Rampant Rhinos romp to Eastern title

RUGBY LEAGUE: The champagne flowed after Ipswich Rhinos won the Eastern Division of the Totalrl.com League Conference for the second time in three seasons, beating Bedford Swifts 43-10 to clinch the title

The champagne flowed after Ipswich Rhinos clinched the totalrl.com Rugby League Conference Eastern Division title for the second time in three seasons.

Rhinos raced to a superb 43-10 home victory over Bedford Swifts.

Meanwhile, East Anglian rivals Norfolk Saints were sliding to their heaviest-ever league defeat – 90-6 at the hands of North London – to leave Ipswich two points clear and outright winners of the division.

On top of winning the title, Ipswich also went into the hat for the national play-offs along with the other five regional champions and the two best runners-up.

And Rhinos have now been drawn away to high-flying Crawley Jets in a quarter-final stage knockout game this weekend.

Scrum half Richard Pollard maintained an outstanding season, in which he had been selected for the Conference representative side, with two first-half tries to delight a good-sized crowd at Humber Doucy Lane.

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After just eight minutes Pollard swooped on a spilled ball at the scrum to run in from 20 metres.

And, following a fine solo try by rookie Brendan Cook, Pollard cheekily grabbed a Bedford pass for a stunning 100 metre interception try from under his own posts.

With two first-choice forwards Stuart Whybrow and Cook placed out on the wings, good performances were required from the other pack members.

And latecomer Harry Ackerman did not disappoint with two bonecrunching tackles on his introduction.

On the half-hour Pete Le Marquand – deputising for Mike Reeves at fly half – added a drop goal before maintaining his 100 per cent strike rate with the boot by converting a 35th minute Glyn Thomas try to give the hosts a 25-0 interval advantage.

Bedford refused to allow a complete Ipswich walkover and remained competitive throughout without ever being able to dominate proceeding.

Bedford's two outstanding players, fiery winger Mark Whybrow and loose forward Tommy McCollin, both got on the scoresheet in the second period.

But with places at stake for Saturday's play-off, Rhinos remained in control of the game with some strong individual performances.

Referee Mr Gluck, from Castleford, was given little to do on the discipline front by either side and let the game flow.

Evan Player – back in the area after a brief spell on the Isle of Man – then set up a try for Vaughan Evans and scored one himself to mark his return to the club.

Loose forward Andy Windridge again topped the team tackle and hit-up list, despite being rested halfway through the second period, while Tom Evans-Jones linked up well with busy back row forwards Ackerman and Shaun Griffin.

Youngster Cook added his second try of the game for Pete Le Marquand to score his seventh conversion of the day to add to his earlier drop goal.

Younger brother Paul added a stunning last ditch try-saving tackle right at the end of the game to round off a confidence-boosting team performance ahead of the Crawley clash.

With the Rugby Union and Rugby League codes currently warring at professional level it is good to see the success of the link-up between the Ipswich Rhinos and Ipswich Rugby Union clubs and shows what can be achieved in a very short space of time.

Rhinos: Paul Le Marquand, Stuart Whybrow, Joe Francis, Glyn Thomas, Brendan Cook, Pete Le Marquand, Richard Pollard, Andy Wilson, Vaughan Evans, Adrian Evans, Tom Evans Jones, Shaun Griffin, Andy Windridge, Gareth Edwards, Evan Player, Benson Ho, Harry Ackerman.