and with their new found fitness levels paying dividends they went on the attack. Manor kept Southend pinned inside their 22 and as they tried to run from deep Manors defence pinned them back and after another big hit from Millais the ball went to ground where Falls gathered it and with the Southend defence nowhere to be seen he cantered over the line from 15 meters out for Manors final try. Dutch couldn’t add the extra two points but the contest came to an end with a comprehensive 37 – 19 victory for Manor.
Manor had beaten a side who are a lot of peoples favourites for promotion but an excellent defensive display by the whole squad and where Manors backrow in particular were outstanding, showed that Manor are capable of competing with every team in the league.
At the end of the game Mark Farrell, Eton Manor’s Director of Rugby said;
“Although we are only four games into a 26 fixture league campaign, we saw today a glimpse of what this team is capable of. Southend had no answer to our well organised defence and offensively we executed nearly all our opportunities. Our mindset was stronger, we had the determination to outclass the in form side in this league, ultimately the game was won by the side that wanted to win”
Manor will have an opportunity to build on this victory next week when they travel to Ruislip who have had a difficult start to the season but Manor must not be complacent as Ruislip is not a happy hunting ground for them and it is a ground that has proved very difficult to win at in the past.