Ipswich triumph in crucial game
RUGBY UNION: Ipsiwch 31 Twickenham 24. This was an enthralling encounter played at a fast pace, with both teams determined to give a good account of themselves. Ipswich quite simply had to win to give themselves a fighting chance of avoiding the drop.
IPSWICH 31, TWICKENHAM 24
THIS was an enthralling encounter played at a fast pace, with both teams determined to give a good account of themselves.
Ipswich quite simply had to win to give themselves a fighting chance of avoiding the drop. Twickenham were playing for pride, sitting mid-table, and looking to push for a top five finish.
With so much to play for, it was understandable that Ipswich looked nervous. Despite a well struck penalty early in the first-half which gave them a three-point lead, they looked on edge.
They started at a quick pace, moving the ball well, setting up good phase play, and creating good ball for the backs to work openings, but they looked short on confidence, and took wrong options. They tried to force and opening when patience would have been a better policy.
From one such attack, the forwards had driven the ball into the opposition 22 metre. The ball came to Van Heerden. Under pressure, he tried to move the ball wide, but his pass was wild, and Twickenham seized their first opportunity. Picking up the loose ball they moved it to their winger. He stepped round his man, stood full-back Harding up, and passed inside for the Twickenham flanker to stroll over under the posts. 3 – 7.
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They quickly followed this up with a penalty for an Ipswich misdemeanour and, against the run of play, established a seven-point lead.
One could be forgiven for feeling that this was once again going to be frustrating afternoon for the home supporters, but the Ipswich players had other ideas.
They quickly settled into a pattern of play that deprived Twickenham of any quality ball, and prevented the talented opposition backs from getting into the game.
Ipswich dominated the scrummage, where Williams, Reeve and Tyron squeezed the opposition. Lineouts were much better than the previous week, and the inclusion of Briggenshaw provided a steady stream of ball, which Goodhall used to good effect.
Van Heerden started to use Hinds to batter away at the opposition defence; the forwards worked well clearing the ball quickly, and taking short crash ball to keep the visitors on the back foot.
With a solid platform, Blyth at No 8 was able to control proceedings, and his running from the base of the scrum, always had Ipswich on the front foot. When Blyth left the field at half-time with an ankle injury, Primmer stood in, and continued to break the first line of defence time and time again. Primmer has been playing for Eastern Counties Under 21s.
It was this aggressive driving play from Primmer, and Murphy in particular, which made good yardage time and time again, allowing the backs space to test and harry the opposition backs. When they took the ball into contact, Ipswich forward streamed over the ball to create fast second phase ball.
With the forwards rucking so aggressively, Ipswich maintained the ascendancy, keeping the ball for long periods.
With so much ball, it was only a matter of time before Ipswich turned possession into points. Johnson cut inside to set up a ruck, the forward cleared the ball quickly, and Van Heerden swept blind, popping the ball to Hinds who crashed over on the far right.
Brotherton missed the conversion, but made amends moments later, when another series of drives produced quick ball which Van Heerden moved to Brotherton. He drew his man and popped the pass outside for Harding to score in the corner. He missed a difficult kick but Twickenham were on the back foot, and were struggling to come to terms with the power of the Ipswich onslaught.
Moments later, Price sailed high in the line-out, and tapped the ball to Briggenshaw who drove at the Twickenham midfield. From the resulting ruck, the ball came blind, and Blyth crashed over to extend the lead.
With the score at 17-10, things were looking good for Ipswich, they had control of the ball, and Twickenham were struggling to deal with the home pack. However, as Blyth broke blind, he tried to find Van Heerden. Unfortunately, Twickenham's winger was prowling, he intercepted the pass, and sprinted 40 metres to score under the posts. The conversion brought an exciting 40 minutes to an end and, worryingly for the home side, despite dominating the game; the scores were level 17-17.
Every time Primmer broke from the scrum, he pushed defenders off, and made good ground, Murphy was always on hand to take the ball on, and together, they shredded the Twickenham defence.
It did not take long to increase the home side lead. Once again they drove through the Twickenham pack, set up a good platform, and drove for the line, Twickenham dropped the drive, and Brotherton slotted the resulting penalty.
Moments later they repeated the operation, good approach work from the forwards, pressure on the Twickenham defence, and under pressure the visitors strayed off side.
Once again, Brotherton stepped up, and converted a difficult kick to extend the lead 23-17.
Ipswich, who were getting better as the game progressed, once again worked the ball into the Twickenham half, they should have scored a try when they created a two man overlap, but the ball was held up, and a scrum was awarded to the visitors.
The Ipswich pack turned on the power, and wheeled the scrum through 90 degrees, and earned themselves a scrum five. As they set themselves the Twickenham players decided to vent their frustrations on the referee. He had no hesitation in awarding a penalty for dissent.
Brotherton had a simple kick in front of the posts to extend the lead to nine points, opening a two score gap, and Ipswich looked safe at 26-17.
As Ipswich looked to close the game out, they simply drove the ball relentlessly into the opposition half. The tactic worked well, until from a five metre lineout, Goodhall was penalised to talking to the referee.
Twickenham took a quick penalty, and caught Ipswich napping, they moved the ball wide left, to their speedy winger. He turned on the gas, rounded Novosad, and sprinted 60 metres to score under the posts totally against the run of play. One felt that Ipswich might have pressed the self-destruct button once again.
But this week they were made of sterner stuff. They dug in and pushed the opposition back into their 22-metre area. Attack after attack stretched Twickenham and they simply could not relieve the pressure.
Primmer broke from the base of the scrum, and fed Van Heerden on the burst, despite the attentions of two defenders, Van Heerden drove on, the forwards arrived and with their added impetus, Van Heerden crashed over for the final score of the afternoon, 31-24.
After the previous week's disappointment against local rivals Diss, this result was just reward for Ipswich's efforts. "The boys have played well for spells all season, but have not often maintained their form for 80 minutes," said coach Atherton, "but today they kept their concentration, and had belief in themselves. They have shown how well they can play, and I believe they can maintain this form till the end of the season, and secure their position in the league for another year."
They will face a stern test next week when they face Hertford in a re-arranged fixture. The last encounter ended in a heavy defeat for Ipswich. They will fancy their chances if they play with the same commitment next week.
They will miss Blyth who limped off at half-time, and influential Australian centre Hinds, who finished his season on Saturday, and soon returns home. But Primmer's return to form, and Murphy recovered after a lay-off due to concussion, should help to bolster the Ipswich team.